According to the 2013 National College Health Assessment, students named sleep (or lack thereof) as one of the top three factors that play into their academic performance. Whether there isn’t enough time in the day for them to complete their assignments or they’re struggling to balance work and play, students find their eyelids getting heavy while listening to a lecture or reviewing course materials. The result is a lack of focus, the inability to pay attention, a plunge in their motivation, and generally not performing at their maximum potential.
If you’re a college student plagued with drowsiness at inconvenient times, what can you do to combat it? It’s important to first determine the cause, then come to a solution from there.
Problem: Inability to Fall Asleep
There are many reasons you might be tossing and turning at night, and one of the main things for college students is distractions. It’s important to sleep in a dark, quiet room, which may mean coming to an agreement with your roommate. More commonly, though, the culprits are your electronics. Studies have shown time and time again that cell phones, tablets, and laptops are too over-stimulating as bedtime approaches and that we should avoid them an hour or more before hitting the pillow – for all you know, this could solve your sleep problems once and for all.
Another reason college students miss out on precious z’s is because of an inconsistent sleep schedule. You can’t sleep in until noon or later on Sunday and expect to be tired enough to snooze at 11pm that night. You won’t be tired enough, you’ll toss and turn until the early hours, then you’ll be a zombie in your 8am lecture. Try to maintain some semblance of a structured sleep schedule – even if you’re out late Saturday night, try to wake up within a few hours of the time you would get up on the weekdays.
Problem: Not Enough Hours in the Day
We get it – you need to write that 10-page paper, but you also want to go to the football game. You try to do both, and you end up pulling an all-nighter. Writing yourself a schedule isn’t the most “fun” college student activity, but it’s definitely necessary at times. If you know you’ve got an event you’re going to want to attend, pencil in blocks of a few hours here and there to work on the things you need to do. Ultimately, scheduling and prioritizing (which means, yes, you might have to pass up a social event here and there) are imperative to getting enough sleep.
Problem: Waking Up Tired
Maybe you are getting enough sleep, technically, but you’re still tired when you get up and can’t seem to shake the feeling. There are a few things you can try in this case. One idea is to get an app like Sleep Cycle, which uses your movements and the time you fall asleep to wake you up at the best point in your sleep cycle during whichever time frame you tell it to. It could be that you’re waking up from a very deep sleep, which could result in you feeling like you’re not well-rested. You could also get a device with sleep tracking, such as a Fitbit, which will tell you which nights your sleep is restful and which nights it isn’t. You could figure out the factors affecting your sleep from there. If neither of these help, it may be time to see a doctor, as stress, depression, and other issues could be causing tiredness.