KEARNEY — Every college student needs sleep, but getting enough can be a struggle. The remedy to sleep woes can be proper sleep hygiene.
Nurse practitioner Cindy Hayes, the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s associate director for student health, explained some of the causes and effects of sleeping disorders for students and shared tips to get a successful night’s sleep.
Q: Who can be affected by a sleeping disorder?
A: “It’s all across the board. When you get into the upper levels, you have much more demand on your time for classwork, you’re more likely to be working and you have the homework aspect of it. I’ll see students and they’ll say ‘I don’t have time to get enough sleep. I’m up until two o’clock in the morning working on this paper and I still have to get up for my morning class.’”
Q: How important is it for college students to get a good night’s sleep?
A: “It is incredibly important. It also is incredibly overlooked. The necessity — if you don’t sleep well — you don’t get the restoration. It affects your memory, your health, your ability to function and do well as a college student.”
Q: Is there any merit to getting sleep before midnight compared to after?
A: “It really depends on their class schedule. Last year, I had a lot of students whose first class wasn’t until 11 a.m. If they want to stay up until one in the morning and get up at eight or nine, that works just fine.”
Q: What are common causes for students who develop sleep issues?
A: “Part of it is they come from an environment where someone told them to go to bed at a decent time. You’ve got that shift where you’re responsible for that whole daily routine. It’s a new experience; there is so much to do. Students want to stay up late and hang out and talk and get to know their roommates and friends. Another factor is having a roommate. You’re in a strange place with sometimes a person you don’t know very well. Is your room too loud? Is it too hot or cold? Is it too noisy?”
Q: What are some of the effects that a lack of sleep can have on a student?
A: “Research shows that if you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re more likely to become sick. It affects memory. During the nighttime, that’s where your brain processes and files and organizes everything. Academically, they can suffer. It’s been shown to have an adverse effect on mood and anxiety. Anxiety issues can cause sleep problems.”
Q: What are some dos and don’ts you recommend to students?
A: “It’s so hard to get people to do this, but if people can have a regular bedtime and a regular wake-up time. Another thing I find real helpful, and I’m known to do this sometimes, too, is you go, go, go all day long and boom and jump into bed and you’re still wide awake. I encourage students to have a 20- to 30-minute transition time, where they are de-stressing from the day. It’s quiet, relaxing. Their brain and their bodies have a chance to settle down. Another bad thing is screen time. So many people like to get on their phone or their tablet or computer before bedtime. Research has shown that the light and the screen-time activities wake them up. They’re more likely to have trouble falling to sleep.”
Q: What happens if a student tells you they’re getting adequate sleep but still are tired?
A: “Fatigue is a huge complaint that I hear from students. Sometimes it’s sleeping too much because that makes you feel more tired. Or, they might not be eating properly, getting exercise or they might have mood issues that are undetected. There might be some underlying medical conditions like a thyroid problem or anemia, so when they do come in with those fatigue complaints we kind of go down the line and rule out possible causes for it.”