Back to school is an exciting time. So exciting, in fact, that you might forget to prioritize sleep. But if you want to succeed in college and have the energy for a busy social life, good quality sleep is your secret weapon.
To help you catch some really good zzzs, we’ve put together this handy guide on how to sleep better in college, plus six essential products to help you fall asleep faster and longer.
After all, at home you can have the best mattress for your body and sleeping position, but you can’t exactly roll it up and take it with you. So here’s what to do and pack instead…
How much sleep does a college student need?
According to CDC guidelines, most healthy college students need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Getting that amount of good quality sleep is essential to help you process what you’re learning every day in college and to help your brain repair your body overnight and ward off illness.
The result? You’ll feel more rested and energized the next day, so you’ll be more focused in class and more engaged when hanging out with your friends.
If you regularly experience any of the following, you may not be getting enough sleep at night:
- You wake up often during the night
- You wake up feeling tired most mornings
- You need caffeine to boost your energy levels
- You’re falling asleep in class
Of course, there are other reasons to feel tired, so if you regularly feel exhausted and think you’re sleeping well, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider for advice.
Why sleep is important for college students
According to research, daytime sleepiness, sleep deprivation and chaotic sleep schedules are common among college students. One 2014 study found that 50% of students reported daytime sleepiness, while 70% said they didn’t get enough sleep each night.
How does this relate to your potential GPA (Grade Point Average)? The study found that:
- Students who sleep about nine hours a night had a higher GPA of 3.24
- College students who slept six hours or less each night had a lower GPA of 2.74
The benefits of sleep go beyond grades too, as research tells us that good quality sleep benefits our mental health, confidence, decision-making and ability to make and maintain friendships.
In short, if you want to improve your grades and feel more confident in your new social life, getting good sleep is key.
How to sleep better in college: tips and techniques
We know there are more exciting things to do in college, but learning to sleep better will set you up for a brilliant year and beyond. The easiest way to prioritize good sleep is to create an easy but relaxing bedtime routine and wake up at the same time each day (consistency is key to getting better sleep at night).
Those are the basics, but we also recommend the following:
- Don’t consume caffeine after noon – depending on your tolerance, it can linger in your system for up to eight hours and disrupt your sleep.
- Don’t eat a heavy meal within three hours of bedtime – your body will be focused on digestion, not sleep.
- Do your cardio in the morning – gentle exercises just close to bedtime.
- Learn to relax your brain and body before bed – a good sleep app with meditation sessions will help you here.
- Dim the lights in your dorm about an hour before bed to increase the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone).
- Keep your dorm cool, dark and quiet for sleeping.
- Ditch technology before bed – blue light pollution is melatonin’s enemy. At the very least, switch to night mode and consider wearing blue light blocking glasses (they have orange lenses).
- Adopt a good sleep technique to help you fall asleep faster – we’re big fans of the Military Sleep Method.
- Don’t put pressure on yourself – the more you stress about sleeping well, the harder it will be to get it.
6 products to help you sleep better at night
1. Sleep Tracker
How do you feel when you wake up every morning? If you constantly feel tired and irritable, chances are you need more sleep. If you always wake up feeling raring to go and don’t need to get a caffeine load first, then you’re getting enough sleep.
A sleep tracker can help you get a rough idea of how much sleep you’re getting each night, what might be getting in the way, and how you can sleep better. Don’t take the statistics for granted, but they are useful for getting more information about your sleep and how to improve it if needed.
2. Earplugs for sleeping or a speaker under the pillow
Dorms can be noisy, and if you’re a light sleeper, your sleep will be ambushed by noisy neighbors. Wearing earplugs is a quick way to block out outside noises that could be waking you up from sleep. When choosing the best earplugs for you, think about the types of noises that disturb your sleep the most. If it’s other students or the sound of traffic outside, look for noise-canceling earplugs to lower the racket.
On the other hand, if you find it difficult to fall asleep when you are also silence, consider using headphones to sleep with built-in white noise and soothing sleep sounds, or a speaker under your pillow to play the same if you don’t like wearing anything in your ears at night.
3. Comfortable (and protective) mattress pad
You can’t send your entire bed to campus with you, but you can put a thick, clean barrier between your body and the dorm mattress you inherited. We recommend investing in the best mattress for your budget and choosing memory foam if you want to add softness or body comfort to a bed that is too firm.
Also, keeping a clean bed is vital for hygiene, but it can help you sleep better if you have allergies. That’s because regular cleaning keeps bacteria and dust mites (a major allergen) away and reduces dust levels. A good mattress protector protects against dirt, spills, and stains, and can be placed over your topper. Opt for a mattress cover for full coverage.
4. Support pillow
Choosing the best pillow for your sleeping position and body type is a smart move for your overall well-being in college. Find the right one and your head and neck will be properly supported through the night, which in turn will help you sleep better for longer. You also won’t wake up with a stiff neck and have to deal with pain when studying and socializing.
People who sleep on their sides generally need higher, firmer pillows to fill the gap that forms between their head and shoulders, while people who sleep on their backs and stomachs do better with shallower pillows that don’t tilt the head. neck forward and misaligned.
5. Wake-up light
You may not need one of these right away, so put it on your ‘archive until later’ list. But when the nights come and the morning sun is a thing of summers past, a wake up light will help you get up and shine more easily each morning for college.
While not up to the standard of proper light therapy lamps, these bedside body clocks can also help reduce some of the seasonal affective disorder symptoms (opens in new tab) (SAD). They do this by slowly bathing your room each morning in a joyful glow that mimics the sunrise. At night, use the sunset mode to facilitate deep sleep.
6. Eye mask
Noise can disturb sleep, but so can light pollution. This could come from any random source of light in your room (think plugs and switches), or streetlights coming in through thin curtains.
If you feel comfortable wearing an eye mask, we recommend trying one to see if it helps. Start with a cheaper one to start with if you don’t like the feeling of wearing something on your head while you sleep. Your other option is blinds and blackout curtains, but they are more expensive.
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