Category Archives: Sleep Management

Sleep Debt

When life gets busy, one of the first things we cut out is sleep. An hour here or there may not seem like a big deal, but those hours can add up quickly. Lost hours of sleep are referred to as a sleep debt.
Most adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep each night to stay alert and focused throughout the day. Getting even 30 minutes less sleep per night can contribute to feeling sleepy and disconnected. Sleep deprivation can also affect your mood by causing depression, anxiety, and irritability.  When 30 minutes here and there start adding up to multiple hours, it can be hard to feel fully rejuvenated. Sleep debt, like financial debt, needs to be repaid in full if you want to get your body back on track.
Here are some smart tips for catching up on sleep without throwing off your regular schedule:
1. Try going to bed an hour early. If your sleep debt is 4 hours, commit to going to bed an hour early for 4 days in a row.
2. Do not try to make up for all of your lost sleep in one night.  This will throw off your normal sleeping schedule and cause further sleepiness.
3. Naps can be an effective tool to make up for small amounts of sleep. But you should limit naps to 15-20 minute sessions. Naps lasting longer than 30 minutes can make you even more tired than you were before!
If you struggle with getting enough sleep check out these resources and start sleeping better tonight

Test Anxiety

As finals week approaches, most Penn Staters begin to flock to their favorite study spots to start preparations for a grueling week of exams and projects. Worrying about exams is common, and can even help your mind stay focused and sharp. However, when worrying becomes intense and overwhelming, it may be test anxiety.
Test anxiety can affect anyone. Experts suggest a few simple strategies that everyone can use to help reduce test anxiety and increase your chances for success during finals week.

  1. Learn what study styles work for you. Think about exams you have done well on in the past. How did you study for those exams? Consider using similar strategies for upcoming exams.
  2. Establish a routine. Make a schedule for the next few weeks to help you follow a similar routine each day. On the days of your exams, follow the same steps. This will help you feel calm and well prepared.
  3. Eat healthy and stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and fuel your body with healthy food during study sessions. Your body and brain need attention when studying. Check out some easy, healthy recipes at:
  4. Be active. Exercise to relieve stress and boost your mood. Although you may feel like you are too busy studying, it’s important to take an active break.
  5. Sleep is important. Sleep after studying to help encode new information into long term memory.  This will help you recall the information on the day of the exam. Getting a good night’s sleep is important when you’re studying for exams.
  6. Take a break. Check out Penn State Libraries’ De-Stress Fest.

  1. Ask for help. Consider meeting with your professor or a staff person from Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). If you think you are experiencing test anxiety, talk to somebody about it. Book an appointment with CAPS at: 814-863-0395.

Sleep Series 3

According to Jessica Payne, a psychologist at Notre Dame University, going to sleep right after studying can help you remember new information.  In a recent study, Payne found that “memory was superior when sleep occurred shortly after learning rather than following a full day of wakefulness.”[1]

Penn State students ranked sleep difficulty as the third highest health issue affecting their academics.[2]

Here are three tips that could help you sleep better:

  1. Get 7 to 9 hours of sleep! This will maximize your learning, memory, and academic performance.
  2. Keep a consistent sleep schedule: going to sleep and waking up around the same time every day will help you set your internal clock and help you get better sleep
  3. Relax! Create a pre-sleep ritual.  Get ready for bed each night by practicing deep breathing or listening to relaxing music.

Stop by 201 Student Health Center to pick up your free sleep kit.  It includes an eye mask, earplugs, and tips from the Sleep Sheep on how to get a better night’s sleep.

[1] Payne, J. D., Tucker, M. A., Ellenbogen, J. M., Wamsley, E. J., Walker, M. P., Schacter, D. L., & Stickgold, R. (n.d.). Memory for Semantically Related and Unrelated Declarative Information: The Benefit of Sleep, the Cost of Wake. Retrieved April 11, 2017, from

[2] Healthy Penn State. University Health Services, n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.


Sleep Series 2

According to Michael L. Lee, PhD and lead author on Harvard sleep study, drowsy driving exhibited reactions similar to behaviors observed in drivers with elevated blood alcohol concentrations.  Drowsy driving is just as risky and has the potential for disaster as drunk driving.[1]

Only 1 in 3 Penn State students reported getting enough sleep to feel rested at least 5 of the last 7 days.[2]

Here are three tips that can help you sleep better:

  1. Get 7 to 9 hours of sleep! This will maximize your learning, memory, and academic performance.
  2. Hit the gym early, at least 2-3 hours before you hit the hay. Regular exercise earlier in the day can help you fall asleep at night, but working out to close to bedtime can interfere with sleep.
  3. Avoid tobacco, caffeine, and alcohol close to bedtime. Nicotine and caffeine are stimulants and can keep you awake.  Alcohol may make you feel sleepy, but it disrupts the sleep cycle later in the night.

Stop by 201 Student Health Center to pick up your free sleep kit, it includes an eye mask, earplugs, and tips from the Sleep Sheep on how to get a better night’s sleep.

[1] LeWine, M.D. Howard. “Too Little Sleep, and Too Much, Affect Memory.” Harvard Health Blog. N.p., 29 Oct. 2015. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.

Too little sleep, and too much, affect memory

[2] Healthy Penn State. University Health Services, n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.


Take advantage of the free stuff in Health Promotion and Wellness

If you are looking for some free ways to be active, join us every Monday at 3:45-4:45 at the Rec Hall track for a walking group. For more information, click here. If you’re interested in free wellness classes, UHS offers Pilates and Yoga classes on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in room 205 Student Health Center from 4:00 to 5:00 pm. See the flyer below for more information.  Looking for a De-stress zone? Visit Health Promotion and Wellness, in 201 Student Health Center, to relaxing.  While you are there, check out the biofeedback software and relaxing sound tracks.

Health Promotion and Wellness has lots of great resources that are free to every students, including free condoms, HIV testing, sleep kits and a stress management workbook. 201 Student Health Center is open Monday-Friday 8 am – 5 pm. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Finals Week Wellness

It’s been a long semester and you’ve studied hard.  Now it’s time to cap off the semester by doing well on final exams and projects.  A lot of students associate finals week with all-nighters, constant studying, and plenty of coffee.  These behaviors can actually be detrimental to your academic performance.  Here are ways to take care of your mind and body so that you can do your best on finals.

  1. Sleep

Sleep deprivation affects not only your energy level and mood, but also your ability to concentrate, learn, and focus.  As finals week approaches, maintain a regular sleep pattern and aim for 7-9 hours per night.  For more restful sleep, avoid alcohol and stop drinking caffeine at least six hours prior to your typical bed time.

  1. Get your nutrients

Antioxidants from fruits and vegetables help keep your brain healthy.  Throw an apple or a banana in your backpack before you head out to study or have a salad with your next slice of pizza.  Most importantly, do not skip meals.

  1. Be active

Physical activity is not just good for your body, but also for your brain.  Endorphins released in the brain during physical activity can reduce tension, improve mood, and increase brainpower.  Take a walk, turn your music on and dance, or take some time to stretch.  If you exercise regularly, keep it up!  You’ll reap the benefits more than ever this week.

Caffeine and Sleep

Feeling more awake after that late afternoon cup of coffee?  While caffeine may temporarily make you feel more alert, it cannot replace sleep.

Caffeine makes us feel more awake by blocking sleep inducing chemicals in the brain and increasing the production of adrenaline.[i]   While up to 400 mg of caffeine per day generally does not cause problems, too much caffeine can lead to rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, nervousness, and insomnia.[ii]  Drinking caffeine late in the day not only masks the body’s natural urge to sleep, it can also cause sleep loss.  This could turn into a detrimental cycle of creating more and more sleep debt while increasing caffeine consumption and the negative effects that come with it.   Just how late is too late for caffeine?  Researchers have found that caffeine has a negative impact on sleep quality up to 6 hours before bedtime.[iii]

To avoid that late afternoon slump all together, try to maintain a regular sleep schedule, consume a variety of nutritious foods, and exercise regularly.




Penn State Student Health Assessment Report – 2016

Do PSU students get enough sleep?  How about enough exercise? Are students eating enough fruits and veggies?

The answers to these questions and more can be found in the 2016 Student Health Assessment Report.  Data in the report are based on the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA) that was conducted at Penn State. The report provides information about PSU students’ health habits, behavior, and perceptions.

The survey was conducted in March 2016 with a random sample of 10,500 students.  Students were contacted by email and invited to participate in the online survey. The report highlights the responses of 1,776 Penn State students who completed the survey (a 17% response rate). When compared to the overall University Park student population, females, White students, and Asian Students were over-represented among survey respondents. As a result, caution should be taken when interpreting these data as the data may not accurately reflect the health behaviors of the University Park student population as a whole.

PSU Annual Report 2016

A Consistent Sleep Schedule may Lead to a Healthier Diet

If you average about 7-9 hours of sleep per night, your sleep habits are probably already in good shape. However, new research says that you might still benefit from fine tuning your sleep schedule.

A study conducted by Penn State researchers and presented at the American Heart Association EPI/Lifestyle 2015 meeting suggests that the consistency of your sleep schedule, in addition to the average number of hours you sleep per night, may influence eating habits.

The study, which examined teenagers’ sleep and dietary habits, found that participants averaged 7 hours of sleep a night. However, teens with irregular sleeping patterns (for example, getting too little sleep one night and sleeping in the next night), ate more calories and were more likely to snack than teens with regular sleeping patterns.

In fact, participants consumed 210 additional calories (think a small slice of pizza or a candy bar) for every hour of difference in sleep night-to-night. Over time these differences could add up—check out the example sleep schedules below to see how.

Although more research on this topic is sure to come, getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night and keeping a consistent sleep-wake schedule seem like good steps toward better habits and health.

sleep schedule comparison