Is College Interfering with Your Sleep?

Whether you are staying up all night studying at the library, or getting in late at night because you were at a party, the life of a college student rarely includes normal sleeping patterns. Continuing bad sleeping habits can lead to sleep disorders, which can cause students to become sleep deprived quickly and interfere with their ability to function in class. You probably have heard that it’s important to get six to eight hours of sleep each night, but if you can never quite manage to, you are not alone.

In a Fall 2009 study by the American College Health Association 20.4 percent of college students reported that sleep difficulties had been “traumatic or very difficult to handle” and 43.4 percent reported that they “felt tired, dragged out, or sleepy during the day” on 3 to 5 days of the past week. But lack of sleep can do more than make you feel sleepy, it can increase weight gain, cause problems with your cardiovascular system, and even affect your immune system’s ability to fight off infections. Students experiencing more than just a little difficulty falling asleep could be suffering from insomnia just like 3.4 percent of the students in the study who reported that they had been diagnosed or treated by a professional for the disorder within the past 12 months. Insomnia is characterized by difficulty going to sleep and staying asleep on most nights for a month or longer may be experiencing insomnia, which can be brought on by stress, illness, anxiety, or depression.

You may be under the impression that you have to sacrifice sleep in order to study, but pulling an all-nighter may not help your grades. In the study, 20 percent of students reported that sleep difficulties within the last 12 months had interfered with their academic performance and caused them to receive a lower grade on an exam or project, receive a lower grade in a course, caused them to receive an incomplete or drop the course completely, or experienced a significant disruption in a thesis, dissertation, research, or practicum work. If you think that sleep difficulties are interfering with your ability to be successful, it might be time to get some professional help. Visit your school’s wellness center and see if you can discuss your problem with a health care professional who can diagnose and treat you. If the pressures of school are keeping you up at night, see if you can talk to a counselor who you can talk to about your stress and give you advice on how to handle it.