Why Restful Sleep is necessary for College Success

Suppose you’re up all night again, cramming for that big final exam; you’ve been up for three nights in a row and you are absolutely exhausted, but you believe that you’re going to ace that exam tomorrow.  Maybe; maybe not; a lack good uninterrupted restful sleep is a major factor regarding whether or not you “ace” anything, especially tomorrow’s exam.  Why?

Most people need at least 8 hours of sleep every day and few really get that much sleep.  Especially students who have a tendency to either wait until the last few days to cram for their tests and those who are overconfident and think that they don’t need to study.  If you fall into one of these categories, then you are sure to fail a number of exams.

Restful sleep is vital for both our bodies and minds.  Going without enough restful sleep can cause a lot of problems, including stress, a lack of focus, the inability to concentrate as needed, headaches, bad memory, irritability, tiredness, drowsiness, low energy levels, it can even make you sick because an overly exhausted body is in no shape to fight off viruses and infections.  Many college students only average between 5-6 hours of sleep at night.

Many students may drink energy drinks or lots of coffee, thinking that they’ll be awake and alert in class, but they will find themselves exhausted and without proper focus, in the end.  Alcohol caffeine and nicotine all disrupt sleep patterns and many a student suffers from insomnia related to the intake of these chemicals.

Drinking caffeine can actually cause dehydration, as does drinking alcohol and many college students find themselves drinking way too much beer and liquor.  Too many parties and students often find themselves passing out, but awaking a couple of hours later, unable to get back to sleep.  They awake tired, exhausted and with a headache and their next thought is usually to drink loads of coffee just to get to class.  It’s a recipe for academic disaster, but it’s a fact of life for many students.

Some students are under a great deal of stress, they worry about passing their classes, passing exams; they have rigorous requirements to fulfill that are placed upon them by their programs, professors and deans.  Many students may end up re-doing a thesis or dissertation numerous times just to please their dean.  Still others have financial issues, problems with loans and grants and that’s no easy burden to bear when you’re in college.  It can certainly add to those sleepless nights.  Add to that, class schedules, sports, dating and relationship problems, all night study sessions and labs can wreak havoc on the internal clock of any college student.

Statistics from a survey at Texas A&M University in 2007 reveal that 7% of the students felt rested after sleeping, but at least 26% reported academic problems without enough restful sleep.

A 2009 poll of several campuses found that out of the 2,200 students polled; 85% said that they felt stressed daily.   Six out of ten students felt so stressed that they were unable to get their work done on more than one occasion.

Many of the problems that college students experience with regard to restful sleep begin when they are in high school.  Adolescents are enduring serious hormone changes, along with rigorous high school schedules and studies can affect a student’s ability to get plenty of restful sleep.  Habits learned in high school are carried forward and sometimes escalated to even larger proportions in college, just to keep up the grades.

If you’re one of the many students who are not getting enough restful sleep; try drinking less alcohol and caffeine; better yet, don’t drink it in the evenings or at night.

Avoid, if you can, those all-night parties, lab times and study sessions.  Try to schedule your classes later in the morning rather than early or late at night.

Try your best to set and maintain a regular sleep schedule.  You can use sleep machines that contain, “white noise”, night sounds, ocean sounds and even rainforest sounds to get you relaxed enough to sleep.

Try visualization or meditation for a half hour before going to sleep.  Take a hot bath soak before going to bed.   Just try it for a few days and see if your focus, concentration and disposition aren’t better.  You’ll feel better physically, too and your grades will improve.



“National College Health Assessment” and Associated Press’s, “College Stress and Mental Health Poll”, Spring 2009.