Tips for Parents
Students often find themselves pushed beyond their limits. Overwhelming amounts of academic, work, personal and co-curricular responsibilities can impact their daily sleep patterns.
Many college students underestimate the need for a good night's sleep. It is very easy to fall into a pattern of poor sleeping habits yet students are often unaware that their sleep deprivation (which is usually self-inflicted) can cause them serious problems. They may be so used to being consistently sleepy that they don't realize their lack of sleep is unhealthy or abnormal.
You can help them become more knowledgeable about the role adequate sleep plays in their college success. The following quiz can help.
True or False:
- T or F: Most young adults require 6-8 hours of sleep per night.
- T or F: Getting adequate amounts of sleep helps prepare people for the next day's challenges.
- T or F: Eating chocolate or other sugary foods makes falling asleep more difficult.
- T or F: Taking naps is a good way to offset getting too little sleep at night.
- T or F: Sleeping pills and other sleep aids improve sleep quality.
- T or F: Sleep loss is linked to an increased risk of mental illness (such as depression) and other illnesses (such as colds and flu).
- T or F: Trading sleep time for study time will increase your ability to be successful academically.
Resources: National Sleep Foundation at www.sleepfoundation. org; University of Michigan Health Service at www.uhs.umich.edu/wellness/index.html
- False: Most young adults require 7-9 hours of sleep per night in order to remain healthy.
- True: Sleep is necessary to maintain your circadian rhythms (the light-dependent 24-hour cycle that regulates body and mind), restore your body functions, and strengthen your immune system. All of these things help prepare you for the following day.
- True: Chocolate and other sugary foods do make falling asleep more difficult. If you are hungry close to bedtime, eat a light carbohydrate or dairy snack instead. In small quantities, eating something light can sometimes help you fall asleep. Have you heard the notion that a bottle of milk puts a baby to sleep? The same can work for adults.
- False: Taking a nap is not recommended because it reduces the amount of time a person sleeps at night. If necessary, take your nap early in the day and for no more than 20-30 minutes.
- False: Sleeping pills and other sleep aids actually reduce sleep quality. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration does not regulate products classified as dietary supplements (such as melatonin). Therefore, their strength and quality are not guaranteed.
- True: In college students, depression is two times more common than in the general population, affecting nearly 20% of students. Researchers believe that lack of sleep contributes to this high rate. Additionally, inadequate amounts of sleep cause increased susceptibility to illnesses such as colds and flu.
- False: Many college students make the mistake of staying up late or pulling all-nighters to prepare for an exam or to complete an assignment. In reality, not getting enough sleep makes it more difficult for them to concentrate; process, analyze, and retain information; and manage stress.
Impact of Sleep Deprivation
According to www.sleep-deprivation.com, 47 million American adults — almost a quarter of the population — do not get enough sleep. Getting enough sleep is important, as being overtired can cause:
- Higher susceptibility to illness
- Lack of energy
- Lack of concentration
- Difficulty retaining new information
Because of these effects, lack of adequate sleep often causes students' grades to drop. Staying up late to study and then getting up early in the morning to do it again are counter-effective strategies that can become a senseless cycle.
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