7.5 Sleep


Does Sleep Really Matter?

Photo by Chroki Chi, Unsplash License

Like good nutrition and exercise, adequate sleep is crucial for wellness, and academic success. Sleep is particularly important for students because there seem to be so many time pressures—to attend class, study, maintain a social life, and perhaps work—that most college students have difficulty getting enough.

The Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep

You may not realize the benefits of sleep, or the problems associated with being sleep deprived, because most likely you’ve had the same sleep habits for a long time. Or maybe you know you’re getting less sleep now, but with all the changes in your life, how can you tell if some of your stress or problems studying are related to not enough sleep?

Canada’s first 24 Hour Movement Guideline (2020) recommends that adults between the ages of 18-64 get between 7-9 hour of sleep a night and follow a consistent sleep hygiene practice of going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. Yet the 2019 report from the Canadian Reference section of the American College Health Association found that 42 percent of all college students get under 7 hours of sleep per day and that 36 percent of students surveyed felt tired in the day 6-7 days a week, with 41 percent saying there were tired in the day 3-5 days a week (American Colleges Health Association, 2019).

Lack of sleep can contribute to difficulty in learning as it may cause impaired cognitive functioning, impaired alertness and lead to longer term health difficulties. We may take sleep for granted and never really think about what helps us get a good nights’ rest.

On the positive side, a healthy amount of sleep has the following benefits according to the Sleep On It (n.d.) consortium of  Canadian Sleep and Circadian Network, the Canadian Sleep SocietyFondation Sommeil and Wake-up Narcolepsy Canada:

  • Improves your mood during the day
  • Improves your memory and learning abilities
  • Gives you more energy
  • Strengthens your immune system
  • Promotes wellness of body, mind, and spirit

Am I Getting Enough Sleep for Me?

There is no simple answer, in part because the quality of sleep is just as important as the number of hours a person sleeps. Sleeping fitfully for nine hours and waking during the night is usually worse than seven or eight hours of good sleep, so you can’t simply count the hours.

  • Do you usually feel rested and alert all day long?
  • Do you rise from bed easily in the morning without struggling with the alarm clock?
  • Do you have no trouble paying attention to your professors and never feel sleepy in a lecture class?
  • Are you not continually driven to drink more coffee or caffeine-heavy “power drinks” to stay attentive?
  • Are you able to get through work without feeling exhausted?

If you answered yes to all of these, you likely are in that 10 percent to 15 percent of college students who consistently get enough sleep.



How to Get More and Better Sleep

You have to allow yourself enough time for a good night’s sleep.

Using time management strategies and schedule at least eight hours for sleeping every night. If you still don’t feel alert and energetic during the day, try increasing this to nine hours.

Keep a sleep journal, and within a couple weeks you’ll know how much sleep you need and will be on the road to making new habits to ensure you get it.

Which of the following tips below do you follow and which should you start trying if you are feeling tired during the day?

  • Avoid nicotine, which can keep you awake.
  • Avoid caffeine for six to eight hours before bed. Caffeine remains in the body for three to five hours on the average, much longer for some people. Remember that many soft drinks contain caffeine.
  • Don’t nap during the day. Napping is the least productive form of rest and often makes you less alert. It may also prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep.
  • Exercise earlier in the day.
  • Try to get to bed and wake about the same time every day—your body likes a routine.
    Sign with the words Do Not Disturb!
    Photo by Gerd Altmann, Pixabay License
  • Make sure the environment is conducive to sleep: dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool.
  • Use your bed only for sleeping, not for studying, watching television, or other activities. Going to bed will become associated with going to sleep.
  • Establish a pre-sleep winding-down routine, such as taking a hot bath, listening to soothing music, or reading (not a textbook). If you can’t fall asleep after ten to fifteen minutes in bed, it’s better to get up and do something else rather than lie there fitfully for hours. Do something you find restful (or boring). Read, or listen to a recorded book. Go back to bed when you’re sleepy.

If you frequently cannot get to sleep or are often awake for a long time during the night, you may be suffering from insomnia, a medical condition that your doctor can help with.

8 Successful students take control of their health” from  A Guide for Successful Students by Irene Stewart and Aaron Maisonville is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.


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Fanshawe SOAR Copyright © 2023 by Kristen Cavanagh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.