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If you are or were a college student once, you know how much sleep they get per night. Due to increased academic pressure, exams, lectures, roommate life, and so many social activities, students often have little room for a proper night’s rest.
College students need 8 hours of sleep in order to deal with the demands of academic life; however, fewer than a third of them are ZZZs regularly. Is there any way to make students’ sleep better? Fortunately, several colleges across the US are changing things and rising to the challenge.
In this article, you will learn more about the sleep issues affecting college students, and also find what the best colleges for sleep are. Lastly, we will offer some sleep tips for students to ensure you don’t feel all tired and groggy when attending your next morning lecture.
Sleep Deprivation and College Students
According to the CDC, one-third of the American population is sleep deprived. However, most of those people are young adults aged 18 to 29. According to multiple studies and surveys, most young adults get 6 hours of sleep regularly. Many participants say they would feel better if they had more time to sleep.
Sleep deprivation often starts in high school. During adolescence, teenagers’ circadian rhythm shifts and they begin to feel naturally sleepy later than usual – around 10-11pm and not around 8-9pm as before puberty. This is also the time when teens start taking tougher classes and even start working in order to prepare financially and mentally for college. Meanwhile, 85% of schools begin at 8:30 am or earlier, leaving students with very little time to get the amount of sleep they need.
Once young adults reach college, the sleep deprivation trend continues. According to some studies, first-year college students go to sleep on average 75 minutes later than they did in high school. Also, the difference between their weekdays and weekend schedules creates a kind of a social jetlag effect.
Another study shows that 20% of students are unable to sleep at night due to stress about school and that only one-third of students get their essential 8 hours of sleep per night.
Due to sleep deprivation, many students drink a lot of caffeinated beverages and energy stimulants to stay awake. Those who struggle with insomnia, turn to sleeping pills, sedatives, and even alcohol. Over time, this leads to addiction, dependence and more sleep and health issues. The most common health issues experienced by students are depression. Sleep deprivation is also linked to weight gain, and in case sleep issues are not adequately managed, students may develop delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS).
How Sleep Impacts Academic Performance
According to certain research, 50% of students experience daytime sleepiness, and 70% aren’t getting enough sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation of college students significantly puts the health, overall wellbeing and academic performance at risk. Due to sleep deprivation, many students have lower GPAs, fail out of school, get in a car accident, or develop depression and anxiety.
Sleep-deprived students have a harder time to focus during study session and exams and memorize the things they learn. Sleep deprivation also weakens your immune system, making you more prone to catching a sickness. Lastly, energy drinks and caffeine combined with stress and anxiety will skyrocket your adrenaline levels and make it impossible to fall asleep when you should. Although you feel fine after pulling an all-nighter, your reaction time will be worse. Over time, you will feel more irritable, significantly less focused, and just plain exhausted.
Now when you know all the facts, see how some colleges try to fight this problem and help students to sleep better.
The Best Colleges for Sleep
Jawbone, a fitness wearable products company, conducted a study in 2016. and analyzed three years of data from 18,500 college students at 137 schools across the US. In the study was noticed that the more prestigious the school, the later the students went to sleep. According to the research, the worse colleges for sleep were University of Notre Dame, Case Western Reserve University, Columbia University, the Army, Navy, and Coast Guard and the Air Force Academy. Students attending these schools slept only around 6.5 hours per night.
Now let’s take a look at the winners.
Top Ten Colleges for Sleep in the US
Apart from average sleep time, additional information such as the health of the college’s location, such as obesity rates and sleep deprivation, air quality, and average commute times in the city were also factored in. Some of these colleges or cities they are located in also have a sleep center or a wellness program to promote better sleep for its students.
University of New Hampshire
The UHN, with 7.3 hours slept per night, is considered the best college for sleep. Also, it offers a sleep wellness program, and the state has a lower than average obesity rate.
Cambridge College took second place with 7.25 hours slept per night. The city has a low sleep deprivation rate, and a low obesity rate as well.
University of Oregon
Students from the University of Oregon manage to fit in 7.23 hours of sleep per night. Those with sleep problems can participate in the university’s wellness program or sleep center. The state has a much lower sleep deprivation rate than other countries in the US.
University of San Diego
Like Oregon, USD students, although living in a very polluted city, manage to get more than 7 hours of sleep per night. California is also considered a pretty fit state, and only 24.2% of residents qualify as obese.
University of Colorado
The city has a low sleep deprivation rate, and state obesity rates are also very low. Due to this, students don’t have any problems fitting sleep in their overall healthy lifestyle
University of Nevada Reno
UNR students get 7.2 hours of sleep per night. The city is low sleep-deprived on average, and all students suffering from sleep issues may find relief through the school’s student health centers.
Students of Tulane University, apart from sleeping well, also enjoy living in one of the cleanest cities in America. They also have access to sleep research centers.
University of Vermont
Similar to Tulane, Vermont students get more than 7 hours of sleep per night and enjoy living in one of the cleanest cities in America. The state also has low sleep deprivation and obesity rates.
Chicago is not an ideal city for sleep, and according to research, they have above-average sleep deprivation rates and commute times. Also, Illinois residents tend to be more obese than the national average. However, DePaul University students manage to get more than 7 hours of sleep per night.
Auburn University is also located in one of the cities in America that are considered to have the best air quality. Students enjoy more than 7 hours of sleep per night, and in case they struggle with sleep issues, they can visit a local sleep disorder center.
How to Find Your Best College for Sleep?
When researchers consider the best college or city for sleep, they usually consider factors such as air quality, sleep deprivation and obesity rates in the state, and similar. However, determining the best college for sleep in an individual choice and depends on a variety of factors. To evaluate a particular school, keep the following things in mind.
Simply think if the environment is conducive to sleep. Is the school located in a noisy area, or a quiet one? Is air quality good? Do people follow an active lifestyle there?
According to certain surveys, sleeping better as a student is as simple as choosing the right major. Some majors may be prone to better sleep more than others. Top 3 majors with best sleep rate are public relations, urban planning, and physical education. When it comes to three worst majors for sleep, winners are advertising, foreign languages, and animal science.
Napping Facilities on Campus
This may sound a bit strange, but in response to the epidemic of poor sleep, many colleges decided to create nap rooms on campus. Nap rooms ban the use of all electronics and offer comfortable recliners and other comfy places for sleep. Some of the students with napping facilities are James Madison University and the University of Michigan.
Other schools such as Savannah College of Art and Design, Texas A&M University, Saint Leo University, University of Miami, Washington State University and many others have decided to invest in specialized Nap Pods.
Many universities perform sleep research on their own or have on-campus sleep laboratories and research centers managed by faculty and graduate students. If you attend such a school, you will definitely have better access to sleep doctors and specialists in case you need any help.
Sleep-Focused Wellness Programs
If your school doesn’t have a sleep center, maybe they have a sleep-focused wellness program, or at least offer counseling for sleep issues through a mental health center. For example, the University of Alabama has an educational program called Sleep More that involves teaching students about healthy sleep habits and stress management techniques.
Tips for Sleeping Better in College
If your struggle with insomnia and sleep deprivation, finding a sleep-healthy college won’t magically solve all your snoozing problems. You also need to learn how to sleep better once you get there. Here are some essential tips to follow.
Stick to your sleep schedule: Having a strict sleeping schedule is essential for healthy sleep. Create a snooze/wake schedule that works for you, and stick to it even on weekends, during finals, and despite hangovers. So, you have to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
According to a study conducted in 2017, there is a strong link between sleep consistency and better grades. On the flip side, researchers also noticed that students with poor sleep don’t only have worse grades, but also struggle with delayed melatonin production, which is very similar to a jet lag effect. Lastly, the researchers also found out that sleep consistency was more important to sleep than bedtime. For example, if a student was a night owl, it didn’t affect his or her grades as long as they were consistent and still got sufficient sleep.
Avoid all nighters and naps: All-nighters simply destroy your focus and sleep. Napping is okay when limited to 20 or 30 minutes. If you nap longer than 30 minutes, you will enter the deep sleep stage and potentially wake up feeling drowsier than before.
Make your bedroom comdortable: Your bedroom must be perfect for sleep. It should be dark, quiet and reasonably cool. Your bed must be comfortable and able to satisfy certain personal needs and preferences, such as your preferred sleeping position, weight, and health considerations like back pain.
Create a short bedtime routine: Bedtime routines don’t work only on kids, but they are also great for adults. Before going to sleep, you can read a book or take a shower. Doing the same every evening will help your brain associate these activities with sleep.
Eat and drink healthy: If you are limited to the dorm cafeteria menu, still try to do your best to eat healthy. Limit your caffeine intake and avoid sugary and fatty junk foods.
It is also important to limit your alcohol intake it negatively affects sleep. Although alcohol initially makes you drowsy and helps you fall asleep, it causes interrupted sleep, vivid dreaming, snoring and night sweats. It won’t help you get quality rest.
Exercise more: If you can, try to fit exercise into your daily schedule. Even taking a 20-minute walk in the morning is enough to boost your energy levels and make you feel a bit more tired when it’s time to go to bed.
Practice smart time management: Do your best to organize your schedule in such a way that you have enough time to sleep. Prioritize your school work and assignments, and spend less time watching TV or using your phone. Always start studying in time, and not just a few days before.
Prioritize sleep: Instead of bragging how you pulled an all-nighter writing your latest paper, start valuing sleep a bit more and start prioritizing it. Rest is vital for your health and academic performance. The sooner you recognize its importance; the faster you will be able to enjoy all its benefits.
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Co-founder of Counting Sheep and Sleepaholic