Sleep helps your body and mind rest, repair, and restore the energy you need to do well in class and cope with stress.

Quick Facts

  • College students need 7 or more hours of sleep/night
  • UNH students report sleep as a top concern negatively impacting academic success  
  • Sleep enhances cognitive functioning such as concentration and memory
  • Sleep boosts the immune system making it more difficult to get sick 
  • Sleep restores your body to optimal health and functioning  
  • Sleep helps cope with stress 
  • Sleep helps improve academic performance 
  • Sleep is good for your health 

Consequences of Poor Sleep

  • Reaction time slows impacting athletic performance, driving, and motor skills 
  • Academic performance declines  
  • Stress increases 
  • Short-term and long-term health consequences  
  • Creativity declines 
  • Ability to make good choices declines 
  • Increase in mood difficulties, such as depression and anxiety 
  • Increase in weight gain

Stages of Sleep  

While you are sleeping your brain goes through the same pattern every 90 minutes. These patterns are known as the stages of sleep and include stage 1, stage 2, slow-wave sleep, and REM. Each stage does something specific to your brain and body. Your mind and body function better when you’re able to get a quality mix of all the sleep cycles.

Awake

Your brain is active by constantly firing and processing all the information you are receiving throughout the day. When you settle down to sleep, your mind and body start a multistage process that is needed for academic performance and wellness.

Stage 1

In this stage, everything begins to slow down in preparation for the following stages of sleep. You feel like you are half awake and half asleep. Your surface body temperature starts to drop, your heart rate and metabolism slow down, your eyes gently shift from side to side under your eyelids. You may experience instant jerks that wake you up.

Stage 2

This stage restores energy and enhances alertness. Your brain starts actively sorting through all the day’s information and experiences to help you remember. Your blood vessels constrict, your temperature continues to cool and your brain works to enhance your memory.

Slow-wave

All the physical benefits of sleep occur during this stage. This stage repairs your body to reduce the harmful effects of stress, clears your mind, curbs cravings for sugar and helps increase the strength of new memories. Many of your brain’s neurons are synchronizing with a very slow rhythm and your body is actively restoring body tissues and organs to peak levels. In this stage, you are in what feels like a deep trance, your breath is shallow, you are taking in less oxygen and it would take a lot of effort to wake you up.

REM

Do you want to do well in school? REM pulls it all together for you by helping make connections between new thoughts and ideas, enhancing your ability to problem solve and improving memory. Your brain is very active and your eyes are darting back and forth in a rapid movement. You may have surreal or vivid dreams.
 
Most people get more slow-wave sleep in the first half of the night and more REM sleep in the second half of the night. When you don’t get enough sleep, you miss out on all the benefits each stage of sleep has to offer.

Sleep and Circadian Rhythms

It is important that you be awake during the day and asleep at night. This is because sleep is regulated by our biological rhythms that are generally governed by the circadian rhythms of the earth, moon, and sun. The rotation of earth from morning to night influences our body.
 
Many students alter their own biological clocks by not going to sleep when it is dark, not waking at a regular time, and not sleeping the length of time needed.

Sleep Pressure

Sleep pressure begins when you wake up in the morning. As the day progresses, your body starts to slowly get more tired and less functional and your need for sleep increases. Your pressure for sleep is at its climax when you feel tired at night and go to bed.
Understanding sleep pressure is important to self-care. When you listen to your body and understand that it needs sleep, you may be better able to give your body what it needs.

Insomnia

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder impacting college students. If left untreated, insomnia can lead to health concerns, including depression, increased risk of accidents and injury, and inability to concentrate in class.

Symptoms

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Difficulty staying asleep 
  • Waking up earlier than desired with an inability to get back to sleep
  • Short-term insomnia can occur due to stress or environmental changes (such as coming to college).
  • Insomnia that lasts for long periods of time is known as chronic insomnia. 

Causes

  • Stress
  • Environmental changes, such as coming to college and living in a residence hall 
  • Poor sleep habits, such as not having a relaxing nighttime routine
  • Consuming alcohol or caffeine near bedtime 
  • Certain medication, such as antidepressants, steroids, and allergy and cold products 
  • Anxiety, depression, and other psychiatric conditions 
  • Medical conditions that cause pain and discomfort 
  • Overactive alerting signals in the brain that send signals to your body that it is time to fall asleep 
If you feel like you are struggling with insomnia, make an appointment for a medical consultation or sleep coaching.

Sleep Self-Care Plan  

We have created tools to help you get started. 
  • 20-step Self-Care Sleep Plan (coming soon)
  • Personal Sleep Profile (coming soon)
  • Free Sleep Kits (for students only) include the following:
    • information about sleep, stress, mental fitness, and wellness 
    • Earplugs
    • Eye mask
    • Lavender aromatherapy sachet 
    • Herbal tea 
    • Guided meditation 
    • Dream journal sheet
    • Personalized sleep log  
    • Get a sleep kit by attending a napping program, a sleep coaching session, or requesting one in our office.

Sleep Coaching

Sleeping well in college can be very difficult for a variety of reasons including your environment, stress, academics, and possibly physical ailments. Our wellness coaches will help you better understand what is getting in the way of a good night’s sleep and assist you in creating a personalized plan to help you feel rested and motivated. Education about sleep hygiene and a free sleep kit will be provided. Referral to a Health & Wellness clinician may also be recommended. 
 
 

Medical Consultation for Sleep

If you are experiencing sleep difficulties for an extended amount of time, it may be beneficial to talk with a healthcare clinician. Our clinicians will help you figure out what is causing your sleep disruptions and possible treatment options, include guidance on prescription and non-prescription treatments and lifestyle changes.   
 
 

Resources