Between a new roommate, new bed, new noises, new freedoms, and no parents, managing a good sleep schedule can be one of the hardest lessons to learn in college, says a sleep expert at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
“A bad night’s sleep or chronically not getting enough sleep can affect every aspect of our lives,” says Aneesa Das, MD, assistant director of the Ohio State sleep medicine program, in a release. “It can affect how we perform in school, our immunity, and our emotions. When we’re tired, we’re more prone to infections, more likely to get into arguments and less likely to participate in activities we enjoy.”
Das regularly meets with students living on campus at The Ohio State University to help them understand why sleep is so important, and to provide tips for enjoying college life and getting enough sleep. She tells students to resist the urge to procrastinate and pull an all-nighter.
“When you are sleep-deprived, you don’t think as clearly. Staying up all night to study can backfire and affect performance on exams,” Das says. “If you can’t avoid an all-nighter, do it strategically by getting a good night’s sleep before and after.”
Here are other sleep tips Das shares with college students:
- Aim for a room that’s cool, dark, and quiet at night—like a cave.
- Avoid trying to sleep with devices such as TVs, computers, tablets and phones on. They emit a blue light that disrupts sleep. If your roommate still needs to work, try using eyeshades.
- Finish up work and allow yourself about 30 minutes to calm down before bed.
- In the morning, get bright light as soon as you wake up. This will help you be alert for those 8 AM classes.
- Exercise during the day can help the body wind down for sleep at night.
- Don’t rely on pills to get you to sleep or caffeine to keep you going. Both can mask a bigger sleep problem.
- If you nap, do it before 4 PM and sleep no more than 30 minutes to avoid sleep inertia.
“It’s hard getting used to all of those noises from people in the hall or next door, and I lived right next to the stairwell. Plus I wasn’t used to my roommate shifting in the bed above me,” Chadwick says.
Das says chronic lack of sleep makes people more vulnerable to diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. So developing good sleep habits early can have a life-long impact.