Fit Sleep into Student Life

With so much happening just about every minute of the day, it's no wonder that college students find it easiest to cut back on sleep when the alternative is cutting back on schoolwork or socializing.

Persistent neglect of sleep can mess up your life all around — you may end up nodding off in class, missing an exam, being a zombie all day, or skipping a fun event. The result is a constant cycle of catch-up that you can break only by getting enough sleep every night.

Good sleep habits

To plan a sleep schedule, think about your workload, class schedule, and your part-time job. Also consider the amount of sleep you need (not how much you can "get by" with), extracurricular commitments, roommate schedules, and social time. The answers will dictate your ideal bedtime.

Experts recommend the following:

  • Keep "sleep in" time to a minimum. Although sleeping an extra hour is fine on weekends, sleeping three or four extra hours throws off your internal clock and makes it tougher to wake up on school days.

  • Avoid big meals before bedtime — you'll sleep better.

  • See your doctor if you have trouble falling asleep, if you wake up often at night, or have problems that may be related to your sleep routine.

  • If you have trouble waking up, schedule something interesting — such as a fun class or a gym workout — as an incentive to get up.

Nap time?

Seven to nine hours of sleep each night is ideal but not always possible. Juggling an evening job, a huge assignment, and an early class time can cause a modest "sleep deficit" to build. Many students use short 20-minute "power naps" to get them through the day and see them as a necessity, not a luxury.

Naps aren't for everyone, however. Many students don't feel refreshed after a siesta, waking up groggy and even more tired than before. They also find that naps disturb their regular sleep cycle.

Students who do nap regularly say the secret is not relying on them heavily and limiting them to an hour or less.

The all-nighter

To some students, an all-nighter is a badge of honor — the ultimate sign of the will to succeed. Others see it as the ultimate, pathetic sign of someone who couldn't get his or her act together until confronted with the possibility of failing. If an all-nighter is inevitable, brew up a pot of coffee and get to work.

Ultimately, balance is the name of the game. As long as you generally have a balanced lifestyle of ample doses of sleep, regular exercise, and a healthy diet, then once in a while, the infamous all-nighter won't do you in.