There’s a common “you can only choose two” college-related meme that gets circulated on the internet with regularity. The options are: good grades, social life, and enough sleep. It’s meant to be a lighthearted commentary on the difficulty of finding a healthy work-life balance during college years. But the truth is perhaps a bit more reassuring: getting enough sleep is actually a key component of both academic success and productive social interactions.
Still, a 2018 study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that only ten percent of Americans consider sleep their top priority. Roughly the same amount of people said socializing was at the top of their list. Above both were fitness and nutrition, work, and personal hobbies. In many ways, it makes sense: people want to feel productive. They want to maximize the amount of time they have in the day, and for many, that means cutting back on the hours they spend in bed.
But research has demonstrated time and again that getting enough sleep is one of the primary determinants of productivity throughout the day. More specifically, establishing and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule has been linked to improved concentration, memory, mood, and energy levels. Adequate sleep is also of vital importance when it comes to a healthy immune system, disease prevention, and weight control.
Fall asleep faster with sleep schedules
To understand why sleep schedules are so beneficial to your body in helping you fall asleep, it helps to know a little bit about circadian rhythm, an internal biological clock that cycles between sleepiness and alertness throughout the day. People who are sleep-deprived will feel the swings in their circadian rhythm the most (for many, this manifests as a particularly grueling afternoon slump, for example). When programmed to a steady pattern of sleep/wakefulness, however, the body will become more alert closer to wake-up time. That’s because the human body releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline about an hour before it knows you need to wake up. You’ll also start to relax and become more sleepy prior to your regular bedtime after the brain sends signals to the body to release melatonin, allowing you to fall asleep faster.
Throughout the night, your circadian rhythm cycles through two types of sleep: “active sleep” (REM) and deep sleep (NREM). The former is where the majority of people dream, and it’s much more biologically similar to wakefulness. This kind of sleep tends to be concentrated closer to the time you wake up.
The latter is where most bodily repair functions like muscle recovery take place. Most of this kind of sleep occurs toward the beginning of the night. People who don’t have steady sleeping schedules tend to wake up mid-deep sleep, which has been linked to greater grogginess and feelings of exhaustion throughout the day.
So, college students who want to “choose three”: academic success, a productive social life, and enough sleep, should know that the last item on the list is the key to achieving a healthy balance. Focus on that first, and the other two will naturally be easier.
There are several things that students can do to set up and stick to a pattern that works for them. Sleep experts recommend people stop using electronics a certain amount of time before going to bed, reduce caffeine intake towards the end of the day, and set up a dedicated sleeping space that can remind their body it’s time for bed with triggers like sounds (white noise) or smells (essential oils).
In the end, it’s important to remember that everything else comes together a lot more easily when falling asleep on time becomes a top priority.
Adaptive Sound Technologies, Inc. was founded in 2008 and is the leading supplier of advanced sound machines and adaptive audio products. The company’s mission, “Adapting sound to improve lives,” has been the driving force behind its innovation and product development. Headquartered in the heart of Silicon Valley, ASTI has developed best-selling sound machines like Sound+Sleep and ‘LectroFan that redefine the science of sleep. Breakthroughs in the science of ambient noise analysis and dynamic adaptive audio have earned ASTI multiple patents, resulting in innovative sleep products that deliver better sleep to customers worldwide.