The main purpose of college is to learn. It’s a time to prepare and grow for the career that you will someday have. Between studying, going to class, and all the extra things in life, sleep can be low on the priority list. For many students, college is the first time they are away from home and creating their own sleep habits and patterns. Even if sleep is not your main priority, it does have an impact on your learning.
Sleep and learning
Sleep has a direct impact on learning and memory, according to Dr. Robert Stickgold of Harvard Medical School. There are a few specific stages of sleep that have been shown to influence learning ability and memory storage. Consolidation is a process that helps memories become stable so they can be stored away and recalled later. This consolidation happens in slow-wave sleep (SWS) and rapid-eye-movement sleep (REM). SWS is that really deep sleep, when freshly acquired learning can consolidate. During REM, or when your dreams occur, is when fact-based learning can consolidate. Sleeping also gives overworked neurons a chance to rest and become refreshed for the next day. So it does not matter how late you stay up studying, you need to get a good night’s sleep to have all the learning really stick.
Living without sleep
The list of negative side effects for college students who do not get enough sleep goes on and on. To highlight a few, students who pull “all-nighters” tend to have a lower GPA according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). Sleeping less than 6 hours can cause loss of learning and impairment in memory. This can also decrease the ability to pay attention and react. Sleep problems that begin in college can lead to mental health related issues such as anxiety and depression. Lack of sleep can also affect your mood and behavior which can impair the judgement process and the ability to learn new things. The digestive and muscular system also need adequate sleep to function properly.
Get some good sleep
Getting a good night of sleep is not only going to help you be more successful with your studies, but it will also help your body function properly overall. Sleep is going to give your brain a chance to remember all of the new information that you feed it. The AASM recommends that adults get six to ten hours of sleep each night. Try out some of these tips to get better sleep.
- Go to bed at the same time every night, even on the weekends.
- Avoid screens 1-2 hours before bed; read or listen to music instead.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine.
- Stay away from caffeine late in the day.