Be it for studying or partying, college is full of late nights. For the unfortunate few, it’s also full of early 8 a.m. classes. In 2011, a study in the “Journal of Adolescent Health” found that only 30% of students reported getting the recommended eight or more hours of sleep per night.
In fact, the transition from high school to college is considered the biggest jump you’ll ever experience in your sleep schedule. Many college students don’t realize that this change pulls them into a vicious and potentially disastrous cycle as they find themselves caught between stress and exhaustion.
Plenty of research indicates the link between stress and lack of sleep. I call it a cycle because it works like this: stress causes lack of sleep, and lack of sleep causes stress.
We’ve all been there: watching the minutes tick by on the clock, stress loops invading your mind, eliminating any chance of relaxation, let alone sleep. People who suffer from insomnia typically have experienced more stressful life events than the average sleeper. But people who have experienced unusually stressful life events are not the only one plagued by sleeping problems. Anxiety produced from emotional tension also contributes largely to insomnia.
On the other hand, lack of sleep adds to stress. The degree to which obstacles encountered in your day stress you out depends on the amount of sleep you got the night before. Sleep is a time for the body to rejuvenate and heal. In order to be able to put your best foot forward, you’ll need to maximize sleep time and optimize sleep quality. In a recent study that explored this theory, participants took an exam that was meant to induce moderate stress. The results showed that those in the sleep deprived condition experienced higher levels of stress than those who had enjoyed a healthy amount of sleep during nights leading up to the test.
So there it is: if you feel stress, you can’t sleep, and if you don’t sleep, you fell stress. A vicious cycle, indeed. If you find that you’re a victim of this cycle, the good news is that it is certainly not inescapable. By simply making sleep a higher priority, you can improve both the quality and quantity of your sleep. For instance, if you’re deciding between an extra hour of studying and an extra hour of sleep, it’s best to opt for the extra hour of sleep. The findings of a recent study indicate that sacrificing sleep in order to study will actually backfire. Not only is using sleep time to study associated with doing more poorly on exams, but this practice also impedes learning the next day, meaning not as much learning will take place.
If you find yourself not able to fall asleep at night because of stress, you’ve come to the right place! I’d recommend you browse through some of my other posts to get some ideas about how to reduce stress so that you can allow yourself to relax enough to fall asleep.
Trust me, I know that it’s not always easy to drop what you’re doing and call it a night. But I can tell you it’s worth it. Don’t let your today ruin your tomorrow, and your tomorrow ruin your next day.
By the way, there are so many benefits of ample sleep; stress relief is just one reason your bed is your best friend.