Prioritizing sleep brings academic, health benefits

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Photo Credit: Amber Perry | Daily Texan Staff

From school stress to having fun at parties, it can be difficult for college students to get enough sleep. That doesn’t mean sleep should be neglected, however. It is important that students try to get enough sleep so that we can focus on school and enjoy campus life to its fullest.

“Every cell in your body needs to sleep,” Pat Carter, sleep researcher and nursing associate professor, wrote in an email. If we don’t let our bodies rest, we can’t navigate the challenges that college brings.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 18- to 25-year-olds should get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. However, if you’re sick or stressed, you may need 10 or 11 hours of sleep to recover. Although stress can keep you awake at night, getting enough sleep reduces the risk of depression and anxiety and helps you focus in class, which in turn can lessen your GPA-related stress.

“College students struggle to get good sleep because there are so many more interesting things to do than sleep,” Carter wrote. Sleeping in college is a Catch-22: If you sleep, you’ll likely miss parties and extracurricular activities, but if you skip sleep, you’ll be too tired to enjoy them. “With the availability of energy drinks and life hacks to stave off sleepiness, we fail to listen to our bodies telling us when we need to rest,” Carter wrote.

Your lack of sleep will catch up to you, though. Carter noted that “college students typically suffer from persistent sleep debt.” Sleep debt happens when you don’t regularly get enough sleep, inhibiting your performance on daily tasks. Cue emotional breakdown in the PCL.

“The best advice I can give is to prioritize sleep in your life,” Carter wrote. “Give sleep the respect that it deserves for the work it accomplishes.”

University Health Services lists some tips for sleeping better, such as reducing caffeine and alcohol intake and getting enough water. And although it can be hard in a small apartment or dorm room, it also helps to only associate your bed with sleep. Use your desk, dining table or the library to study, do homework and watch TV.

A good bedtime routine that takes 30 minutes to an hour can also help you feel tired and relaxed. This may seem like a lot of time, but you will be much more productive when you get better quality sleep. Make sure you turn off all electronics before your routine, and try drinking non-caffeinated tea and reading a book.

If you’ve tried fixing your sleeping patterns by yourself to no avail, talk to a medical professional. You can talk to a counselor at the Counseling and Mental Health Center or a physician at UHS. Professionals can recommend or prescribe medicine, and they can diagnose sleep issues such as sleep apnea or anxiety.

It’s no secret that college students lead busy lives. From maintaining a 4.0 to frequenting frat parties, it can be hard to squeeze in some quality sleep. If you make a good night’s sleep a priority, you can ward off illnesses, be more alert in class and productive during the day. It’ll take time out of your schedule, but healthier sleep means enjoying life to its fullest at the 40 Acres.

Jingling is an English junior from Georgetown.