Better Sleep Council spokeswoman Terry Cralle shares
10 tips that will help turn your dorm room into a sleep sanctuary.
While college can be a wonderful and exciting new adventure, it does come with its share of challenges. Academic, financial, personal, and social stressors on top of a new environment and a hectic schedule mandate students’ vigilance in putting their physical and emotional health first and foremost.
Why Is Sleep so Important for College Students?
Sufficient sleep on a consistent basis is critical for a healthy immune system, healthy weight, memory, concentration, motivation, academic success, and overall well-being. Unfortunately, irregular sleep schedules can lead to inadequate sleep and daytime sleepiness, which plague many college students and put them at greater risk for the many consequences of sleep deprivation, including:
- impaired immune systems
- increased obesity risk
- inability to focus
- decreased motivation
- poor mood, irritability
- accidents and injuries
- increased risk of academic failure
- substance abuse
- risk-taking behaviors
- poor judgment
What Constitutes Sufficient Sleep?
One of the most fundamental requirements for a successful college experience is sufficient sleep. For teenagers through age 17 that is in the eight-to-ten-hour range per night, while younger adults age 18 and older need seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Adherence to these guidelines is crucial, as adequate sleep is essential for optimal functioning and general well-being.
Getting the Sleep You Need in a Dorm Room
Sticking to a consistent bedtime routine, avoiding all-nighters, staying off electronics at least thirty minutes before bedtime, and even setting a bedtime alarm to avoid bedtime procrastination are some helpful sleep strategies to employ. But when it comes to turning your standard-issue dorm into a cozy, sleep-friendly environment, consider the following:
1. Sleep Surface
If you have a dorm-issued mattress that looks like it has seen better days, you may want to consider a new one. If replacing the mattress is not an option, consider investing in a mattress topper (be sure to check if your mattress is a twin or twin XL). It may be just the thing to make a dorm-issued mattress “sleepable.” Mattress toppers are available in a variety of materials and degrees of firmness, and they can easily provide an extra layer of support and added comfort to otherwise saggy or lumpy dorm mattresses.
2. A Bed for Your Head
A comfortable pillow that suits your preferred sleeping position is essential. Pillows should be slightly thinner for back and stomach sleepers or slightly thicker for side sleepers. Although we don’t advocate studying in bed, sometimes cramped living quarters necessitate that your bed becomes a study zone—in which case, a larger pillow or a back rest can help keep you comfortable in a sitting position.
Depending on the climate and the draftiness of the dorm room, colder climates may call for some cozy flannel sheets, while warmer climates may warrant those that wick moisture. Remember to check the dorm’s bed size and ensure the sheets fit properly to avoid any discomfort during the night. Choosing the right sheets that cater to your personal preferences can make a significant difference in promoting restful nights, helping you to wake up refreshed and ready to tackle the challenges of college life with energy and focus.
Our brains continue to process sounds during sleep, so a good night’s sleep hinges on a quiet environment—which is easier said than done in a college dorm. Noise-canceling headphones can help. Earplugs should always be within arm’s reach, and white noise machines or apps can be quite effective in drowning out unwanted noise. An extra throw rug or two will also absorb sound and help keep noise levels down.
Sleep masks are an easy way to make your sleep environment as dark as possible to help ensure your best sleep. They are great for midday napping, and they also come in handy when your roommate has a different sleep schedule than you. Blackout curtains or shades will help keep that morning light out when it is not quite time for class. If curtains are provided, some chip clips can help close any gaps that let in light when you are trying to get that all-important sleep.
Some lavender may be just the thing to help you relax and drift off to sleep. A 2006 study involving forty-two female college students found that lavender aromatherapy had a beneficial effect on insomnia and depression, while a small study published in 2012 found that nighttime exposure to lavender relieved sleepiness upon awakening.
A fan can help keep the room cool as well as provide some white noise, while an extra blanket or two can come in handy if your roommate prefers a colder sleep climate. Creating a sleep-conducive environment is crucial for college students, as the dorm can often be a hub of activity, making it challenging to unwind and relax.
8. Do Not Disturb
We’re talking sleep here—but don’t hesitate to hang a do-not-disturb sign on the door if you are hitting the hay early for a morning class or need a nap after a particularly grueling midterm exam.
It can also help to put your phone on do-not-disturb mode or silent, allowing yourself to disconnect from notifications and avoid the temptation to scroll through social media or respond to messages late into the night. Creating a technology-free sleep zone in your dorm room helps signal to your brain that it’s time to wind down and improves the chances of a peaceful and rejuvenating slumber.
9. Bed Placement
If your dorm allows for flexibility in furniture arrangement, try placing your bed as far as possible from high-traffic areas like the front and bathroom doors to reduce noise as much as possible.
10. Quiet Reminders
Consider hallway signage that politely reminds 2:00 a.m. partygoers that dorm residents are sleeping. Sometimes a friendly reminder will help keep the noise down when other students are trying to get the sleep they need.
Show a Little Respect
It’s great for everyone to respect the need for sleep—in yourself and in others. Showing your roommate and hallmates consideration when they are trying to get some shut-eye may cause them to pay back the kindness.
Consistently getting sufficient sleep is critical for learning, for focus, for helping you deal with stress, for a healthy weight—for your physical and emotional health—and for optimal cognitive functioning. Getting the best sleep possible will go far in helping you make the very most of your college experience.
Explore more sleep-related resources, tips, and research at bettersleep.org.