College students are among the most sleep deprived Americans. Some students view being sleep deprived as a point of personal pride: all those sleepless nights must mean they are just working that much harder, right? Perhaps, but sleep researchers have discovered that sleepless nights come at a high cost. In the short term, sleep deprivation leads to decreased concentration and memory, decreased alertness, increased confusion and fatigue, and lower overall cognitive performance (Pilcher and Walters, 1997). A recent study found that sleepless nights can even bring down your grades. The study reports that college students who experienced 24 hours without sleep once or more during their college careers had lower GPAs than students who had not (Thatcher, 2008). In the long term, sleep deprivation is related to higher risks for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, mental health issues, memory and attention deficits, and shorter overall life span (National Sleep Foundation, 2009).
Our bodies need sleep! Sleep helps to consolidate memories and learning and improves mood and energy level. Most adults need between 7 and 8 hours per night. While this can be a challenging number for many college students to meet, there are things you can do to reduce the harm of sleep deprivation and help your body experience the benefits of sleep.
A few good tips for reducing the harm of sleep deprivation:
National Sleep Foundation. How much sleep do we really need?
January 8, 2009.
Plicher, J. J. and Walters, A. S. How sleep deprivation affects psychological
variables related to college students' cognitive performance. Journal of
American College Health. 1997; 46:121-127.
Thatcher, PV. University students and the "all-nighter": correlates and
patterns of students' engagement in a single night of total sleep
deprivation. Behavioral Sleep Medicine. 2008. 6:16-31.