Sleep & General Health

Wellbeing

The Wellbeing Center supports sleep-promoting habits to ensure the general health and academic success of Gusties. College students typically juggle many responsibilities—class, homework, part-time jobs, extracurricular activities, and all of the exciting campus events—and often struggle to get adequate sleep, which can lead to a series of other consequences: decreased cognitive function; memory; performance; and alertness; obesity; mental and physical health impairments; and attention deficit disorder. Studies have shown that daytime napping can increase motor and mental performance; following a daytime napping session, there are more rapid motor responses, higher levels of short-term memory, positive benefits to psychological states (e.g., cheerful, energetic), and less reported sleepiness…all of which can contribute to positive academic performance. While naps do not make up for inadequate or poor-quality nighttime sleep, a short nap of 20–30 minutes has been shown to improve mood, alertness, and performance, thereby helping students reduce the harmful effects of inadequate sleep. Our work focuses on helping you adopt better sleep hygiene, as well as shifting pro-sleep social, economic, and environmental factors beyond your control.

Sleep is fundamental to your general health. We are also dedicated to helping you understand possible physical and psychological health issues that manifest as fatigue or poor sleep. Sleep difficulties among college students are commonly caused by poor sleep habits or underlying psychosocial issues, including stress, relationship problems, depression, anxiety, and alcohol use. Health Service and Counseling Center clinicians can efficiently and effectively offer services that address the underlying health or mental health issues that impact sleep.

We want to ensure Gusties enjoy the benefits of good sleep, which is part of a larger self-care routine. Recent changes in the healthcare system necessitate that you be informed and proactive in managing your own health. Individuals with low health literacy participate less in self-care, which results in the need for higher-level care. While the majority of Gustavus students are healthy, all students should engage in self-care for personal health maintenance. The Wellbeing Center is helping to build a foundation of self-care practices among our students, developing skills for long-term wellbeing.

Priorities include

  1. Student Awareness. We ensure that students obtain accurate information about the benefits of good sleep habits. Poor sleep habits are among the most common reasons for inadequate sleep among college students. Inadequate sleep is one of the leading risk factors that impede academic performance among Gusties. We implement environmental cues to prompt students to make sleep-supportive choices that enhance daily living. Our peer-led education efforts focus on sleep-promoting behaviors (e.g., a regular sleep and wake pattern, avoiding caffeine close to bedtime, and exercising daily).
  2. Student Assistance. Based on the results of the Spring 2014 College Sleep Environmental Scan, we have identified areas of improvement to foster a campus environment conducive to good sleep. We are reviewing and implementing solutions to make improvements across the campus setting. Health Service and The Counseling Center also identify and treat underlying physical and mental health issues that can impact sleep or manifest as sleep difficulties.
  3. Assessment and Evaluation. Assessment and evaluation help us determine how successful current approaches are at increasing risk reduction measures, and increasing sleep hygiene.

Tips to Improve Your Sleep Habits

  1. Plan ahead. Don’t start writing a paper the night before it is due or cram for a test the night before you have it. Doing these things starts a cycle of staying up all night and never catching up on sleep.
  2. Get at least 30 minutes of sunlight exposure daily.
  3. Get regular exercise, but not within a few hours of going to bed.
  4. If you have a roommate, discuss and decide when your room will be used for studying, socializing, and sleep.
  5. If your dorm is too noisy to sleep, talk to your resident advisor and/or learn to tune out the noise in order to get to sleep. If it helps, listen to soft music with earphones when you fall asleep. Wear earplugs, if necessary.
  6. Make your dorm room or bedroom as comfortable as possible. Create a quiet, dark atmosphere. Keep the room temperature comfortable (neither too warm nor too cold). Don’t wait longer than a week to change the sheets on your bed.
  7. Have food items rich in the amino acid L-tryptophan, such as milk, turkey, or tuna fish, before you go to bed. Eating foods with carbohydrates, such as cereal, breads, and fruits may help as well. (Do not, however, take L-tryptophan supplements.)
  8. Develop a regular bedtime routine. Brush your teeth, lock or check doors and windows, get your backpack ready for the next day, etc. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
  9. Take a long, warm bath or shower before bedtime.
  10. Read a book or do some repetitive, calm activity. Avoid distractions that may hold your attention and keep you awake, such as watching a suspenseful movie.
  11. Avoid caffeine in all forms after lunchtime. Caffeine is in coffee, tea, chocolate, colas, other soft drinks, such as Mountain Dew, in some bottled water, such as Cup of Joe, and energy drinks.
  12. Don’t take No-Doz. Avoid alcoholic beverages at dinnertime and during the rest of the evening, too. Even though alcohol is a sedative, it can disrupt sleep.
  13. Don’t take over-the-counter sleeping pills or friends’ or relatives’ sleeping pills. Only take sleep medicine with your health care provider’s permission.
  14. Count sheep! Picturing a repeated image may bore you to sleep.

Services

Presentations

  • How to Do It Better in Bed
  • Never to Busy to Relax

Resources

General Health

Influenza

Meningitis

Mononucleosis ("Mono")

Sleep Disorders