Sleep Deprivation in College Students

Sleep deprivation in college students is very common with consequences that affect their physical and mental health. Peer pressure from friends or roommates and the demands of school and jobs leave many teens and college students chronically sleep deprived.

sleep deprivation in college students

While it may seem fun to be with friends at 2:00 AM, it's not so fun when symptoms of sleep deprivation plague you throughout the next day.  The University of Michigan Health Systems reports, "More than 50% of students report significant daytime sleepiness and 66% of students feel sleepiness impacts their academic performance."

Sleep Deprivation Definition

Many college kids don't think they need the required hours of sleep necessary for good physical and mental health. In error many think that their youthful energy is enough to keep them going rather than a good 8 hours of sleep.

What is sleep deprivation? The best definition of sleep deprivation is found by WebMD.

sleep deprivation in college students

It is ...

"a sufficient lack of restorative sleep over a cumulative period so as to cause physical or psychiatric symptoms and affect routine performances of tasks."

Sleep deprivation is a lack of sleep or not getting enough sleep, unlike insomnia which means a person has trouble falling and staying asleep.

Causes of Sleep Deprivation in College Students

There are lots of causes of sleep deprivation in college students - some of their own choosing, some from living circumstances and some from meeting class and school requirements.

Gone are the days of hall monitors or RA's that enforce "quiet hours" in the dorms. My dorm experience of many years ago, had an RA who took her responsibilities quite seriously and kept our floor "quiet" after 9:00 PM. I can remember getting in trouble because my roommate and I were laughing too loud :)

When our son went off to his first year of college he complained to us that no one on his dorm floor even thought about going to bed before 2:00 AM. It wasn't long before he came down with strep throat.

Here are the common causes of sleep deprivation in college students:

sleep deprivation in college students

1. Choosing to stay up at night to watch a movie, play video or computer games, go out with friends, talk to roommates, etc.

2. Meeting class assignment deadlines whether it is researching and writing papers, studying for a test or finishing a project

3. Living in an environment that interferes with sleep with loud or noisy roommates or neighbors.

4.  Poor diet of sleep-disrupting foods and drinks such as alcohol and high caffeine drinks. 

Signs of Sleep Deprivation in College Students

How do you know if you are sleep deprived? Here are the common signs of sleep deprivation:

1. Falls asleep in class, watching TV, etc.

2. Inability to concentrate, focus, memorize, comprehend or process information

3. Irritability and moodiness

signs of sleep deprivation in college students

4. Compromised immune system and easily catches viruses like colds and flu

5. Slower reaction time

6. Increased risk of accidents

7. Increased appetite and craving for foods high in carbs

8. Reduced ability to handle stress

9.  Difficulty waking up in the morning

Do you recognize any of these symptoms of sleep deprivation in yourself or one of your friends? Get consistent quality sleep and you may find you are a different person .... for the better.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation in College Students

The effects of sleep deprivation are physical, mental and emotional. Do not underestimate the impact of good sleep on your health.

Dr. Breus the author ofGood Night: The Sleep Doctor's 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health writes that "lack of sleep causes foggy thinking and poor concentration, but now we also know that chronic lack of sleep can put you at risk for type 2 diabetes and obesity."

Sleep Improves Learning

Academic success and sufficient sleep go hand in hand.  Likewise insufficient sleep affects memory, cognitive thinking and the ability to make good judgements.

sleep deprivation in college students

“Sleep offers our brains the chance to actually do something with material that we obtain during the day — while we rest, our minds synthesize everything so that the memories are more useful and accessible to us in the future," Kelsey Down, sleep writer for Sleep Train, tells Elite Daily. "Without that valuable process, we lose our ability to retain information over a longer period of time."

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Solutions to Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation treatment involves making sleep a priority. Although it's not a popular choice for college students, getting adequate sleep takes discipline and forethought.

Limit your late nights so that you are not chronically sleep deprived.

1. Decide what time you have to get up in the morning and then think backwards 8 hours.

2.  Determine you will be in bed by a set time.

solutions to sleep deprivation

3.  Stop all caffeine until you get your sleep turned around

4. Use a white noise machine to block out noise from roommates watching TV or loud neighbors.

Routinely turn it on and soon including this sound in your bedtime routine will help trigger a "sleepy" response. I own the LectroFan and find that I like the soft noise of a fan best for white noise. There are several fan sounds to choose from and of course you can adjust the volume. It's really quite small so you can take it with you when traveling.

Adaptive Sound LectroFan White Noise Machine with 20 Unique Non-Looping Fan and White Noise Sounds

5. Wear blue light blocking glasses or use a blue light blocking shield on your cell phone, computer screen or tablet screen in the evening.

These electronic devices all emit blue light which interferes with sleep by shutting down melatonin production. You will need to purchase a separate shield for each of your devices - keep them on all the time.

Wear Blue Blockers Before Bedtime

Invest in a pair of blue blockers - these are glasses that prevent blue light from entering your eye and interfere with melatonin production.  Light from your cell phone, computer, iPad, and other electronic devices interfere with sleep.

solutions to sleep deprivation

Wear the blue light blocking glasses in the evening before bedtime. It's best to put them on at around the same time every night. Surprisingly this cheap pair of blue blockers by Uvex is rated as one of the best by Consumer Reports. 

3 Blue Blockers Put to the Test

The orange or amber tint is needed to block blue light and these wrap around glasses provide better protection from blue light entering from the top or sides of your face.

Uvex Skyper Blue Light Blocking Computer Glasses

If you have stayed up really late for one or several nights to get a project done or to study for finals, then make sleep your priority. After your finals get to bed at a time that then allows you to get your regular 8 hours of sleep.

Sleep deprivation in college students has consequences to their learning, their mood, and their health.  Implement some of these solutions to get improved sleep for a better college life experience.

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