Getting enough sleep in college

Sleep & memory = building blocks of learning

College is synonymous with all-nighters, whether it’s cramming for an exam or cramming into a party. While sleep is a must, so are classes, club meetings, extracurricular activities and maybe even a part time job. Sleeping late on weekends might be the most popular quick fix, but it’s not enough to pay back that rapidly accruing sleep debt.

So what’s the problem with not enough sleep? Try these issues on for size:

  • Difficulty focusing on tasks: Just three nights of insufficient sleep can make you feel (and act) as if you’re legally intoxicated. Research, assignments and even simple Q&A can feel like insurmountable tasks by Friday.
  • Memory and cognitive impairment: Sleep allows your brain to clean up the clutter and sort information. Your all-nighter is the equivalent of a Black Friday sale in your brain – everything is strewn around without order, recall takes longer and frustration is inevitable.
  • Increased risk of injury: Working, driving and even simple tasks like changing a light bulb become high risk activities. Why? Just as alcohol impairs your ability to spot nuances that could increase risk, your tired brain is sluggish and foggy and, in truth, an accident waiting to happen.

6 sleep tips to ramp up college learning

Here are some helpful tips to get you catching as many hours of sleep as possible:

  • Create a sleep schedule. Set your alarm for going to bed. “We have an internal body clock that wants to stay on schedule. If you vary your sleep time by too many hours, you can throw off your rhythm such that it becomes hard to fall asleep when you want.” Read more at
  • Exercise. It’s important throughout life but even more so during your college career. You don’t want to gain the dreaded freshman 15, right? Try to exercise at least two hours before bed – even if it’s only for a half hour walk. This will give your body time to unwind before you go to sleep. Read more at
  • Control your caffeine intake. Between school work and socializing, it’s easy to feel run down and need a caffeine boost to help you get through your day. Enjoy your last coffee by 2 pm and if you need an energy lift later in the day, take a walk to revive yourself.
  • Naps. Naps and college appear to go hand-in-hand. But only nap if you must so you don’t interfere with your sleep routine at night. Keep naps to around 20 minutes and take them before 3 p.m. if possible.
  • Drown out the distractions. Since you’re sharing a small space with a roommate, pack earplugs and a sleep mask before you leave home. These will help drown out noise and any light if your roommate stays up later than you. Read more at
  • Power down at night. The electronic light of computers, tablets and television stimulate the brain. Turning off electronics at least 30 minutes before bed helps your brain power down and prepare for sleep.

No doubt that college will be an exercise in learning to adapt – new friends, new school and a new sleep routine. Setting and maintaining (okay, mostly maintaining) some sort of sleep schedule will help you keep up with the academic and social demands of college life.

Trust us, the better you sleep, the more you’ll enjoy your college experience.

The feeling I associate most with my early college days is exhaustion. I wrote all my papers at night; I fought sleep every time a lecture got a bit dull. You can’t live for years on a sleep deficit, though, so here’s what I should have known from the start.

It’s Freshman Orientation Week at Lifehacker! This week, we’re covering ways to snap out of your summer haze and into an autumnal blitz of activity, whether you’re actually heading to campus for the first time, getting your own kids ready for school, or looking for ways to just be more productive in the classroom of life. So velcro up your Trapper Keepers, students. Class is now in session.


Believe that it’s possible

There’s not a freshman dorm in this world where everybody is asleep at 10 and waking up refreshed every morning. But if you look around your own school, you’ll find people who do fall asleep in class, and people who don’t. People who write their papers partly in the daytime, and people who sleep till 5 p.m. on the weekends and barely have time for laundry, much less partying. You don’t need to have a perfect sleep schedule, but you do need a schedule that leaves you functional.

If you don’t get enough sleep, your ability to learn suffers. You won’t remember things as well or think as clearly. You’ll drift off when your reading gets boring. And then you’ll try to prop your eyelids open for all-nighters to make up on the learning you missed.


There are physical effects, too. If you don’t sleep enough, you’ll either be too tired to exercise at all, or you’ll be sore and exhausted the day after a workout. Without enough sleep, you’ll feel more stressed and get sick more easily. You don’t want to spend all semester in this state, so take a few steps now to set yourself up for an okay sleep schedule.

Schedule yourself some sleep

It may help to think of sleep as a vindictive mob boss. If you don’t pay your debts—eight hours a night—someone will come and break your kneecaps. Plan ahead so you’re not in that situation.


When you schedule your classes and activities at the beginning of the semester, pay attention. When is your earliest class, and what is your latest evening obligation? Do you have enough downtime each day to take care of surprise homework assignments and still have a little time to relax? A packed day can lead to an all-nighter just because you didn’t have enough time to get everything done.


As you’re scheduling, remember that you don’t fall asleep the second you walk in the door, and you don’t wake up immediately bright-eyed and ready to jog to class. Build in some time to wind down at night and get yourself mentally ready in the morning.

Start paying attention now to how many hours of sleep you tend to get each night, and how it makes you feel. If you’ve got a fitness tracker or a sleep app, it should tell you how much you’ve been getting. If not, here’s your basic guideline: in your teens you needed eight to 10 hours a night; in your early twenties it’s more like seven to nine.


Get schoolwork out of the way early

The number one reason I pulled all-nighters in college was “Oh shit, I forgot that was due tomorrow.” The number two reason was “I knew this was due tomorrow, but I kept pushing it off until *checks watch* tonight.”


If you’re commuting to school and working a job or three, life gets in the way. Shit happens. You have plenty of things competing for your attention, and something has to give. Either you make time for schoolwork, or you have an honest talk with yourself about whether this is the right semester for school. If you’ve determined you do have the time, then you need to put your class times and study hours on your calendar, and protect them like a precious treasure.


If you’re on the more privileged path, and you’re in a dorm away from your parents for the first time in your life, the temptation to goof off will be enormous. You can party and drink every night! You can skip class and nobody will chase you down in the halls! Nobody is going to force you to do anything, so your learning and study times have to be enforced by, uh…you.

So make sure you know when stuff is due, and work backward to figure out when your butt needs to be in the chair: “this will take me so-many hours, and I have this many days…” Keep an eye on your upcoming obligations, both short and long term. I’m not saying you have to get everything done before it’s due, but try to have some of the work already taken care of before you sit down for your all-nighter.


Use caffeine as a tool, not a way of life

If you’re not used to caffeine, and then you drink a giant cup of coffee late at night, it will keep you awake and your mind nimble for hours, possibly all the way until morning. That’s kind of the ideal way to use it.


But if you have coffee every night, and every morning, and some energy drinks in the afternoon (or even a Coke, which has caffeine as well), it won’t work as well anymore when you need to use it. You’re dulling your sharpest stay-awake tool.


If you find you need caffeine all the time, for example just to stay awake in class, it means you haven’t been getting enough actual sleep. (Return to the step, above, where we talked about scheduling your sleep and staying ahead of schoolwork.)

The magical caffeinated all-nighter is a powerful tool if you use it occasionally: a few times a semester, tops. Not every week, okay?


Keep your phone out of bed

Even if you use a night mode on your phone or laptop, pointing your eyeballs at a light source is a way to keep you awake. It’s not just about the light, either: whatever you’re doing on your phone (playing games, getting angry on social media) is keeping your brain awake too.


So if you charge your phone by your bed, here’s what happens: you’re exhausted, you flop onto your pillow…and then you spend the next hour doing whatever the heck it is you do on your phone when you actually mean to be sleeping. Nobody wakes up and says “man, I wish I had an extra hour of Youtube last night.”


So plug in your phone in a place you can’t reach it from bed. If you need to be able to see the time during the night, get a clock, or set up an app to display it dimly all night. Just keep it out of bed.

Make your room a sleepy place

A lot of sleep hygiene for adults centers around making the bed feel like a nice, comfortable, sleepy place. If you’re exhausted all the time, though, you’re likely to fall asleep as soon as you give yourself the chance to close your eyes. But you still don’t want disruptions waking you up, or (like your phone) tempting you to delay bedtime.


Have a chat with your roommate(s) about when all the light and noise should settle down for the night. If you’re in a dorm with a quiet hours policy, that should help. If there’s a quiet hours policy but nobody enforces it, go talk to your RA. They’re probably trying to walk the line between enforcing the rules and being a nice guy who doesn’t get up in people’s business. Let them know you actually want them to enforce the rules for once, and you’ll help shift that balance a bit.


Have a wake-up routine on weekends


If you’re signed up for an 8am class, ideally you’ll be getting up at 7 (or whatever allows you to get there in time) every day. (This is a good reason not to sign up for 8 a.m. classes.) I find it doesn’t mess up your schedule too much to sleep in late one day a week, so maybe have a later alarm Saturday mornings but try to keep the rest of the week the same.


That doesn’t mean you need to hop out of bed raring to go every Sunday. Instead, make yourself a nice wake-up routine. Maybe bring your blanket to the couch to watch TV, and make yourself a cup of tea. Something calm and relaxing, so long as your eyes are open. Make it something you want to do, and before you know it you might actually enjoy keeping a semi-reasonable sleep schedule.

If you’ve spent the summer staying up all night and sleeping in, you may need to make some adjustments for the school year. Along with helping you make your 9 a.m. classes, getting to bed at a reasonable hour gives you the energy you need to do your best in school. A recent study of 55,322 college students in Sleep Health found that for every night of the week that you don’t sleep well, your GPA drops by .02 and your chances of dropping a course increase by 10 percent. The impact of less-than-ideal sleep was as high as or higher than that of stress, drinking, and drug use.

“College is full of sleep challenges,” says Dr. Benjamin Smarr, National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow at UC Berkeley and Reverie sleep advisory board member. “Social opportunities abound and change constantly. Study pressure similarly comes and goes so that sometimes getting all the sleep you need is easy, and sometimes it seems impossible. Also, college dorms or group living situations can mean interrupted sleep from roommates, or ambient light and noise. Not to mention the probably old, overused mattress you get. But those challenges are all the more reason for a student to take control of what they can. Plenty of things will arise that make sleeping hard, but good sleep really does make you smarter, faster, happier, and healthier.”

How can you avoid this trap and sleep in a way that sets you up for academic success? Here are a few tips from experts.

1. Plan your schedule around your natural rhythm.

People tend to fall into three categories: owls (those who naturally stay up late and sleep late), larks (those who take to an early schedule), and finches (those in the middle), says Smarr. “Sleeping late isn’t bad in itself, but my research has also found that there is an owl disadvantage in academic performance, meaning people who are especially late type sleepers are likely to do worse in their classes, on average,” he explains. “And the same is true for people who are very early risers.”

But it’s difficult to change how your body naturally works, Smarr says. So instead of adapting your sleep habits to your schedule, try to adapt your schedule to your sleep habits. Avoid early morning or late night classes if you know you’ll be out of it at those times, and try to pick classes during the times when you’re most alert.

2. Get on the same schedule every night.

Your body learns to become tired and wake up at specific times based on habit, so you’re making things harder for yourself if you keep switching up your schedule. “It is extremely important that you get out of bed at the same time every day,” says Dr. Sara Nowakowski, a sleep expert, clinical psychologist, and assistant professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch. “This includes on weekends and holidays. Do not be too ambitious. Set a wake time that is challenging but realistic.”

3. Get outside quickly.

Don’t lounge around in bed for more than 30-45 minutes after you get up. Getting natural light tells your body to wake up — and to keep waking up at that time each day. “You should do this even if you feel poorly,” says Nowakowski. “It doesn’t matter if it is gloomy or cloudy or raining.” This is especially important if you’ve been sleeping in all summer and want to train your body to get up earlier.

4. Be as active as you can in the morning.

10 Tips for Better Sleep at College

Staying up until 4 a.m. to finish a project, getting a few hours’ sleep, and then heading to a 9 a.m. class may strike you as a norm at college. But shortchanging yourself on sleep, regardless of the reason, can lead to sleep deprivation — and some serious health consequences.

Sleep Deprivation: Memory Issues

“Good sleep is important for several things,” says James Knepler, MD, associate professor and assistant director of the University of Cincinnati Comprehensive Sleep Center. For instance, good sleep can boost your cognition, or thinking skills, and memory — and bad or insufficient sleep can worsen them.

“Half the reason you’re at college really is to learn,” says Dr. Knepler, and not getting enough sleep can keep college students from their goals of succeeding in school.

So if it seems worth it to sacrifice a night of shuteye to squeeze in your studies, think again. Staying up all night to cram for a test may be doing more harm than good: The effects of sleep deprivation may offset the benefits of all that extra studying into the wee hours of the morning.

Sleep Deprivation: Physical Issues

A lack of sleep can have physical consequences as well. “Poor sleep has been associated with weight gain, which can be a problem in college students anyway,” says Knepler, referring to the all-too common “freshman 15.”

Not enough sleep can make you sick, leading to more colds, flu, coughs, and sniffles. “Decreased sleep can decrease your immune system,” he adds. “Certainly it’s a stress just like any other stress to your immune system.”

Most college students need at least seven hours of sleep each night, says Knepler, but that amount can be adjusted based on how alert a student feels after a particular number of hours of sleep.

Sleep Deprivation: Sleeping Disorders

Another big issue with not getting enough sleep is that it can hide a serious sleep disorder.

“Inadequate sleep can mask other problems,” notes Knepler. What you brush off as fatigue from pulling an all-nighter may actually be a more serious sleep disorder, but there’s no way to know unless you’re putting in enough hours in bed each night and are still feeling fatigued.

“If someone’s a loud snorer or excessively tired during the day, or their roommates say they stop breathing in their sleep, it may be sleep apnea,” says Knepler, which is a sleep condition that requires treatment.

Sleep Deprivation: 10 Tips for Better Sleep

Making the effort to get enough sleep every night will help you keep up your grades, feel better, and have more energy for the things you really want to do.

Here are 10 tips to try to help you get into the right frame of mind for sleep:

  1. Avoid caffeine at night, and limit it during the day.
  2. Skip alcohol before bed.
  3. Create a sleep schedule, and stick to it.
  4. Don’t sleep in on weekends or days when you have late class; wake up close to the same time every day.
  5. Put books and homework away at least 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime.
  6. Don’t study or work on your computer in bed.
  7. Exercise earlier in the day, never just before bed.
  8. Don’t watch TV just before bed.
  9. Sleep with earplugs and use an eye pillow to drown out any bright lights and the noise of loud roommates or dorm mates.
  10. Turn out the lights when it’s time to go to bed; a bright room will keep you awake.

Establishing healthy sleep habits in college will do wonders for your long-term health.

They say that sleep is wasted on the young. But if you ask college students, they’ll tell you they don’t get enough sleep. According to the Journal of American College Health, in a study of 1,845 students, 27% were at risk for sleeping disorders. Sleeping disorders include restless leg syndrome, insomnia, and obstructive sleep apnea to name a few.

College students are expected to balance classes, exams, extracurricular activities, work, and a social life. It’s no surprise that proper sleep is the first thing to go! Hence why we have made it easy to stay on track with our sleep tips for college students.

Below we will not only explore 11 key sleep tips for college students but also look the consequences and benefits of proper rest. There is plenty of helpful sleeping advice out there. But honing in on the lifestyle and day to day activities of a college student makes these tips a bit more specific. First some insight into how sleep effects our lives.

Consequences of Sleep Loss

A few nights here, and a couple nights there. Most students live by the notion that losing sleep is, just sleep. However sleep deprivation can have lasting consequences.

  • Impaired brain development

Even as a late teen (18) entering college, the brain is still undergoing developmental changes. Specifically the striatum/ basal ganglia is growing. This part of the brain affects risk-taking behavior. If students miss sleep during this time, there will be decreased activity to this part of the brain.

  • Poor coordination

Although being alert and coordinated may not seem very important, it can have some of the most lasting consequences. According to a survey of 1,039 students 16% reported to drowsy driving, and 2% got into a car accident. Don’t be that 2% and get some sleep.

  • Increased negative feelings

It is clear that not sleeping makes a person grumpy, but a lack of sleep can increase negative feelings overall. This includes feelings of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts. At one high school there was a direct correlation between hours of sleep lost and hopeless/ suicidal thoughts. And there was a 58% increase in actual suicidal attempts.

  • Memory Issues

Sleep deprivation can worsen cognition, thinking skills, and memory. As a student you are in college to learn. So why limit your abilities by not catching some zzzz’s?

  • Physical Issues

Lack of sleep can also worsen your immune system. This makes you more susceptible to colds, flus, and sniffles. Insufficient sleep can also increase weight gain, which is already a problem for college students. Not sleeping can make you feel lethargic and lazy. If you’re sick, overweight, and unenergized, there’s not much you can accomplish.

Clearly, sleep is not ‘just sleep’. Seek help if you suspect you have developed an actual sleeping disorder. Otherwise, say no to that party on a Sunday night and get some serious sleep.

Benefits of Sleep

On the other hand, adequate sleep can have permanent, daily benefits. Even just seven hours can be enough sleep for a college student. Here are the benefits you could reap by just getting a good night’s sleep:

  • Better memory

Let’s face it, you’re in college, what more could you need? The information that you learn during the day gets organized and stored within the brain during sleep cycles. The more sleep you get, the better your memory. And the more storage is available because your brain can let go of the irrelevant things. Don’t worry, it will save that physics equation however.

  • Improved physical health

Quite the opposite happens when you do get enough sleep. During sleep the body produces cytokines, which boost your immune system. Thus, students with optimal sleep are less likely to get sick. The body also produces leptin, a hormone that curbs appetite. Therefore, you have a lowered risk for obesity as well.

  • Improved mood

Who doesn’t love a good night’s sleep? We may not all be morning people, but after a solid sleep cycle, you feel more energized. This prepares students to succeed throughout the day leading to the next benefit.

  • Improved grades

It is no surprise that sleep helps you perform better academically, since it boosts your memory, cognition, and thinking skills. One study suggested that one in four students suffered from sleep deprivation. The negative results from deprived sleep even led to course withdrawal. The best thing you can do in college? Get more ZZZZ’s to earn more A’s.

You don’t need to major in rocket science to see that sleep is precious. If you’re ready to get some slumber and hit that pillow, follow these tips and tricks.

11 Sleep Tips for College Students

#1- Set a sleep schedule

Ever heard of a circadian rhythm? It’s the 24-hour process that most biological things have within them, including humans. So with or without a clock your body knows what time it is. To function your best, your body needs regularity. Pick a time to go to bed and stick to it. Experts say varying within an hour’s difference is acceptable. Anything more than an hour and your body could be off schedule for a week. And this is why setting a schedule is our at the top of our list of sleep tips for college students.

#2- Limit caffeine and alcohol

Neither should be taken as a bedtime snack. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon, and skip the alcohol immediately before bed. Caffeine can impact your body for up to 8 hours after. And although some will claim it has ‘no effect’, it will make your sleep lighter at the least. Alcohol of course has negative, lasting effects on the brain and body in general.

#3- Take naps

Yes, you read that right, you are allowed to take naps. But there is a science to taking them correctly. If you sleep 8 hours, but are awake for 16, getting tired is no surprise. Taking naps can improve brain flow and give you more energy. If you feel you need naps, take them before 4:00 pm. Set a timer so your nap is no longer than 20 to 30 minutes. Besides, a little extra sleep can’t hurt.

#4- Create a sleep space

Your bed should be a place that you look forward to. In college it is common for the bed to be a place of study, eating, and relaxing. Try to avoid this. Even in the limited space of a dorm, try to designate different areas. Create a space for sleep, study, and relaxation. Your bed should be only for sleep. If you study on your bed, this could interfere with your sleep. Thoughts of your upcoming exams will linger in your thoughts, since they are associated with your bed. Make sure you check out our #11 sleep tip for college students to make the most out of your sleep space.

#5- Use sleeping tools

Sleeping masks and earplugs are no joke. Use these items to create even more ambiance while you sleep. Drown out excess noise such as a snoring roommate. Block any glimpses of light that may shine off a screen. You can even use a noisemaker or CD to play ocean waves in the background. Then you’ll truly have a relaxing sleep experience! The following are some of our all time favorite sleeping tools for college.

  • Your Pillow From Home

    Familiar comfort from home helps you to feel at home and get to sleep faster.

  • Earplugs or Sound Canceling Headphones

    Block out the noise made by your rowdy neighbors and get some sleep. Shop our favorite Sound Canceling Headphones.

  • Eye Mask

    Great for naps during the day or when you’re roommate is up late. Shop our favorite Eye Mask.

  • Blackout Curtains

    Perfect for blocking out any unwanted light night or day.

  • Small Fan

    Works as a white noise maker, and keeps you cool as you sleep. Especially great for dorms without AC. Shop our favorite Clip on Fan.

  • Weighted Blanket

    Helps you relax and sleep well even during finals. Shop our favorite Weighted Blanket.

#6- Don’t use electronics to fall asleep

Today it is all about screen time. Phones, laptops, tablets, and TVs. We use these items in our downtime and fall asleep using them in bed. Another hormone your body produces in order to fall asleep is melatonin. The blue light from screens trick your body into thinking it’s daytime and decreases melatonin. If you’re wondering why you can’t fall asleep while scrolling through Facebook, that’s melatonin.

Even the TV is a killer of sleep. It may seem easy to drift off to sleep with background noise, but the changing commercials actually create interrupted sleep. It is recommended to stop using screens 30 min before bedtime. As tough of a habit as it may be to break, it is a very useful one.

#7- Practice meditation

Once you’ve turned off those screens, now is a perfect time to meditate. Meditation is the mental exercise of concentration. Usually the person concentrates on their breathing or a unique mantra. The goal of meditation is to just ‘be’. You. Yourself. Meditation is relaxing and slows down your metabolic rate. This helps you fall asleep faster.

#8- Exercise during the day

Physical exercise is encouraged, especially if you’re fighting that freshman 15lbs. But exercise during the day, not at night, and not just before bed. The endorphins and adrenaline that your body produces during exercise are again, counterproductive for melatonin. Your nighttime routine should consist of relaxation, not running a marathon.

#9- Try sleeping pills of natural remedies

If a sleep disorder is your nemesis of sleep, consult a doctor. Zaleplon, Zolpidem, Eszopiclone, and Doxepine can improve your sleep/ wake cycle. But always ask a doctor first! Magnesium, Calcium, and Melatonin are natural supplements if your prefer a prescription-free method. Sleeping is an important, medical function of the body, so when you need it, seek help!

Want to learn about more natural supplements you can to get better sleep? Check out our page Natural Sleep Aid Guide to learn more!

#10- Beware of the weekend

Don’t let the weekend ruin your sleep schedule. Don’t turn into a party animal. And don’t forget to relax. It is tempting to sleep until 12:00 and consume alcohol, but at least while school is still in session try to avoid overindulging. Wake up at around the same time. End your day with 30 min of relaxation. It’s good for your body so why not do it everyday?

#11- Your mattress

Our last of the sleep tips for college students has to do with an important factor. During college many first year and even second year students opt for a dorm. This may limit your choice on your sleeping surface. However, if you are in a setting where you get to choose your mattress making sure you find one that is supportive and comfortable can make a big difference.

This goes hand in hand with our #4 sleep tips for college students, creating a space dedicated to sleep. Creating a space that is solely for sleep and rest is important. And customizing that space with the necessary mattress, pillows and bedding to be as comfortable is key. The following are some of our top tips for creating the most comfortable dorm bed.

  • Mattress Protector

    Especially if you’re sleeping on a dorm mattress, we highly suggest getting a mattress protector, not only to keep your mattress from getting dirty, but also to protect you from your used mattress.

  • Mattress Topper

    Dorm beds are notoriously uncomfortable, add in a little comfort with a quality mattress topper.

  • 2 Sets of Sheets

    Laundry days can be long, or get delayed when all the machines are full. So have a second set of sheets so you don’t get stuck sleeping on a bare mattress or dirty sheets.

Sleep Tips for Colleges Students Summary

Your sleep is the one chance you have per day to refresh and rejuvenate. Especially as a college student, eager to succeed, your body needs this break. Making small changes that your stick to and make apart of your daily routine will not only benefit you now but your entire life. Even incorporating a few tips will help you find more rest and provide you with a higher quality of sleep. As a college student it is important to live your best life, but sleep your best sleep too.

Learn More!

Looking for a new mattress for your college dorm or apartment and not sure where to start? No problem! Let us help you start your mattress search with Our Mattress Guide to take out any confusion. This guide isn’t overly long but features the key important steps in finding the best bed for you.

Also access all of our latest and greatest Mattress Reviews too! Here you will find in depth analysis of all our reviewed mattresses. You can even compare them with our Mattress Comparison Tool. Some of our favorite beds that don’t break the bank can be found on our Best Mattresses on a Budget.

And lets not forget the most important thing, saving money. Easy as can be with our Mattress Coupons page featuring every up to date coupon in one easy to find place. Even get accessory reviews for pillows, protectors and sheets.

Also have question for Our Sleep Guide? We are happy to help so please feel free to contact us!

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For parents and college women

Healthy Sleep Tips for College Students (Tips for Parents)

By: Maria Pascucci, Founder & President, Campus Calm®

According to the American College Health Association, stress and sleep difficulties are the top two life issues that students say affect their studies. We need to lead by example to show young people that sleep deprivation is not a prerequisite for success. We also need to realize that there is no band-aid approach to the problem; we simply cannot order students to shut off Facebook, get their butts in bed and be done with it.

During Q&A following my keynote presentation with parents at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, one parent asked the following question: “What can I do to help my daughter get enough sleep when she’s too stressed out to fall or stay asleep?”

Here are my suggestions* to help college students and young professionals develop good sleep habits:

1. Send your stressed out student a sleep care package. As someone who has experienced and survived my own fair share of stress induced sleep difficulties in college and in my twenties, here are my top healthy sleep picks:

  • AM/PM Yoga. Whenever I’m feeling really stressed out, I pop in this DVD. The 25-minute PM segment really helps me calm my body and mind down so I can fall asleep more easily.
  • Daily Dose of Dharma. This double-disc DVD set features three Yoga segments and three meditation segments that really do a great job of helping you calm down when you have trouble sleeping. Insomnia is a stress trigger for me; I find that regular meditation is my best defense to ward off both stress and sleep difficulties.
  • Healthjourneys Healthful Sleep. This 60-minute audio CD features, says the website, “images that are evocative enough to successfully compete with all the internal brain chatter that keeps us up.” I once listened to this CD on my headset on an overnight flight from California to New York and found it very helpful.
  • Healthjourneys Meditation to Relieve Stress, a 72-minute CD. I especially enjoy the walking meditation segment when I’m feeling stressed out and need to quiet my overactive mind after I’m finished working.
  • Say Good Night To Insomnia. This book is excellent for chronic insomniacs. Gregg Jacobs, a professor at Harvard Medical School and founder of the Behavioral Medicine Insomnia Program, promotes a drug-free program of healthy sleep patterns based on biofeedback, relaxation, positive thinking and good sleep habits.
  • Sleep mask. A good sleep mask blocks early morning sun light, which can cause students to wake up before they’re well-rested, especially if they stay up late at night. Note to students: Don’t wear a sleep mask if you have an early morning class, unless you have your alarm set!
  • Ear plugs. Loud roommates, snoring roommates, music blaring at midnight three dorm rooms over, you get the picture….
  • Room darkening window shade. Search online for “blackout blinds.” Your student will thank you!
  • Nature CD. You can pick one of these up at a local health store, and even your neighborhood grocery store if they have a healthy living section. My husband and I now sleep to the sound of waves pooling in and out with the tide, or birds chirping with flutes whistling melodies in the background. Quirky yes, but it gives your mind something to focus on to quiet mental chatter.
  • Chamomile, lavender, passionflower or other calming herbal teas. My favorite brand is Traditional Medicinals; please make sure you read the label to ensure the tea is caffeine free. Note to students: Drink herbal tea as part of your evening ritual, but don’t drink it too close to bed, otherwise, you’ll be up half the night—well—peeing. Been there, done that! 😀
  • A fan. If it’s hot in their bedroom, your student may have trouble sleeping. The hum of the fan also helps some people fall asleep.
  • Three Steps to Time Management for the College Student. This workbook is written by Beverly Coggins, Campus Calm’s Time Management Expert. “Sleep should be the first thing blocked off on a student’s schedule,” say Coggins. Good time management is key to keeping procrastination at bay, which will ward off stress!
  • My book Campus Calm University. College students write to tell me that they read a chapter in my book when they can’t sleep and it helps them relieve stress, which helps them go to sleep.

*Note: I personally own every product I’ve recommended above, and am not receiving any financial gain for endorsing them (except for my own book). It’s also imperative to note that I’m not a medical doctor, so please consult your doctor or healthcare practitioner if you have any questions on individual usage.

2. Encourage your college students to wind down at least one hour before bedtime. Turn off the computer, close the textbooks and dim the lights. Watch something uplifting on television, read a book for pleasure, write in a gratitude journal, or do a Yoga or meditation DVD (see above for my top picks). Our brains need time to relax, doing homework until five minutes before we go to bed is no way to ensure a good night’s sleep. Which brings me to my next point…

3. If your stressed-out students say that they don’t have time to wind down before bed because they’re up late every night doing homework, that it’s time to take a look at their schedules. It’s a mark of personal leadership development to admit that we’re human, and need rest to function at full capacity. Perhaps it’s time to drop an extracurricular activity, or an hour at work if they’re feeling too overextended to sleep. (Also refer to the time management tip above).

4. Although I cannot speak for young men, I know from personal experience that stress can wreak havoc on young women’s hormones, which in turn, can cause insomnia. If your daughter is suffering from chronic insomnia, it may be a good idea to visit your doctor or a trusted healthcare practitioner. Something may be off with your daughter’s thyroid, hormones, or she may be experiencing adrenal exhaustion from stress. I personally chose to visit a credentialed naturopathic doctor who helped me straighten out my hormones, which helped to alleviate my insomnia. Remember that you have choices when it comes to preventative care.

5. If your college student is having trouble sleeping due to stress, encourage her to seek help by visiting her school’s on-campus counseling center. I sought counseling as a stressed-out college student. I know from experience that a trained professional can teach your student stress-reducing techniques to combat sleep difficulties.

6. Lastly, consider modeling positive solutions for your college student or young professional. Make a pact to help each other adopt healthy sleep habits. Be each other’s accountability partners! Show your kids that you’re not perfect, that you struggle too, and that it takes courage to make positive changes to prioritize self-care. For all you moms and dads out there up way best your bedtimes, we want you to get a good night’s sleep too!

With love,

Do you resonate with Maria’s story? If so, you’re the person Maria’s speaking to in her book Campus Calm University. It’s designed to empower you to give up the exhausting pursuit of perfection (whether it’s grades or body), and instead embrace the real steps to success, health, happiness and leadership. Chapters teach you how to be a lifelong learner, infuse your career search with some PG passion, love yourself, embrace risk, focus inward and surround yourself with a network of positive people who can help you reach your goals. And much more too!

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