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Sleep is essential to overall health and is closely linked to academic performance. Sleep is a vital component to learning, human growth and development, and overall cognitive function. It’s important to receive sufficient and restorative sleep to maintain one’s physical and mental well-being. Inadequate sleep has been associated with a decrease in cognitive function and scholastic achievement.

Experts recommend getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.

What happens when you sleep:

  • Memories get consolidated and stored (necessary for learning)
  • Our ability to concentrate and pay attention is restored
  • Muscles repair and recover
  • We maintain better mental health
  • Our metabolism is regulated

What happens when you don't sleep:

  • Our emotions are heightened, causing irritability, anger, and/or anxiety
  • Reaction time is slowed and more accidents occur
  • Judgment and concentration are impaired
  • Changes in appetite occur
  • Feel tired or lacking in energy

10 Tips for Getting Optimal Sleep

When aiming to get your 7 to 9 hours each night, don't forget that quality is just as important as quantity. Here are some tips for getting optimal sleep:

  1. Keep it regular. As much as possible, keep a regular schedule for bedtime and waking up.
  2. Wake up in time for breakfast.
  3. Regular exercise will energize you during the day and help you sleep better at night, but avoid working out in the 3 hours before bedtime.
  4. Eat healthy food and stay hydrated. Also, eating a large meal late in the day can interfere with sleep because your body will remain active, working to digest the food.
  5. Avoid or minimize use of stimulants and depressants. Caffeine, energy drinks, nicotine, alcohol, and sugar can all interfere with the body's ability to fall and stay asleep.
  6. Establish a bedtime routine. Doing the same thing every night before bed lets the body know that it is time to slow down and relax. Drink a cup of herbal tea, wash your face, brush your teeth, etc. Do a "brain dump" by jotting down a list of worries or things that may keep you awake.
  7. Set social boundaries. You don't need to stay up playing video games if you don't want to.
  8. Make your sleep environment dark, cool, comfortable, and quiet, which will help cue your body to sleep. Try an eye mask, ear plugs, or a small fan to optimize your sleeping environment.
  9. Your bed is for sleep and sex only. Avoid studying, watching TV, and using other technology in bed.
  10. If you cannot fall asleep after 30 minutes, don't stay in bed tossing and turning. Get up and do a relaxing activity, such as listening to soothing music or a few yoga stretches. Return to bed when you are sleepy.

 Common Misconceptions about Sleep

  • Caffeine and other stimulants help me push through that last hour of work, but it won't affect my sleep later. It's true that stimulants may help you stay awake or alert for a given amount of time, but the substances stay in your body long after that initial jolt. If you drink a 12 oz. soda at 7pm, 50% of the caffeine will still be in your system at 11pm.
  • Alcohol will help me sleep. While alcohol consumption may initially help some people fall asleep, it interferes with a restful night's sleep by interrupting the sleep cycle and increases the number of times you will wake up during the night. Passing out is not the same as going to sleep.
  • I can "catch up" on sleep on the weekends. While weekends offer opportunity for a few extra hours for zzzz's (especially if you've stayed up later than usual), try to keep your weekend wake time within an hour or two of your weekday wake time.
  • If I sleep, I'm missing out on valuable study time. Planning ahead can help you avoid all-nighters. In fact, getting 8 hours of sleep the night before a test has been shown in studies to be more beneficial to actual test performance than staying up all night to study. 

Should I seek help?

See a healthcare provider if you experience any of the following problems:
  • Your sleep problems interfere with school, work, or relationships with friends or family.
  • You rely on sleep aids or alcohol to make you sleep or on amphetamines or stimulants to keep you alert.
  • You have depression, chronic anxiety, pain, a change in medication, or any other condition that may affect your sleep.
  • You snore heavily or stop breathing at intervals during the night, often starting again with a gasp. If your roommate, spouse, or partner complains about your snoring, tell your healthcare provider.


College students are among the most sleep-deprived people. Experts recommend getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night, but sometimes your schedule may not allow you to get a full night's sleep. While napping is not a replacement for sleep, it can help make up for lost sleep and improve your cognitive function, mood, and memory.

Benefits of Napping

  • Increased alertness and focus
  • Higher energy levels throughout the day
  • Increased motor performance (such as reaction time) and reduced mistakes and accidents
  • Decreased moodiness

Napping Tips

  • Keep naps short and sweet. A power nap of 20-30 minutes can renew attention span and refresh the body. Long naps can disrupt your ability to get restful sleep later on. Set your cell phone alarm to wake you up.
  • Schedule time for naps, such as in between classes or mid-way through a study session.
  • It's nap time, but you can't fall asleep. Write the word "yawn" on a piece of paper 10 times and read over it. It sounds silly, but it works for many people!
  • Security. How can you keep an eye on your stuff with your eyes closed? If you are napping somewhere other than your room, use your backpack as a pillow and make sure nothing valuable is sitting out. Wrapping your arms around your backpack can also be comfortable for a quick nap.
  • Stretch before and after your nap. It will help you feel better all day.
  • If insomnia is an issue for you, try not taking naps. Keep a sleep diary for two weeks to help identify what is preventing you from getting restful sleep. Consult your healthcare provider or a counselor if problems persist.


Sleep Apps

Some apps to help monitor and improve your sleep:

  1. Deep Sleep with Andrew Johnson – This app is guided meditation with self-help expert Andrew Johnson. This app helps ease you into a more relaxed state, eventually falling into a deep sleep.
  2. Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock – An app that gives you the tools to analyze your sleep habits. The app monitors your movement and wakes you in your lightest sleep phase so you arise feeling refreshed and well rested.
  3. SleepBot – This is an intuitive sleep cycle tracker and dependable optimal alarm that let’s you customize your sleep tracking. You can record your movements and sounds during the night and wake up better each morning during light sleep.
  4. Long Deep Breathing – This is a simple app that promotes the practice of deep breathing for better health.
  5. Pillow – An app that monitors your movements and sounds while you sleep.
  6. Sleep As Android – This app is an alarm clock and sleep cycle tracker exclusively for Android users. 
  7. aSleep – This app is a sleep helper that provides many different sounds to choose from to help you fall asleep.