Sleep Q&A

April 7, 2021

Sleep is a necessity, like food and water.  According to most sleep experts, adults need 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night for optimal health and performance. Getting enough quality sleep can be hard - but the benefits are worth it. From having a positive impact on our mood, stress levels, academic performance, immune system, and overall health, the importance of sleep cannot be overstated. Here are some questions we've heard from college students:

1. I have trouble going to bed even when it’s late. What will help me unwind?

Find something that relaxes you and make a ritual of it. For some people, it’s reading; for others, it’s taking a shower before bed or knowing that they finished things they needed to get done. Deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation are other good options. 

2. As a freshman, I’ve had a hard time adjusting my sleep schedule to college life and wind up getting a lot less than what I got in high school. Any ideas to help me get back on track?

Two words: regimented schedule. Chances are, you had a lot more consistency with wake up and bedtimes back in high school. Having a more regular sleep schedule can work wonders for your day. People sometimes confuse consistency with less fun and variety, but the opposite is often the case. Better scheduling cuts down on stress and allows you to maximize time that too often gets squandered on late nights of TV or other distractions.

3. With classes, work and friends, I don’t have enough time for sleep. What can I do?

The challenge here is making time for sleep, since you’ll need enough of it to be at your best in other areas of your life. Many students find this difficult, only 28% of UA students said they got enough sleep each of the past 5 or more days, so that they felt rested when they woke up.* The solution? Plan for sleep as if you would plan for class, work or study time. Once you’ve done that, adequate sleep and improved all-around performance can serve as incentives to help you keep up the routine.

4. I tend to be sleep-deprived during the week, but I play catch-up by sleeping in late on the weekends.

So it all must average out, right? On paper, it may average out – with your body repaying all that weekday sleep debt – but in reality the catch-up game creates a vicious cycle that can make for very bad Monday mornings. The average number of nights per week UA students said they got enough sleep so that they felt rested when they woke up was only 3.*  Naps (less than 30 minutes) may help in the short term, but experts are divided as to whether they offer a real benefit or are merely a band-aid solution over the course of the week.

5. Drinking alcohol makes me tired, so it must help me sleep, right?

Alcohol makes you tired because, as a depressant, it has sedative qualities. However, alcohol impacts sleep quality for the worse by preventing you from getting the kind of deep sleep that you need to wake up feeling refreshed.

6. I’ve noticed that I’ve been getting sick more often and I heard getting more sleep could help. Is this true?

It’s no secret that getting enough sleep can boost your immune system and keep you from getting colds and other ailments. Adequate sleep can also hold stress levels in check, which can go a long way toward improving both your health and your state of mind.

7. I have a roommate and live in the Residence Halls. This has been hard on my sleep since I am used to having a room to myself. What can I do to cope?

Having a roommate for the first time can be a big transition. The key to coping is to establish a good line of communication, set mutually agreed-upon ground rules (e.g. lights-out curfew, noise limitations, visitors), and compromise. You don’t have to be best friends to have a good and respectful relationship. Keep in mind that a little civility and understanding can go a long way toward making your roommate experience a positive one and helping you sleep easier.

*2020 Health and Wellness Survey, n = 4,808.