How many hours of sleep do you get each night? Five, six, maybe seven? According to the Mayo Clinic, adults require 7-9 hours of sleep a night. But just because you may hit that magic 7-8 hour mark does not mean you are getting high-quality sleep.
We sleep in 4 stages, the most important being stage 4 and REM sleep. Stage 4 is the deepest, most restful portion of sleep, followed by REM or Rapid Eye Movement Sleep. REM is essential for maintaining peak brain function and is where dreams occur, according to the National Center for Biotechnology. But getting enough Stage 4 and REM sleep is not easy as a college student.
College is a fantastic time for learning, new social interactions, and developing greater self-awareness. But with so many things to do on campus, sleep often becomes students’ lowest priority. As easy as it may seem to neglect your bedtime, the negative effects on your health, mood, and overall happiness are not worth ditching those extra Z’s.
Unfortunately, far too often, sleep deprivation is not only common on college campuses but a badge of honor. Whether finishing a last-minute paper, partying too hard, or simply stuck in Youtube-land, we find ourselves shrugging off precious hours of sleep every day.
Ironically, most of the things that shrink our quantity of sleep also affect our quality of sleep as well. Alcohol and Cannabis both prevent REM sleep, according to an article by medicalnewstoday.com. Blue light can be just as dangerous to sleep quality, shifting our internal clock up to six time zones, according to Charles Czeisler, the chief of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Stress can also increase the time it takes our bodies to settle into deeper sleep cycles.
But what can you do to protect sleep if so much of college life seems to fight against it? Firstly, a sleep schedule is essential. Our bodies operate on an internal clock, known as our circadian rhythm, which regulates when we wake up, go to bed, and get hungry, among other things. Without consistency, we throw off our body’s natural ability to wake up and go to bed. Scheduling at least seven hours of sleep every night at around the same time will not only improve your overall health but boost your mood.
In addition to a ferociously-guarded sleep schedule, putting your phone down, meditating, reading, and yoga can all help calm down our nervous system to prepare us for bedtime. Even twelve minutes of blue light before bed can throw off your sleep cycle by over an hour. If you do go out, give yourself a time to stop drinking an hour or two before you plan to hit the hay.
As difficult as it may be, prioritizing sleep is quite possibly the greatest priority for your health and happiness. The next time you are tempted to fill up your coffee mug and grind out an all-nighter, stay out an extra hour or two, or scroll through Instagram before you go to bed, ask yourself if it is really worth your happiness and health.