Tag Archives: healthy sleep habits

Catching up on sleep: How to do it the right way

Make sleep a priority by working to develop healthy sleep habits.  In spring 2018 the health promotion staff conducted a survey with undergrads at University Park about their health behaviors. You might be surprised to read that 41.7% of the respondents reported feeling tired or dragged out on most days of the week (1). Some students believe that pulling an all-nighter will be more helpful than getting a full night of sleep.  Other students are worried that they’ll miss out on something exciting (FOMO). However, plenty of research shows that we typically need between 7-9 hours of shut-eye a night to function at our best, both academically and socially (2). Sleep plays a vital role in the consolidation of memory, which is essential for learning new information. Sleeping before studying refreshes your brain and makes it easier to form new memories, while sleeping after studying helps you retain new information (3). Additionally, sleep is essential to a strong immune system. Both sleep quality and quantity have a direct relationship to the strength of your immune system (4).

Below are some tips to help you make up for lost sleep.  First and foremost, you should try to stick to a regular sleep-wake schedule each day, including weekends. Sleeping in on Saturday and Sunday will actually make it harder to fall asleep on Sunday evening. You can also try calculating your sleep debt and commit to an earlier bedtime. Calculate sleep debt by deducting the number of hours you slept from 8 (the average recommended number of hours of sleep per night). So if you slept 6 hours last night, you have 2 hours of sleep dept.  Sleep debt is cumulative. If you slept 6 hours last night and 5 hours the night before, you have 5 hours of sleep debt. If your sleep debt is 5 hours, try going to bed 1 hour early for 5 consecutive nights.

Here are additional tips:

  • Limit caffeine intake to three cups or 300mg daily before 2pm (5).
  • Avoid alcohol three hours before bed (5).
  • Exercise between 5-7pm – this enhances the depth of your sleep. Be sure to avoid strenuous activity 3 hours before bedtime (5).
  • Limit television, laptop use and other electronics while you’re lying in bed. Avoid using screens 1-hour before bed (5).
  • Take a hot shower or read a book to calm your mind without the stimulating effects of electronics (2).

Take the Three Week Sleep Camp challenge (6) with the help of one our staff. Adopting some of these habits can help you catch up on sleep and develop a healthy, consistent sleep pattern. If you struggle with getting enough sleep, call 814-863-0461 to schedule a free wellness session with one of our health educators.


  1. Penn State University’s ACHA National College Health Assessment, Spring 2018
  2. Russo, Lucy. “Sleep Debt: Tips for Catching Up on Sleep.” Org, National Sleep Foundation, 28 Oct. 2014, sleep.org/articles/get-rid-of-sleep-debt/.
  3. Harvard University Medical School, Division of Sleep Medicine – http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep/learning-memory
  4. Walker, Matthew P. Why We Sleep unlocking the power of sleep and dreams. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2017. Print.
  5. Maas, James and Robbins, Rebecca. Sleep for Success! Indiana: AuthorHouse, 2011. Print.
  6. Dement, William. The Promise of Sleep. New York: Random House, 1999. Print.

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

Tips from the Sleep Sheep: 4 More Ways to Get More Zzzs

Are midterms stressing you out? Getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night can help. Not only does getting adequate sleep help you feel rested and more focused, but it also helps your brain to form memories, which comes in handy when you need to remember the stages of mitosis or the Spanish word for “textbook.”

These four tips from the Sleep Sheep can get you on your way to better sleep and better grades:

  1. Avoid tobacco, caffeine, and alcohol close to bedtime. sleep tipsNicotine and caffeine are stimulants and can keep you awake. Alcohol may make you feel sleepy, but it disrupts sleep later on in the night.
  2. Limit late night snacks. Eating or drinking too close to bedtime can make it difficult to sleep.
  3. Don’t let noise disrupt your sleep. Get free earplugs from 201 Student Health Center or run a fan to drown out noisy neighbors.
  4. Nap smarter. Limit daytime naps to 10-30 minutes during the midafternoon. Napping for longer or later in the day may make it harder to fall asleep at night.

For more tips, click here.


Tips from the Sleep Sheep: 5 Ways to Get More Zzzs

Sleep, sweet sleep. Not only does catching enough Zzzs feel great, but it’s also a way to keep your body and mind in tip-top shape. Although late nights may be tempting, not getting enough sleep is linked to lowered immune function, poorer eating habits, and impaired memory and learning.

To feel and perform at your best, make 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night a priority. If you’re not currently meeting this recommendation, the Sleep Sheep may be able to help. Check out these five simple tips for getting better sleep:sleep tips

  1. Keep a consistent schedule. Going to sleep and waking up around the same times every day will help set your internal clock and help you get better sleep.
  2. Create a pre-sleep ritual. Get ready for bed each night by practicing deep breathing or listening to relaxing music.
  3. Go dark for better sleep. Turn off lights, use curtains, or wear a sleep mask (available for free in 201 Student Health Center) to fall asleep faster.
  4. Keep your eyes off the clock. If you can’t sleep, don’t watch the clock. Instead, get out of bed and read or listen to relaxing music. When you feel tired again, go back to bed.
  5. Hit the gym 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 too close to bedtime can interfere with sleep.