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According to the National Institutes of Health, sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life and safety.1


Healthy Brain Function and Emotional Well-Being

Sleep is essential for normal cognitive function. A good night's sleep enhances your learning, problem-solving skills and ability to remember information. Quality sleep also helps you pay attention, make decisions and be creative.

Studies show that sleep deficiency alters activity in some parts of the brain. If you're sleep deficient, you may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. Sleep deficiency also has been linked to stress, depression, suicide and risk-taking behavior.

Physical Health

Sleep affects your physical health. Deep sleep triggers the body to release a hormone that boosts muscle mass and helps repair cells and tissues. Lack of sleep negatively changes the way your immune system responds. Ongoing sleep deficiency is also linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and stroke.


It’s important to get enough quality sleep in order to function well and perform better throughout the day. People who don’t get enough sleep are less productive –  they may take longer to finish tasks, have slower reaction times and make more mistakes. Lack of sleep is also associated with decreased athletic performance and ability to drive.

National Institutes of Health, Why Is Sleep Important. (2012, February 22). Retrieved from URL 

Most college students need about seven to nine hours of sleep each day. However, everyone is different; as few as six hours and as many as 11 hours may be appropriate for you.

Below is a list of ways to boost the quality and quantity of your sleep from ULifeline:

  • Make sleep a top priority. Remember that sleep is a basic need, not a bonus.

  • Get seven to nine hours of sleep a night. This is an estimate because everyone is different. Some people feel alert and perform tasks with no trouble with just six hours of sleep, while others need nine just to function. Signs that show you aren’t getting enough sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation, are if you can’t stay alert during boring tasks, you’re intensely irritable with others or it’s hard for you to concentrate or remember things.

  • Avoid anything with caffeine before bedtime, including coffee, tea and soft drinks. Also, avoid nicotine and alcohol, which interferes with sleep.

  • Make your bedroom sleep-friendly. Keep it dark, cool and quiet, all things that contribute to a better night’s sleep. If you’re sharing a dorm room with someone who’s noisy, invest in earplugs. Also, to keep light out, buy darker, thicker curtains or an eye mask.

  • Be active regularly, but finish up physical activities at least three hours before bedtime.

  • Set up a relaxing routine — like reading or taking a bath — that tells your body you’re ready for sleep. Do this about 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime.

  • If you’re still unable to sleep after 30 minutes, get out of bed to do something relaxing like reading. This can make you sleepy.

  • Create a sleep schedule and stick to it. Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day or at least within a few hours.

  • If you really have trouble sleeping, don’t nap during the day.

  • Learn to manage stress effectively. Stress can disrupt sleep. To feel and sleep better, use healthy ways to cope like relaxation techniques. But if you’re still having trouble sleeping after a week, make an appointment with a counselor.

  • Experiencing racing thoughts before bedtime? Schedule a time each day to write them down and tell yourself that you won’t think of them until your next “worry break.” Another option is to keep some paper by your bed to record any interfering thoughts.

ULifeline, A good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your body. (n.d.). Retrieved from URL 

At some point in our lives, we’ve all experienced difficulty falling or staying asleep. However, when this happens too frequently, it might be time to talk to your doctor because you may have a medical condition that is interfering with your sleep. If you've examined your sleep environment and daily routine to make sure you're not sabotaging your sleep and you still feel tired after getting enough sleep, you should see your doctor. 

General Symptoms of a Sleep Disorder

  • Excessive sleepiness during the day

  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep

  • Snoring or episodes of stopped breathing during sleep

  • Sleep walking


Learn More About Sleep Disorders and Problems 

The Better Sleep Council, Sleep Disorders. (n.d.). Retrieved from URL 

Myth: Sleep is not important. I can just get by on a few hours.

Fact: Sleep is vital to our health and well-being and is just as important as diet and exercise. Although individual needs may vary, adults typically need between seven to nine hours of sleep every night.  Getting enough sleep may also be a critical factor in a person’s weight as well as energy and productivity levels. 

Myth: Alcohol or wine will help me fall asleep faster.

Fact: Some people feel that alcohol is a sleep aid. However, while alcohol may calm you and speed the onset of sleep, it actually increases the number of times you awaken during the night.  If you are taking a sleep medication, it should not be used with alcohol or other drugs.

Myth: Snoring is a common problem, but it isn’t harmful.

Fact: Although snoring may be harmless for most people, it can be a symptom of a life threatening sleep disorder called sleep apnea, especially if it is accompanied by severe daytime sleepiness. Sleep apnea is characterized by pauses in breathing that prevent air from flowing into or out of a sleeping person’s airways. People with sleep apnea awaken frequently during the night gasping for breath. The breathing pauses reduce blood oxygen levels, can strain the heart and cardiovascular system, and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Snoring on a frequent or regular basis has been directly associated with hypertension. Obesity and a large neck can contribute to sleep apnea . Sleep apnea can be treated; men and women who snore loudly, especially if pauses in the snoring are noted, should consult a physician.

Myth: You can "cheat" on the amount of sleep you get.

Fact: Sleep experts say most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night for optimum performance, health and safety. When we don't get adequate sleep, we accumulate a sleep debt that can be difficult to "pay back" if it becomes too big. The resulting sleep deprivation has been linked to health problems such as obesity and high blood pressure, negative mood and behavior, decreased productivity, and safety issues in the home, on the job and on the road.

Myth: Turning up the radio, opening the window or turning on the air conditioner are effective ways to stay awake when driving.

Fact: These "aids" are ineffective and can be dangerous to the person who is driving while feeling drowsy or sleepy. If you're feeling tired while driving, the best thing to do is to pull off the road in a safe rest area and take a nap for 15-45 minutes. Caffeinated beverages can help overcome drowsiness for a short period of time. However, it takes about 30 minutes before the effects are felt. The best prevention for drowsy driving is a good night’s sleep the night before your trip.

Myth: Insomnia is characterized by difficulty falling asleep.

Fact: Difficulty falling asleep is but one of four symptoms generally associated with insomnia. The others include waking up too early and not being able to fall back asleep, frequent awakenings, and waking up feeling unrefreshed. Insomnia can be a symptom of a sleep disorder or other medical or psychological/psychiatric problem and can often be treated. When insomnia symptoms occur more than a few times a week and impact a person’s daytime functions, the symptoms should be discussed with a doctor or other health care provider.

Myth: Daytime sleepiness always means a person isn't getting enough sleep.

Fact: Excessive daytime sleepiness is a condition in which an individual feels very drowsy during the day and has an urge to fall asleep when he/she should be fully alert and awake. The condition, which can occur even after getting enough nighttime sleep, can be a sign of an underlying medical condition or sleep disorder such as narcolepsy or sleep apnea. These problems can often be treated, and symptoms should be discussed with a physician. Daytime sleepiness can be dangerous and puts a person at risk for drowsy driving, injury and illness and can impair mental abilities, emotions and performance.

Myth: Health problems such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and depression are unrelated to the amount and quality of a person's sleep.

Fact: Studies have found a relationship between the quantity and quality of one's sleep and many health problems. For example, insufficient sleep affects growth hormone secretion that is linked to obesity; as the amount of hormone secretion decreases, the chance for weight gain increases. Blood pressure usually falls during the sleep cycle, however, interrupted sleep can adversely affect this normal decline, leading to hypertension and cardiovascular problems. Research has also shown that insufficient sleep impairs the body's ability to use insulin, which can lead to the onset of diabetes. More and more scientific studies are showing correlations between poor and insufficient sleep and disease.

Myth: During sleep, your brain rests.

Fact: The body rests during sleep, however, the brain remains active, gets "recharged" and still controls many body functions including breathing. When we sleep, we typically drift between two sleep states, REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM, in 90-minute cycles. Non-REM sleep has four stages with distinct features, ranging from stage one drowsiness, when one can be easily awakened, to "deep sleep" stages three and four, when awakenings are more difficult and where the most positive and restorative effects of sleep occur. However, even in the deepest non-REM sleep, our minds can still process information. REM sleep is an active sleep where dreams occur, breathing and heart rate increase and become irregular, muscles relax and eyes move back and forth under the eyelids.

Myth: If you wake up in the middle of the night, it is best to lie in bed, count sheep or toss and turn until you eventually fall back asleep.

Fact: Waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to go back to sleep is a symptom of insomnia. Relaxing imagery or thoughts may help to induce sleep more than counting sheep, which some research suggests may be more distracting than relaxing. Whichever technique is used, most experts agree that if you do not fall back asleep within 15-20 minutes, you should get out of bed, go to another room and engage in a relaxing activity such as listening to music or reading. Return to bed when you feel sleepy. Avoid watching the clock.

National Sleep Foundation, A Time to Look at Some Myths and Facts About Sleep. (n.d.). Retrieved from URL 

National Sleep Foundation, Myths – and Facts – About Sleep. (n.d.). Retrieved from URL 

Marcu, S. (January 2015). The benefits of a good night's sleep. Retrieved from URL

1National Institutes of Health. (2012, February 22). Why Is Sleep Important. Retrieved from URL