College students report at least two times as many sleep difficulties as the general population. This is of particular concern because poor sleep quality can cause increased tension, irritability, depression, confusion and lower life satisfaction. There is also strong evidence that getting adequate sleep can positively affect academic performance and GPA.
WHY do we need sleep?
Sleep is important for a number of reasons. It restores our energy, fights off illness and fatigue by strengthening our immune system, helps us think more clearly and creatively, strengthens memory and produces a more positive mood and better performance throughout the day. Sleep isn’t just a passive activity and something to fill the time when we are inactive, but rather it is an active and dynamic process vital for normal motor and cognitive function.
Sleep & Academic Performance
Sleep & Academic Performance
According to a health survey administered to UWO students, 1 in 5 students indicate that lack of sleep has impacted their academic performance in a negative way. They have received lower grades, missed a paper or project deadline, or had to withdraw from class. Some students rely on staying up most of the night to study, but pulling an all-nighter and cramming at the last minute can actually be counterproductive.
The very qualities you need to maximize in order to do well on tests, such as recall, concentration, and alertness, are decreased when you are sleep deprived. Research has shown that students who get 6 or fewer hours of sleep have a lower GPA than those who get 8 or more.
Sleep disorders…Do you have one?
Most of us have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep at some point in our lives. Sometimes these problems are temporary and can be due to stress. In other cases, the problem persists for weeks or even months. If you are unable to fall asleep for more than 30 minutes after going to bed, 3 or more nights per week for 4 weeks, then you may have what is known as primary insomnia. This may be due to psychological and/or physiological causes, and if it persists for more than a month, you should see your clinician.
For more information on sleep disorders, click here.
HOW MUCH sleep do we need?
Most adults need somewhere between 6-10 hours of sleep per night. Different people need different amount of sleep to feel rested. If you are frequently tired or irritable during the day and find yourself sleeping more than an extra 2 hours per night on weekends, then you are probably not getting enough sleep during the week. Try for 7-8 hours and see how you feel.
What are the RISKS of sleep deprivation?
Lack of sleep is associated with both physical and emotional health risks.
- More illness, such as colds and flu, due to a lowered immune system
- Feeling more stressed out
- Increased weight gain and obesity
- Lower GPA and decreased academic performance
- Increased mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety
- Increased automobile accidents due to fatigue caused by “drowsy driving”
- Decreased performance in athletics and other activities that require coordination
Should you take a NAP?
Approximately 30-50% of college students nap, but the effect is that nappers sleep less than non-nappers. If you do nap, nap early in the day and keep it to about 20-30 minutes.
Additional Sleep Resources:
American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Sleep to Stay Awake: Assess your current sleep habits and tiredness to determine how you can improve your energy levels.