By Narena Nerahoo ’24, Fathima Yumna Hussain ’25, and Olivia Bamford ’24

How much sleep does a student need? The optimal amount of sleep for a college student is seven to nine hours a night. A majority of college students do not receive the recommended amount of sleep needed to maximize sleep benefits—50% of students report daytime sleepiness and 70% report insufficient sleep, according to UNC Learning Center. 

Insufficient sleep can cause inattention, irritability, hyperactivity, lack of impulse control, mood swings, and impaired memory. A lack of sleep not only affects your behavior, it also can greatly affect your grades. Research shows that students receiving nine or more hours of sleep per night have significantly higher GPAs than students who get six or fewer hours of sleep per night. 

Sleep should be a priority in your lifestyle. By optimizing your time during the day you can avoid late-night study sessions and allow for longer periods of sleep. Avoiding caffeine and electronic screens late at night while establishing a healthy sleep schedule contributes toward better and longer sleep.

According to Dr. Jeff Goldstein, of Bailey Health Center, “Good sleep is an essential pillar for physical and mental well-being. Learning/memory consolidation and neural connections that form memory take place during sleep.” 

Goldstein says it’s important to make sleep a priority. 

“It might be tempting to study late into the night to finish your work but over time, the cumulative effect of not sleeping seven to eight hours per night will have negative consequences. Sleep is like having a bank account … if you keep on taking withdrawals, you will develop a sleep debt,” he adds.

Goldstein notes that if you struggle with sleep, having a fixed wake-up time and a regular schedule for getting to bed can be helpful. Exercise during the day also can make it easier to sleep at night. If you’re having trouble sleeping, optimize the bedroom environment—drown out noise, keep the temperature comfortable, and add a lavender scent to induce a calmer state of mind. 

Cellphones, tablets, and laptops are main sources of sleep disturbance. Put them away and have a 30-minute buffer period before bed. If you can’t fall asleep after 30 minutes, get up and read something light, or listen to some relaxing music or a podcast. This will prevent associating the bed with the anxiety of not falling asleep, Goldstein says.

The power of a nap

While it is always best to have a routine sleep schedule, as this will create the best environment for both academic and physical performance, napping is a huge part of being a college student. shares different types of naps, their time length, and effects they have on you and your body.

Types of naps:

  • Power nap: 10-20 minutes

Best for a quick break during a study session to recharge. You often don’t even need to actually fall asleep so long as you are resting your mind and body.

  • “NASA” nap: 26 minutes

If you have a late night ahead of you, this nap is best for staying up past regular working hours. This nap is most often used to increase alertness and performance, and has been tested by scientists.

  • Bad nap: 30 minutes

This nap, due to its in-between length, is what causes “sleep inertia,” which is the groggy-headed feeling. It is best to avoid naps of this length.

  • Slow-wave sleep: 60 minutes

If you have an interview, a presentation, or an activity that requires a lot of memorization, this nap will help your brain’s recall ability. However, some experience grogginess after this type of nap.

  • Full sleep cycle: 90 minutes

This is the length of a full sleep cycle, meaning you will experience REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Dreaming occurs during this type of sleep and can improve creativity and emotional and procedural memory. This nap is best for maximum performance on a test or project.

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