During my 27 years of teaching, I’ve often looked around my large class (400-500 students) and seen a student sleeping. I’d prefer that they were awake, but I still have some sympathy; college demands a lot of work, which can lead to staying up late reading and studying. As if this wasn’t enough, some students work outside jobs, are athletes, or participate in other activities like music. At college, sleep is in short supply.
This means that it’s important for you to get enough of it. On average, college students need to get about 8 hours of sleep a night, but the research shows that undergrads sleep 1-2 hours less than that. Staying up late on school nights and sleeping late on weekends messes with students’ internal clocks and makes the little sleep they get even less restful.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, lack of sleep leads to poor health. Less sleep can:
1) Increase stress
2) Contribute to acne and other skin problems
3) Lead to aggressive or inappropriate behavior, like being impatient or angry
4) Cause you to gain weight because of unhealthy eating habits
5) Heighten the effects of alcohol and possibly increase your use of caffeine and nicotine
6) Weaken your immune system and therefore contribute to illness
Lack of sleep can also hurt your performance in the classroom. If you don’t get enough sleep, you’ll have a tougher time paying attention, which will make it harder to study and learn material for exams. On top of this, lack of sleep will make taking the exams themselves harder—if you’re even able to get there on time. Too many students have come to my office, out of breath, saying that they were up all night studying, fell asleep, and failed to get up in time to take an exam.
If you want to have fun in college and also succeed in class, get enough sleep. Don’t avoid sleep by using caffeine and nicotine. These are stimulants, which means that they might help you stay awake in the short term, but don’t make you any more rested. Also, alcohol might help you fall asleep quickly, but your sleep will be disrupted during the night. Finally, manage your time as well as you can, so that you won’t even feel like you need to stay up all night.
By getting enough sleep you’ll feel better in both body and mind, continue to enjoy college life, and get good grades in your classes.