How Sleep is One of the Main Keys to Success in College

How Sleep is One of the Main Keys to Success in College

As a recent college graduate I know first-hand that school is stressful. Between keeping up with your classes and having a social life, stress can become debilitating and start to affect how you perform in school. Sleep plays an important role in how you succeed in your classes. Studies have shown that the quantity and quality of your sleep equal or outrank popular campus concerns such as alcohol and drug use when it comes to predicting student’s grades and their chances of graduating.

In a survey, 60 percent of students said that they would like their colleges to provide information on how to manage sleep problems while in school. However, very few institutions do anything to counter the effects of sleep deprivation on academic success and physical and emotional well-being. In fact, some do the opposite unintentionally. For example, providing a library that is open 24-hours a day, which can encourage students to stay up all night studying for an exam or finishing a paper. Trust me, cramming for a test the night before will never work especially if you have to do something complex with the information you are studying. You will most likely perform worse on an exam by staying up all night.

College sleep expert J. Roxanne Prichard says that after being awake 16 hours in a row, brain function starts to decline, and that after 20 hours awake, you perform as if you are legally drunk. Many students take the weekends to catch up on the sleep they missed during the week. However, doing so does not help. Sleeping later on weekends throws off your circadian clock. In the process of sleeping later on the weekends you are throwing off one in 20 genes governed by a circadian rhythm. Substances that are produced by those genes are not released at the right time and your body fails to perform at its best.

Stanford University conducted a study observing the men’s varsity basketball team. When the players got optimal amounts of sleep, their free-throw and three-point shot percentages increased. College students who do not adopt better sleep habits are more likely to be unable to handle their course load and are less likely to reach their full academic potential, this according to a national study of more than 55,000 college students.

So how does someone get better sleep? By practicing good sleep hygiene. Here are a few tips below…

Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
Create a relaxing bedroom setting.
Follow a consistent bedtime routine.
Avoid food and drinks that contain caffeine at least three hours before you go to bed.
Don’t stay up late to study for an exam.
Keep all electronics outside of the bedroom and avoid using them just before bedtime if possible.
Don’t go to bed hungry but avoid eating a big meal before sleeping. Try having a light snack instead.
Avoid vigorous exercise close to bed. Try meditating or reading instead.
Keep your room dark, cool and quiet for sleeping.

Now I know living in a dorm room environment can be tricky when it comes to keeping your bedroom quiet and cool for sleeping as there are other people living on your floor, many dorms do not have air conditioning and you might have a roommate who has different sleeping habits than you do. So here are a few tips to sleep well in a noisy dorm.

Noise-cancelling headphones or ear plugs: even if you find it hard to fall asleep to music, headphones or ear plugs can help drown out noise from your roommates or noises from down the hall.
Sleeping Masks: Sleeping masks can help block out any light so your sleep isn’t disturbed. This can also come in handy if your roommate is still up doing homework and has a light on while you are trying to fall asleep.
Fans: A fan can keep the room at the right temperature for sleeping. It also creates white noise that can drown out background noises. I never went to bed without my fans on even in the winter because of this.
Talk to your Resident Assistant: See if they can help adjust your living arrangements and listen to your concerns about a noisy roommate.
DON’T NAP: This one is going to be hard, but try to resist taking a midday nap. Naps longer than a half hour can make it hard to fall asleep at night.
Again, go to sleep at the same time every night: Maintaining a sleep schedule is key.

Hopefully these tips can help students get on the right track with their sleep habits and have a successful school year.


Brody, Jane E. “An Underappreciated Key to College Success: Sleep.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 13 Aug. 2018,

How To Sleep In A Dorm: Shut-Eye Tips For College Students.” The Huffington Post,, 25 May 2011,