It’s that time of year again; back-to-school season. Over the next several weeks, college campuses around the country will fill with students and the excitement of the beginning of a new semester.
If you're the parent, grandparent, or family friend of a college student, you know this time of year is a very busy season with a lot of emotions, anticipation, and stress. Whether you're dropping your freshman off for their first year of undergrad or you know a senior who is going back to finish the last year of their degree, helping your student learn to navigate school and life in a healthy, mindful way is essential.
According to the University Health Service at the University of Michigan, the amount of sleep a college student gets is a strong predictor of that student's academic success. Developing a regular sleep pattern and getting an adequate amount of restful and high quality sleep is essential for learning, maintaining mental, physical, and emotional health, and managing stress levels.
Researchers at Brown University indicate that 11% of students report good sleep while 73% report sleep problems. This is a serious issue, as sleep is vital to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and being mentally prepared to excel in the classroom. According to The National Institutes of Health, sleep deprivation has been linked to lower grades. Sleep deprivation has a negative impact on concentration, memory, and the ability to learn.
It is clear sleep is important to the learning process, but let’s face it, residence halls, dorm rooms, fraternity and sorority houses, and college apartments are not the easiest places to get a great night’s sleep. As your favorite student is preparing to head back to campus this fall, getting enough sleep, and getting good-quality sleep, is of the utmost importance for them to make the most out of their educational experience.
As you send your favorite student back to campus, below are a few sleep tips to share to ensure they establish healthy sleep habits and are mentally prepared for the school year ahead.
Wash your sheets – and not just when your family is coming to town
Not to sound like a nagging house mom, but students should keep the bed and surrounding area clean. A clean sleeping environment will help ensure the bed is a place of rest and relaxation. We know it’s tempting when a student is out on their own to let laundry slip, but bed sheets should be laundered more than at move-in and move-out. 91% of Americans change their sheets every two weeks. The average college student? Let’s say it is much less frequent than that. But it doesn’t have to be. If you’re new to having to wash your own sheets, read the label on the sheets. Typically, sheets can be washed in warm water and tumbled dry. You want to remove them promptly from the dryer to limit wrinkling.
Studying is for the library, not your bed. A bed is your sanctuary and should be treated as a place to retreat, relax, and recharge. Studying and other stress-inducing, work-related activities should be relegated to outside of the bed as not to connect mental stressors to the bed environment. Beds should be used for three things… sleep, relaxation, and sex.
Create the comfort of home
Whether students will admit it or not, occasionally they miss the comforts of home. Help them create a comfortable sleep environment that they can escape to in order to rest, relax, and refuel for their next day. Sleep is essential to the creative process, learning new things, and mental well-being. We encourage our friends that are students not to skimp on bedding as high-quality, comfortable bedding is an investment that will pay dividends by helping improve the learning process and ensuring they make the most out of their educational experience. For more information on bedding we recommend for students, check out the exclusive back-to-school College Dorm Room Bedding Kit.
Reduce noise, improve sleep
College students we talk to love the 24/7, on-the-go pace of a college campus. No matter what time of day it is, a group of friends are only a snapchat or text message away. While this is great for one’s social life, it can wreak havoc on one’s sleep schedule. One of the biggest complaints we hear from college students trying to get a great night’s sleep is that the 24/7 environment they love also produces a lot of noise. To help combat the noise pollution around colleges, help your student navigate the interruptions and disturbances with a sleep kit including items such as a sleep mask, a comfortable pillow, and aromatherapy products like our Tiara Silks pillowcases and Spice Collection decorative pillows. In addition, adding white noise to their rooms, such as a small fan or white noise machine can help drown out the outside environment.
Night cap no-no
Talking to your students about responsible drinking is important, but did you know there is another drinking myth you might want to debunk? If your student is thinking about a hot-toddy or a sip of a favorite spirit before going to bed, they should think again. Alcohol may help some people fall asleep, but can negatively impact the overall quality of sleep.
Cut the cord, pick up a book
Talk to your student about learning to put down their cellphone, iPad, Kindle or laptop at least 30 minutes prior to going to bed. Looking at an electronic screen keeps the mind racing and can be a sensory overload. We encourage college students we know to snuggle up in a blanket and read a good book. We recommend fiction before bed because it helps the mind relax and unwind in ways that a microbiology text book can’t.
Turn the phone off
Encourage students not to shack up with their phones. Sleeping with a ringing, buzzing, illuminating phone is a sure way not to get a great night’s sleep. Don’t want your student to totally unplug and be unreachable, let them know they can use the Do Not Disturb feature on the iPhone that only lets calls/messages from an approved list of contacts break their slumber.
Develop a mindfulness routine
Mindfulness and meditation can help anyone navigate the stressors of life. Talk to your student about the importance of developing healthy coping mechanisms like this simple pre-bed mindfulness practice.
Create a schedule
Establishing a routine with roommates can be a complicated course in relationships and negotiation, but once aced, your student will be well on their way to having a successful school year. Talk to your students about have an open dialogue with roommates about establishing routines in an effort to get into a sleep schedule that will help both roommates be successful in and out of the classroom.
Getting a great night’s sleep in college is not impossible. In fact, it starts with having the right bedding and the right game plan. Proper sleep is one of the most important parts of being well-rested, mentally-sharp, and ready to learn. If you have a student or know a student going back to school this fall, help prepare them for success for the coming school year by giving them the gift of a great night’s sleep. Check out the exclusive Down Etc College Dorm Room Bedding Kit featuring high-quality bedding designed especially for XL-twin beds found in most college dorms and residence halls.
Here’s to a great night’s sleep and a successful school year!
Editor's Note: This post was originally published August 11, 2016. It has been reviewed and revised for continued accuracy, and links have been updated.