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College students aren't getting enough sleep, study shows

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What can be better than college life, right? Well, how about a good night’s sleep every night, as studies show that’s a luxury for college students.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows nearly 35% of U.S. adults aren’t getting enough sleep. In other words, around 84 million adults sleep less than the recommended 7 or more hours per night.

But what if you are a student? Do you have enough time to get a good night’s sleep? Well, it seems not. Dealing with a packed course load, a part-time or full-time job, studying for exams, and trying to find time to be social too doesn’t leave you with a lot of hours for sleeping.

A study from the Journal of National Sleep Foundation points out that college students are notoriously sleep-deprived and, in the long run, develop very poor sleep habits. Cramming before a test and pulling an “all-nighter” will eventually disrupt sleep habits. Lack of proper sleep doesn’t only affect sleep habits—it can also have serious consequences on your physical and mental well-being.

Let’s take a look at how a lack of sleep truly affects students, their academic performance, and their overall college experience.

College students aren't getting enough sleep, study shows

Consequences of sleep deprivation in college students

It’s a no brainer that lack of sleep affects all of us similarly. Think about the last sleepless night you had and the morning after that. You were unable to focus, incredibly tired, and most likely not productive at all, right? Well, these are the short-term and most obvious consequences of sleep deprivation. Yet, chronic sleep deprivation for the entire college period can have more serious consequences.

Multiple studies have shown a lack of sleep can lead to serious mental health problems. During the night, our bodies and brain regenerate so that we can stay healthy both mentally and physically. Thus, not getting proper sleep cuts our recovery short.

Moreover, it’s important to note poor mental health and sleep are interconnected. While sleep deprivation can lead to poor mental health, mental health conditions can also hurt the ability to sleep; this leads to a chronic cycle that has a major impact on the student’s well-being.

The National Alliance of Mental Illness shows some troubling statistics. About 44% of students experience symptoms of depression, 80% of them feel overwhelmed by all their academic responsibilities, and 50% of them struggle with anxiety.

Apart from the obvious mental and physical consequences of sleep deprivation, there are also some indirect consequences, such as drowsy driving. Drowsy driving is often prevalent among college students who commute to school or to work. Data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that youngsters aged between 16 to 24 years old are 80% more likely to be involved in a drowsy driving accident.

Lack of sleep can decrease reaction times, make it difficult to focus on the road, and impair decision-making skills. So, this can increase the probability of causing a road accident.

Academic performance

We often hear of strategies to help college students improve their academic performance. When, in fact, sometimes all they need is just a break from their busy routine and a good night’s sleep.

Multiple studies link academic performance and sleep, claiming that swapping poor sleeping habits with good ones can have a major impact on improving the grades of college students. Imagine having to study a 50-page study guide in only one night, after a whole week of working, going to classes, and spending time with your friends. Sounds hard, right? Well, then it is no surprise that some college students who simply don’t have the time to get enough sleep tend to have poorer academic performance.

From getting bad grades to skipping classes and performing poorly in exams, these consequences of sleep deprivation have a direct impact on students’ academic performance.

Stop underrating sleep

It’s official, skipping sleep is not healthy nor productive in the long run.

So, what can students do to avoid health and academic performance problems related to sleep deprivation? First, change needs to come from each student by adopting good sleep habits. No more staying up late to study or talk to friends.

Students should develop better time management strategies to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night. For example, instead of cramming the night before the exam, they should spread out their studying over several smaller sessions.

Another major factor that can combat sleep deprivation is the sleep environment. The right sleep environment can promote relaxation and help students fall asleep faster.

Specialists recommend keeping the sleep environment quiet and dark. So, no more TVs, smartphones, or laptops that can disrupt sleep during the night. For a good night’s sleep, consider investing in the best mattress—a high-quality mattress can help you keep the right body posture during the night and avoid back or neck pain in the morning.

The room temperature also affects your ideal sleep environment. Specialists claim a bedroom’s temperature should be near 65°F (18.3°C), give or take a few degrees.

Many college students undervalue sleep or consider it a luxury they can only enjoy during weekends. However, considering all the negative effects of a bad night of sleep, students should prioritize their health and change their sleep habits.

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