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The National Sleep Foundation recommends that college-aged students get between 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Yet, one in three college students report having trouble sleeping as well as not getting the recommended amount of sleep each night. Although it may be stressful balancing schoolwork, social lives and jobs, the amount of sleep we get each night should not suffer because of this.
Below are some common issues that many college students face that can disrupt our sleep patterns, along with ways to improve these conditions.
Mental health has become a critical issue on college campuses. In fact, a study revealed that anxiety is the leading mental health issue college students face. The National College Health Assessment Survey reported that 15.8 percent of college students have been diagnosed with or treated for anxiety. The same survey found that 21.9 percent of students claimed that anxiety had negatively affected their academic performance whether it was through getting a lower grade on an exam or project, receiving an incomplete, or dropping a course. A college student must balance many things all at once including midterms, friendships, relationships, and careers. For many young adults, this is the first time dealing with significant levels of stress and can be extremely overwhelming, bringing on anxiety.
Anxiety can cause sleep problems or make existing sleep problems worse. However, getting a good night’s rest, especially as a college student, needs to be a priority. In order to reduce your anxiety and get the sleep your body needs try meditating. Focus on your breathing and visualize a serene environment.
Mental over activity is becoming a major issue for people, especially college students. We’ve all had those nights where it’s impossible to get our brains to slow down long enough for us to fall asleep. For busy college students these nights can happen more frequently. When you’re juggling so many different things at once, it can often feel like there is not enough time in the day to get everything done. This leads to many students working on schoolwork or participating in extracurricular activities up until bedtime. While this may not seem like a big deal, it’s actually a huge issue because sleep isn’t as simple as turning a switch off/on. Our bodies need time to unwind and dim our minds in order to prepare for sleep.
If you’re having trouble slowing your mind down at night, allow at least one hour before bed to wind down. This will not only help create closure for the day, but it also allows your brain to begin the process of shutting off. Developing a pre-bedtime ritual is a great way to help you and your mind wind down. Try reading, journaling, or even sketching and don’t forget to avoid electronics during your wind-down time.
College dorm rooms come with their own set of sleep destroyers. One of the many reasons that college students have trouble sleeping in their dorm rooms is that their beds often have many other uses besides sleeping — including studying, doing school assignments, watching TV, and even hanging out with friends. Remember that although dorm rooms may be small, your bed is not your living room. You want to associate your bed with sleep so that when you see it your body craves sleep. Try to study at your desk or in the library and hang out with your friends in common areas. Another issue in your dorm room that may be causing problems with your sleep patterns is your university-issued mattress. Most of these mattresses have been used for years and may be too hard or lumpy. A poor quality mattress can cause discomfort and even body pains that can be distracting and prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep.
While you may not be able to go out and buy a new mattress for your dorm room, a mattress pad, comfortable bedding, and good sleepwear may help make it more comfortable. A soft and supportive pillow will also help add some much needed comfort to your bed.
Living in close quarters can make for a lot of noise. Whether it’s your roommate watching their favorite TV show at a high volume or your neighbors talking loudly in the hallway, noise can be extremely distracting when it comes time for bed. Unfortunately, while most resident halls have designated “quiet hours”, not all residents respect them. If your roommate and neighbors are continuously loud, especially during quiet hours, ask them to quiet down. It may even be helpful to discuss each other’s schedules and set guidelines to make sure everyone can sleep, study, and enjoy their time in the dorms peacefully. If that doesn’t work, try earplugs or white noise to help cover-up noises. Fans and sleep sounds are both great ways to cancel out noise.