Sleep and the Student - College Concerns | Mental Health America

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Sleep and the Student - College Concerns

Sleep may not be the most exciting thing to do while you're in college, but if you go without it your grades and your mental health could suffer. Check out these facts and hacks about getting enough shut-eye.


of college students report having trouble sleeping over the last year [1]

Caffeine stays in the blood of a healthy adult for four to six hours. [2]

Quit energy drinks, soda, coffee or other stimulants in the early afternoon so they won't disrupt your ability to sleep later on. 

Turn off or put away smart phones, TVs, tablets, computers and other electronics an hour or so before bed.  The light they give off can affect your body's chemicals and rhythms, making it hard to fall asleep. [3]

A sure fire way to avoid pulling an all-nighter is to not procrastinate and tackle the job-at-hand in small chunks over time, but let’s face it – sometimes that is just not the way things work.

Instead of staying up all night, get some sleep and wake up really early to finish a paper or study for an exam. Aim for 8 hours of sleep if you can. Your brain will thank you with improved memory and cognitive functioning.

If your roommate is pulling an all-nighter, keep a pair of earplugs and a sleeping mask handy to block out noise and light.



of college students reported "pulling an all-nighter" once or more since starting school.  Doing so was associated with a lower GPA. [4]

If you take any medications that are known to have sleep-related side effects, talk to your doctor about changing your dosage or time that you take the medication.

Sometimes a simple change can make a world of difference. 

See a doctor if you have one or more of these problems 3 nights per week, for a month or more:

  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Waking up too early
  • Not feeling rested after sleep
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble functioning at school [5]
If it seems like you’ve tried everything to improve your sleep and it’s just not working, you could have insomnia or be showing the first signs of a mental health condition.  You can take a free, confidential screen for a variety of mental health conditions at  You may also want to consider talking to someone at your campus health center or reaching out to your primary care doctor.



3 Figueiro M, Bierman A, Plitnick B, Rea M. Preliminary evidence that both blue and red light can induce alertness at night. BMC Neuroscience 2009;10(1):105.
4 Pamela V. Thacher (2008) University Students and the “All Nighter”: Correlates and Patterns of Students' Engagement in a Single Night of Total Sleep Deprivation, Behavioral Sleep Medicine, 6:1,16-31, DOI:10.1080/15402000701796114


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