The science behind sleep habits and how college students can improve them – The State News

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With irregular class times, late nights of homework, and parties forming the basis of normal college life, students create their own sleep schedules and habits. For some, this college lifestyle can leave students with an unbalanced sleep schedule, fatigue, and insomnia.

“I don’t have the best sleep schedule, and I’m not too proud of it,” said kinesiology junior Larry Johnson. “I usually sleep through the night, then go to bed at six in the morning before getting up at noon for my class. I do my best at times like this.”

Johnson says his sleep schedule wasn’t always like this, as he averaged eight to nine hours of sleep a night in high school.

But Johnson isn’t the only one struggling to maintain a regular sleep schedule in college. As of 2011 Centers for Disease Control and PreventionAt least “60% of college students have poor quality sleep.”

However, there are some ways to break this cycle.

Hanne Hoffman, an assistant professor at MSU’s Department of Animal Science, said college students should focus on becoming “regular” with sleep.

“Try to go to bed at roughly the same time every night,” Hoffman said. “The amount of time doesn’t matter as long as you have the required amount of hours for your age group, which for college students is around eight to nine hours, depending on your age.”

Hoffmann sleep quality is also important. She says getting those eight hours of sleep doesn’t matter when the student wakes up three times a night.

One way to get sound or uninterrupted sleep is to avoid any distractions that make you sleepy, Hoffman said. The less that disturbs you during sleep, the better.

When normal or intensive sleep is disrupted, it results in irregular sleep patterns or, according to Hoffman, social jet lag.

“Social jet lag is when your class or work schedule forces you to get up early and sleep late, and you sleep in on days when you don’t have class or work,” Hoffman said.

Social jet lag has a general effect on one’s well-being. According to Hoffman, side effects include being short-tempered or irritable, aggressive, inadequate to challenging situations, learning disabilities, and even physical health problems.

Psychology junior Jane Carter said she’s comfortable with her sleep schedule, but she doesn’t take these effects into account when setting it up.

Carter said she gets an average of six hours of sleep on weekdays because of early morning classes. But when she can sleep on weekends, she sleeps about ten hours.

“I’ve really been working on getting my sleep schedule back on track,” Carter said. “Finals are coming up in a few weeks so I’m trying to go to bed earlier on weekdays, which is working out pretty well.”

Carter plans to break the “college mentality” of sleep deprivation by thinking you can create a regular sleep schedule.

Hoffman also said that the amount of time a person sleeps can have a physical effect on them, especially in sports.

“Sleep deprivation is the biggest predictor of sports injuries,” Hoffman said. “As an athlete, you definitely want to focus on getting enough sleep because it reduces the chances of injury. You move better, you have faster reactions, you can run. They’re faster and have more muscle power.”

Johnson, who plays on Michigan State’s club basketball team, said he has never had an injury on the court other than a few sprained ankles. However, Michael Antonovich, an advertising management freshman at Johnson, was not so lucky.

“I injured my hip flexor in baseball in high school, which sidelined me for the rest of the season,” Antonovich said. “I never thought that lack of sleep could be the cause of the injury, but now that I look back, it could be.”

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Antonovich is a college student with a poor sleep schedule, saying he sleeps four to five hours on average. However, Antonovich said that it was not all his fault.

“That’s what I’m trying to do,” Antonovich said. “It’s not that I stay up all night studying or entertaining, it’s just that I can’t fall asleep. Sometimes I’m in bed two to three hours before I fall asleep.”

Not being able to sleep is “normal” for Antonovich, and according to Hoffman, it can be normal for most college students if they don’t prioritize sleep. However, taking the necessary steps to prioritize regular sleep habits may be easier than expected.

Hoffman said there are four steps to improving the quality and quantity of a person’s sleep.

Decide on a regular sleep schedule

Committing to a regular sleep schedule is the starting point for prioritizing sleep, Hoffman said.

Hoffman said it’s important to determine what students can do. One way to get started is to create a set schedule. This includes setting a specific time to go to bed and a specific time to wake up five days each week.

Hoffman also suggested that students should commit to leaving social media before bed so it’s less tempting to be on it after dark.

Stay away from stimulating foods and drinks

Eating and drinking the right food before bed is another important step that students should take part in. Hoffman warns that late-night snacking often keeps students awake.

She warned students against drinking caffeinated beverages. Like stimulants, caffeine often leads to sleep in bed.

If you’re looking for stimulant supplements to help you sleep at night, Hoffman says that’s a “red flag” and a sign to prioritize your health and well-being.

Pay attention to the light

Creating a comfortable environment for sleep is a great way to improve sleep quality. Hoffman said that when the sun goes down, the lights around you start dimming or they emit red and orange colors. This is a way to trick your mind into thinking it’s time to sleep.

Hoffman also suggests avoiding blue and green lights. Turning down the brightness on your phone or computer can help our brain signal that it’s procrastinating.

relax

Going to bed excited or anxious can delay sleep, so engaging in relaxing activities can help calm your mind and let go of thoughts. Hoffman recommends things like listening to soothing music, stretching or doing yoga before bed. This relaxes the brain to prepare for a long night’s rest.

“Sleep really is magic—you can feel the difference when you get enough sleep,” Hoffman said. “Some even consider it the number one pillar of health. Even if you don’t get enough sleep, you can feel the negative impact on your health.”

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