How Much Sleep Do College Students Need: Are You Getting Enough?

Carolina Jacobs

Dec 12, 2022
teenage girl in bed wondering how much sleep do college students need

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Your college years pull your attention in many different directions. You have coursework, classes, social activities, extracurriculars and sometimes a job or internship. You’re not alone if all these responsibilities seem to consistently add up to more hours than you have in the day. Unfortunately, your sleep is the first thing to go when you need more time. You might think your habit of skimping on rest is harmless, but how much sleep do college students need to function properly?

How Much Sleep Do College Students Need?

According to the Sleep Foundation, young adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each night. When was the last time you got that much? Between parties, late-night study sessions and early classes, college students struggle to get the right amount of sleep. Even when you can lie down, loud dorms, distracting roommates and college stress can keep you from catching some zzzzs.

Why Is Sleep Important for College Students?

Yet, getting enough sleep is crucial for you. Skimping on your rest for a night or two once in a while isn’t a big deal. However, if you’re regularly getting below the minimum recommendation, you risk hurting your academic performance along with your physical and mental health. Your body needs sleep to repair itself from the wear and tear of the day. Depriving yourself limits your abilities moving forward.  

How Can You Determine How Much Sleep You Need?

The amount of sleep everybody needs is different. That’s why the Sleep Foundation proposes such a wide range. Also, the amount of sleep you need will fluctuate as you move through different phases of your life. It’s not so much finding out how much sleep college students need and more about what you need. 

There’s a relatively simple process for finding out how much sleep you should be getting regularly, but you’ll need at least a few days in a row where you can safely alter your sleeping patterns. We recommend waiting for a college break to give this a try. 

Sleep Experiment

  1. Each night for at least 3-4 nights, go to sleep at the same time and don’t set an alarm for the morning. 
  2. When you wake up every morning, make a physical note of the time you naturally woke up. The first morning you’ll probably wake later, making up for lost sleep at school. 
  3. Over the course of a few or more days, you should start to notice a pattern emerge. 
  4. After collecting data for several days, calculate the average amount of time you slept. You can find the total time by finding the difference between your steady bedtime and the time you got up in the morning. Add the number of hours each day together and divide by the number of days in your experiment. If the amount of hours you slept on day one is significantly more than any other day, discard it from your calculations. 

For example:

Day 1: 9 hours- extra long, so it won’t count toward my total or average. 

Day 2: 8 hours

Day 3: 7.5 hours

Day 4: 8 hours 

Day 5: 8 hours

Total: 31.5 hours

Average: 31.5 / 4 = 7.87 hours 

I would need to get somewhere between 7.5 and 8 hours of sleep each night to function at my best. 

  1. Now you need to decide on your ideal wake time. What time do you need to get up each morning to prepare for the day and get to your first responsibility or class? 
  2. From there, count backward from your wake-up time till you reach the number of hours you discovered was your sweet spot, and you’ll have your ideal bedtime.  

Why Do I Need a Bedtime?

You’re probably wondering why you need a bedtime if you’re in college. Isn’t the freedom to do what you want part of the experience? The answer is absolutely, but despite your desire to make all your own decisions, your body still has specific needs. What you put in is what you’ll get out of it. Perhaps your best use of freedom is to give yourself a bedtime. 

In that same vein, your body has a natural rhythm of sleeping and waking, called a circadian rhythm. When you go to bed and wake up at different times, you can’t establish a pattern, your circadian rhythm will be thrown out of whack and you’ll end up feeling more tired than you should, even with the appropriate amount of hours. 

Keeping up with a consistent sleep and wake schedule allows your body to adjust to the pattern and helps you get the deep sleep you need. 

Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

If you ask a bunch of students at random, “how much sleep do college students need,” you’d get answers as unique as the people you polled. That’s because sleep is unique to the individual, based on their needs and life circumstances. Calculate how much sleep your body needs and adjust your habits accordingly to perform and feel your best this semester.

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