Tips for Parents
Quality Sleep: A Student Necessity
Many of us are experiencing a sleep debt. According to the Centers for Disease Control, over one-quarter of the U.S. population report occasionally not getting enough sleep (approximately 8 hours per night) while nearly 10% experience chronic insomnia. College students are not immune to this – in fact, this population very rarely gets all of the sleep they need.
Being overtired can cause:
- higher susceptibility to illness
- lack of energy
- motor vehicle and machinery-related accidents
- lack of concentration
- difficulty retaining new information
Lack of adequate sleep often causes students' grades to drop – sometimes dramatically. Staying up late to study and then getting up early in the morning to do it again are counter-effective strategies. And the practice of sleep-deprived all-nighters? That creates a sleep debt that can be tough to overcome.
Often, students are unaware that their sleep deprivation 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. Or they may just think it's "part of college life" because roommates, residence hall noise, late-night socializing, and more regularly interrupt their sleep. You can help them see that this doesn't have to be the norm – good, quality sleep can go a long way in making them healthier, happier individuals.
Ways to Get Quality Sleep
The experts suggest a few simple tactics to help students increase the quality of their sleep:
- Get on a schedule. It is helpful to get to bed around the same time each night so your body gets used to a regular sleeping schedule.
- Don't make your bed a key study space. It comes highly recommended that activities like studying, reading, and any other type of work or stress-related activity NOT be done while in bed. This presents a problem for students who have only their beds and desk chairs in which to sit and complete their schoolwork. Urge students to utilize common areas (if they are quiet enough) and the library instead.
- Realize that a nightcap won't help the situation. A common misconception among students and non-students alike is that alcohol will help you sleep. Though drinking before bed may help some people fall asleep, it doesn't guarantee a quality night of sleep. Often, it causes the drinker to wake up several times during the night, which can be just as detrimental as only getting a few hours in the first place.
- Avoid watching the clock! Often, keeping an eye on your alarm clock can stress you out and make it even more difficult to fall asleep. Consider turning your clock around after you set your alarm, or putting it in a bedside drawer where you can hear your alarm in the morning but not see the time at night.
- Establish a relaxing routine (taking a shower, listening to music) to do about a half hour before bed.
- Consider using "white noise" to help you fall asleep (like a fan).
- Try to make your bed as comfortable as possible.
- Finish eating about two hours before bed.
- Avoid exercise right before bed — a workout in the late afternoon is ideal, because it gives your body adequate time to cool down (and a dropping body temperature is what the brain associates with sleep).
Talk with your student about her sleep habits. She'll likely brush you off and say it's impossible to get sleep in college. But, it isn't. It takes discipline and commitment for quality sleep to become the norm.
Sources: The Centers for Disease Control; www.sleepfoundation.org; www.sleep-deprivation.com
Early To Rise CAN Make You Wise!
Morning people are more likely to get good grades than late risers, according to new research presented at the Associated Professional Sleep Societies' annual meeting (June 2008).
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