Is Lack Of Sleep The New College Normal?

BY Danika McClure

College students experience a number of factors that may prevent them from maintaining a normal sleep schedule. Living in residence halls, studying for exams, late night courses, social lives, work schedules, family life, homework, and extracurricular activities are all very real stressors that most young college students have to deal with on a day-to-day basis.

“There is so much happening on college campuses, both academically and socially, that sleep and rest are very low on most students’ lists of priorities,” writes Huffington Post contributor Jackqueline Baltz.

It’s these busy schedules that have the potential to keep students from getting the sleep they require.

“College and university students tend to keep schedules that are really different from people who are out having jobs in the world,” Dr. Al Glass, then president of the American College Health Association, said in an interview with NPR. “Unfortunately, that’s nothing new. Only 11 percent of college students in a sample of 191 undergrads had good quality sleep, a study in the Journal of American College Health found.”

A lack of sleep combined with other unique stress can have a very real impact not only on students’ health and well-being, but it can also affect their studies in negative ways.

Sleep has an enormous impact on the way students learn. Being deprived of that sleep, in turn, can affect a student’s memory, cognition, and motivation. Those effects only compound when sleep deprivation continues for a long period of time.

“You can see the difference [most starkly] in a morning class,” Garry Fischer, a college admissions experts tells Today. “Students are lethargic, and class participation is minimal. They just can’t engage with their education when they’re forced to work against their circadian rhythms.”

But how can universities and students help to change this pattern?

Many colleges have experimented with making classes start later in the day, or at the very least offering additional options for their college students, and have noticed that students are much more alert, Today reported. Others have tried implementing “snooze rooms” in their libraries to help students who are studying for finals. Perhaps even more accessible is the way that universities have adopted online degree programs in their schools, which offer students the flexibility to work on their own time in order to read up on course materials and complete their courses in a timeframe that makes sense for their schedule.

There are a number of things that students can do to make sure they’re actively prioritizing sleep as a part of their daily self-care routine in order to ensure success in college.  

First, for students who are unsure about exactly how much sleep they’re getting on a regular basis, wearable technology, cellphones, and mobile health sensors may be a solution to tracking sleep patterns. From there, students can make adjustments to their lifestyles that can help ensure that their sleep schedule remains intact.

According to the medical experts at Healthline, there are a number of steps students can take in order to get a better night’s sleep. Those steps can include:


  • Developing and sticking to a sleep routine (even on the weekends)
  • Proper diet and regular exercise
  • Avoiding toxic substances like tobacco and alcohol
  • Avoid screens before bed
  • Avoid sharing the bed with children or pets
  • Adjust your room temperature to somewhere nearing 65 degrees
  • Use your bed for sleeping only

In making these changes, they argue, students will find themselves more rested, which will help them overall in their school studies, and ultimately, aid in their overall health and well-being.

Danika McClure is a writer and musician from the northwest who sometimes takes a 30 minute break from feminism to enjoy a tv show. You can follow her on twitter @sadwhitegrrl

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