7.2 Sleep and Sleep Habits

In addition to exercise, sleep is an essential part of your daily routine. Sleep allows your brain to “reset” and your body to remain healthy. The sleep-wake cycle consists of roughly 8 hours of nocturnal sleep and 16 hours of daytime wakefulness. This cycle is controlled by two internal influences: sleep homeostasis and circadian rhythms. More than 25% of the U.S. population report occasionally not getting enough sleep. Nearly 10% have chronic insomnia (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 2009). These can be serious problems for a college student.

Catch a snooze where you can, but make sure you are achieving quality sleep in your bed as well.

Why Is Sleep Important?

Sleep loss results in a “sleep debt.” Sleep debt is the accumulated loss of sleep that is lost due to poor sleep habits. Like any other debt, sleep debt must eventually get repaid, or there will be consequences to personal health and well-being. For example, staying awake all night results in a sleep debt of 7 to 9 hours. Our bodies will demand that this debt be repaid by napping or sleeping longer in later cycles. Even loss of one hour of sleep over several days can have a negative effect. Insufficient sleep is associated with a number of chronic diseases and conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression. Daytime sleepiness can affect mood, performance, and memory, and insufficient sleep leading to daytime drowsiness is responsible for injury and death resulting from lapses in attention and delayed response (National Sleep Foundation, 2006). At least 100,000 police-reported motor vehicle accidents each year, killing more than 1,500 Americans and injuring another 71,000, are caused by drowsiness or fatigue. More specifically, drivers aged 25 and younger (the typical college-aged student) are involved in more than one-half of fall-asleep motor vehicle crashes (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 2009).

How Much Sleep Do I Need?

The National Sleep Foundation recommends adolescents and young adults aged 18–25 years sleep 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep every night. As indicated in Table 7-1, adults should sleep 7–9 hours every night (National Sleep Foundation, 2009). The National Sleep Foundation has many resources including sleep facts and tips for restful sleep.

National Sleep Foundation



Table 7-1. Sleep Requirements – How much sleep do you really need?
National Sleep Foundation, 2009.
Age Sleep Needs
Newborns(1-2 months) 10.5-18 hours
Infants (3–11 months) 9–12 hours during night and 30 minutes to 2-hour naps, one to four times a day
Toddlers (1–3 years) 12–14 hours
Preschoolers (3–5 years) 11–13 hours
School-aged Children (5–12 years) 10–11 hours
Teens (11–17) 8.5–9.25 hours
Adults 7–9 hours
Older Adults 7–9 hours


Sleep Hygiene Tips

  1. Avoid caffeinated drinks after lunch.
  2. Go to bed at the same time each night and rise at the same time each morning.
  3. Avoid bright light in the evening. Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and relaxing.
  4. Avoid arousing activities around bedtime such as heavy study, text messaging, prolonged conversations, and heavy exercise.
  5. Avoid large meals before bedtime.
  6. Avoid pulling an “all-nighter” to study.
  7. Sleeping in on weekends is okay. However, it should not be more than 2 to 3 hours past your usual wake time to avoid disrupting your circadian rhythm.

National Sleep Foundation, 2009


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

No Limits Copyright © 2018 by University of Texas at Arlington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book