Sleep is critical for a student’s academic success and wellness. Obtaining enough sleep is essential for being your best physically, emotionally, academically, and socially; a lack of sleep affects your immune system, mood, and memory retention. According to the National Sleep Foundation, we need 7-10 hours of sleep each night to perform at our optimal levels. Despite this, sleep is typically the first to get reduced when our schedules become busy.
UF-specific surveys using large, random samples of students have found that:
- 26% of students reported that, in the 7 days preceding the survey, too much noise interfered with a good night’s sleep (Stress, Time Management, and Sleep Survey, 2009)
- 13% of students identified sleep difficulties as a factor that impacts their academic performance (Healthy Gators 2013)
- Sleep and fatigue were identified as the 7th greatest health concern (Healthy Gators 2013)
- Only 43% of students feel rested when they wake up 4-7 days of the week (Healthy Gators 2013)
- 51% of students felt tired, dragged out or sleepy during the past 4-7 days (Healthy Gators 2013)
In addition, a survey using a convenience sample of 382 UF students in spring 2015 found that:
- 54% try to get less than the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night
- 56% reported that noise caused by other people interfered with their sleep
- 21% avoid caffeine within 6-hours of bedtime
- Two of the top four behaviors students are ready to change are:
- (1) making sure their phone does not disturb them in the middle of the night and
- (2) to stop actively using their cell phone, laptop, and other electronic devices within 30 minutes of going to bed.
Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, chocolate, most soft drinks and some over-the-counter and prescription drugs. When caffeine enters the blood stream, its effects begin within 15 minutes after consumption and it can take about six hours for half of the caffeine to be eliminated from the body.
Although caffeine can help students get a boost early in the morning, research has shown that caffeine intake reduces the total amount of sleep a person receives. In order to get the best night’s sleep possible, it is important to limit your caffeine consumption (“decaffeinate”) within 6 hours of bedtime.
- Be aware of food and drinks that have caffeine. (Some teas – including sweet tea – and sodas have caffeine.)
- Try replacing caffeinated beverages with water, juice, or nutritious smoothies.
- Avoid consuming large amounts of caffeine including energy drinks and highly caffeinated sodas within 6 hours of bedtime
A sleeping brain continues to hear sounds on a basic level. Loud noises can cause sleepers to wake, change between stages of sleep, or experience physiological changes in blood pressure and heart rate.
Loud noise in dorm rooms and apartments can cause roommates and other individuals in the area to get poorer quality sleep.
- Use headphones when watching media like Netflix® or YouTube®, or playing video games to help limit the amount of sound that reaches a sleeping person.
- Avoid falling asleep to a TV with loud volume. The changes in tone and volume can cause yourself or a roommate to wake up.
- Be considerate of roommates and others sleeping in the area when arriving home late at night.
- Think about getting a white noise machine to help reduce differences between background noises and loud sounds (like a door slamming). A white noise machine can be the fan, an air purifier, or a sound conditioner. Anything that that is consistent and has a soothing sound throughout the night.
Be Tech Free
Using cell phones and laptops, or watching TV, are normal evening routines for college students. Living in our fast-paced society, there is often a reduction of the time that we allow ourselves to start relaxing before bedtime.
The type of lights found in cell phones, laptops, and TVs can suppress melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep and wake cycles. This suppression can adjust our circadian rhythms and cause us to get less, and poorer quality, sleep.
Noise and lights from cell phone notifications happening while we sleep can cause us to change sleep cycles, and sometimes wake up.
- Turn off or silence your phone, tablet, laptop, and TV before bedtime to help you sleep undisturbed throughout the night.
- Consider using the Do Not Disturb feature available on the iPhone®. Other apps and technologies are available on the Android® and App Store®.
- Wellness Coaching for Academic Success: GatorWell’s free wellness coaching program helps UF students create individualized sleep improvement plans. Request an appointment today!
- Sleeping in the Swamp: GatorWell’s sleep improvement video is 15-minutes long and contains information about controlling your sleep environment, napping, and getting a good night’s sleep. Watch the video!
- Request an outreach event to receive a presentation about how to implement healthy sleep behaviors. Learn more and make a request!