It is no coincidence that a large number of people first develop sleeping problems at University. I regularly speak with people who tell me that they slept well until the time they flew the nest and went to stay in halls of residence or a shared house. This is because university presents the perfect breeding ground for what I call “Student Sleep Deprivation”.
Dramatic Lifestyle Change
The reason for this invasion of bad sleep is dramatic lifestyle change. Before most students set off to university they are accustomed to a fairly regular sleeping pattern, and many are still under the watchful eye of their parents ensuring they are studying hard, not drinking and/or smoking and getting enough rest.
The excitement of freedom, a cheap student bar and varying lecture times results in late nights and late mornings. Sleeping patterns become irregular. This wouldn’t be so much of a problem if university lasted 6 months or even 1 year, but 3 years on the trot – even longer if you study medicine – is detrimental to the body's sleeping pattern.
Napping, Late Mornings & Smoking Marijuana
The worse sleep becomes the more students tend to sleep late or nap once or twice a day to compensate for lost sleep.
Many students start smoking marijuana when they go to university, and subsequently fall into the trap of using the drug as a sleep aid , which leads the user down a path of habitual use – not dissimilar to taking sleeping pills.
This only makes the problem worse, and, by the time many leave university their sleeping patterns are so intensively interfered with that the body has trouble adjusting to a 9-5 work routine.
How Pressure, Stress & Anxiety Affects Students' Sleep
Steering clear of the bar and going to bed early doesn’t mean you will escape the perils of student sleep deprivation. The pressures of exams and deadlines increase exponentially at university, and not every personality is equipped to handle such demands.
Many lose sleep through worry, anxiety and stress. This state becomes perpetual and the brain becomes conditioned to associate going to bed with a state of “over thinking” and worry. Over a period of time this association becomes permanent and sleep becomes increasingly affected.
The Cure for Student Sleep Deprivation
Ideally a course of good sleep hygiene should be embarked upon when sleeping problems arise. However, being young and full of energy, it is easy to overcome lack of sleep, and students tend to ignore the problem until they leave university.
It is only the demands of having to wake at the same time each day, and not being able to steal naps here and there that prompts a person to recognise that a problem is apparent. The good news is no matter how bad your sleep has become at university, you can quickly get back on track.
However, if you have picked up habits like smoking marihuana or having a drink to aid sleep, you will need to be ready to give up these vices if you really want to correct your sleep properly for the long term.
If you are experiencing student sleep deprivation which is affecting your academic performance, or you have struggled with getting a good night’s sleep since leaving university, click here to read more about my sleep system.