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August 20, 2018
College life is complicated, chaotic, and thrilling. With the constant flurry of classes, homework, parties, and events, it can seem like there’s no time to sleep. But without enough quality sleep, you won’t be able to make the most of your college experience. Sleep deprivation, even in the short-term, can have a negative impact on your grades as well as your social life.
The National Sleep Foundation recently updated its guidelines on how much sleep people need by age group. Most college students fall into the young adult category, which encompasses those ages 18 to 25. This age bracket typically needs seven to nine hours of quality sleep per night for optimal physical and cognitive functioning. A small percentage of young adults need even more sleep — up to 11 hours per night, while a select few can get by just fine on as little as six hours per night.
The effects of lack of sleep can be far more serious than you might imagine. Even short-term sleep deprivation, such as a late-night study session, can have immediate, negative effects. The most obvious consequence is feeling grouchy and irritable, but your cognitive abilities take quite a hit as well. When you’re sleep deprived, your recollection and short-term memory are poor, which kind of defeats the purpose of cramming. You’re also more easily distracted and have poor reaction time, which makes tasks like driving dangerous. Long-term sleep deprivation has far worse consequences. You’re at a higher risk for diseases such as hypertension, obesity, and diabetes. You’ll suffer from reduced immune function, and you’re more likely to abuse alcohol. Ultimately, your life expectancy drops by up to 15 percent.
If you aren’t able to get enough sleep at night, you can partially make up for it with naps, but this should be a short-term solution. A full eight hours each night is ideal, but at certain times, such as end-of-semester exams, it’s probably not going to happen. A midday snooze can help compensate for sleep deprivation — up to a point. It may seem counterintuitive, but a short nap (less than 45 minutes) can feel more restful and refreshing than a long one. That’s because a long nap allows you time to enter a deeper sleep cycle, and waking from deep sleep can leave you feeling groggy and disoriented for up to 90 minutes.
It can be challenging to get enough sleep in college. You have a busy academic, extracurricular, and social schedule, and on top of that, many students also have a job. Adding a problematic roommate to the mix is a recipe for a sleep deprivation disaster. Luckily, there are some options to help you sleep better in a college dorm. If your roommate is inconsiderate of your sleep schedule, attempt to reach a compromise. You may need your resident advisor to serve as a mediator. If your roomie’s snoring is the problem, you can try a white noise machine, earplugs, or noise-canceling headphones. You can also ask him or her to consider anti-snoring devices, like nasal strips.
There are lots of benefits to getting enough sleep each night. In addition to reducing your risk for diseases and obesity, quality sleep can give your grades a big boost. A 2007 study reported by the American Society of Sleep Medicine found that students who got by on six hours of sleep per night for two weeks performed as poorly on tests as someone who had gone an entire 48 hours without sleep.