Sleep is a crucial part of the college experience. The trouble is, students struggle with too much sleep, or not enough. It’s very difficult to find a balance. I should know. As a senior, I have had little sleep this year. With internships, being a TA, thesis work, nights-out, and a job, it’s a hectic schedule.
I substitute lack of sleep with coffee and exercise to get my body moving enough to make it through the day. I get it in my head that I am on an adrenaline high that will sustain for hours, but it is inevitable I will crash.
When my friends, boyfriend, and even my professors mention I need more sleep, the truth is, I probably do. But I am quite stubborn when it comes to taking advice. I think most of us are.
To test my sleeping habits, I borrowed a FitBit Flex, $89.95, from the UNH Computer Store. They were very kind to lend me the device to track my sleep for a week. While the FitBit is a very popular product, I think it depends on what you’re looking to use it for. It’s really cool to see my sleeping habits documented for me. It is interesting how many times I was restless or actually got up in the middle of the night. But I won’t lie, it’s kinda creepy that a little device can know so much about me.
I even got emails every day reminding me to eat, asking why I am not eating, awarding me a “sneakers badge” for 10,000 steps walked, sleeping tips, advertisements for other FitBit products, and encouragement to share my workouts with friends. I purposefully did not activate the consumed calories or food plan part of the FitBit data because I was only focused on tracking my sleep. I think while the concept of the FitBit is great, there are concerns surrounding issues such as obsession, competition with friends you link and track exercise with, and the constant reminders of your activity level from the overly ‘helpful’ emails.
For me, I was most curious about sleep. Over the course of six nights, the average amount I slept was 7 hours and 15 minutes. The Sunday night data of 8 hours 27 minutes started the new week. However, with that night averaged in, I slept 7 hours and 26 minutes. The vertical red lines on the horizontal blue lines, seen below, represent the amount of times I physically woke up throughout the night. The vertical blue lines, seen below, represent the amount of times I was restless.
Interestingly, I fall asleep much later than I thought. It takes me almost an hour every night to fall asleep (see below). I usually read or watch Netflix, and then think I fall asleep when my head hits the pillow, but apparently it takes much longer for my body and brain to shut off for the night. I also go to sleep after midnight very often, which I didn’t really take note of before using the FitBit. I never used to be a late-night person, but clearly senior year has changed me.
Not only did I use the FitBit Flex for the week, I also used the Sleep Kit provided by UNH Health Services. The Sleep Kit includes earplugs, an eye mask, and sleepy time tea. I prefer sleeping in the pitch dark so the eye mask proved helpful. I do not live in a noisy dorm, but sometimes students loiter in the hallway outside my door late at night, thus the earplugs worked beautifully (please note, turn your alarm volume up when wearing these!!), and I love all tea therefore sleepy time tea was perfect. I recommend tea to everyone, because tea has a calming effect on the body and soul.
Health Services recommends these sleep guidelines for college students:
- Try to get 8-9 hours sleep/night
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule, even on the weekends
- Manage your time and try to avoid all-nighters
- Learn to cope with stress so that your brain and body can ease into a good night’s sleep
- If you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing
- If your mind is racing, try meditation or journaling to help you feel relaxed
- Use your bed for only relaxing activities – sleep and sex
- Additional sleep tips/information…
Health Services offers Power Napping sessions. You will enjoy a mid-day relaxing napping session where you will take a 30 minute nap, do a little stretching, learn a bit about sleep, and leave with a free Sleep Kit to bring back to bed. Naps are good for you. Health Services recommends taking 20-30 minute naps and not too close to your regular bedtime.
As great as it is to get a lot of work done in the day, it is just as great, if not more so, to sleep well at night. I am much more conscious of how I sleep after this mini experiment. I will make it a point to get enough sleep every night, because I do function better the following day.
Additional resources on all-things sleep related:
- Meet with a Wellness Educator/Counselor at Health Services to create a personalized sleep plan and get a free Sleep Kit
- Sound Sleeping
- Dream Journal
The UNH Computer Store is located in the MUB. An authorized seller of Apple and Dell products, this is a great place for academic discounts, loaner computers during warranty repairs, and of course the place to go for a FitBit! UNH Computer Store site
Rest up, Wildcats! Get the sleep you deserve.