Sleep is vital for college success

Micahel Carolin

The college triangle, a popular concept in college, says students can only choose two of three corners on the triangle — grades, social life or sleep — while the third corner suffers.

Sleep deprivation is an epidemic among college students, and those at the University of Arizona are no different. A 2011 UA study found that the average student receives less than seven hours of sleep per night, even though the National Sleep Foundation recommends our age group to receive anywhere between 7 and 9.25 hours.

Sleep deprivation has more consequences than just missing out on your nightly dreams. Lack of sleep can severely harm your academics by hindering your productivity, alertness and the ability to remember information. Your health can suffer too, including heightened risks of weight gain, diabetes, heart disease and depression.

As the number of hours spent sleeping dwindle away, many students turn to coffee, energy drinks, caffeine pills or other sources of energy to compensate for their loss of sleep. For some, caffeine becomes a daily necessity, and the only thing keeping them from falling asleep in class, or worse, at the wheel.

Caffeine may temporarily help to alleviate your fatigue, but don’t mistake it as a substitute for sleep. Full-on rest is the only process that can restore your body to its optimal state, and neglecting that rest comes with many negative side effects.
Caffeine withdrawals will leave you with throbbing headaches, heavy exhaustion and bad moods. It even disrupts the sleep you do get, as the chemicals can linger in your body for up to 10 hours after your first sip of coffee, keeping you awake in the wee hours of night and reducing the duration of vital deep sleep.

If this all sounds intimidating, it should. Maintaining good sleep habits should be on top of your to-do list if you want to perform well in college. According to the Associated Professional Sleep Society, students who routinely went to sleep early at night — meaning they are getting the right amount of sleep and aren’t staying up late to cram — were more likely to receive better grades at the end of the semester.

If you manage your time and sleep wisely, then the college triangle can become just a myth. In addition to avoiding caffeine, here are a few other tips from National Sleep Foundation that can help you obtain the best sleep you need to succeed:
• Make a sleep schedule and stick with it. If your body stays in sync with a similar schedule every night, you will feel better and more energized in the day.

• Create a calming atmosphere in your dorm or room at least an hour or two before bed. Turn down the lights, turn off the TV and keep your room cool to help you easily fall asleep.

• Avoid eating or exercising near your bedtime. Both of these activities tell your body to stay awake.

• Exercise in the day. Besides the obvious health benefits, exercise also makes falling asleep easier.

• Make your bed the spot for sleep and your desk the spot for work. Working where you sleep can make falling asleep more difficult.

— Michael Carolin is a journalism and creative writring major. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions.