Sleep Hygiene and GPA: More Connected Than You Think


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Jessa Stevens

Getting enough sleep can be difficult for everyone, but it can be particularly hard for college students. The average college student gets around six hours of sleep a night. While each person is different, most adults need between seven and eight hours of sleep a night to function at their best. 

When you are feeling stretched thin between work, classes, homework, family, and friends, it’s easy not to prioritize getting enough sleep. Even if you have time, sometimes it’s difficult to get high-quality sleep. 

Why does sleep matter? According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the short term effects of not getting enough sleep include irritability, lack of motivation, anxiety, fatigue, attention deficits, longer reaction times, distractibility, lack of energy, restlessness, lack of coordination, impaired judgment, increased errors, and forgetfulness.

Additionally, the amount of sleep you get in the days and weeks before an exam can affect your grades. Sleep deprivation is cumulative. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, studies have shown that after two weeks of sleeping less than six hours a night, students performed as poorly and felt as bad as students who hadn’t slept in 48 hours. 

College students that report pulling all-nighters are more likely to have lower GPAs. The best thing to do before a big test is to study in the days leading up to it and get a good night’s sleep beforehand. Pulling an all-nighter is hard on your body and can impact your grades.  

According to the National Sleep Foundation and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, there are things you can do to help you sleep:


  • Go to bed and wake up at a consistent time.
  • If you can’t sleep within 20 minutes of going to bed, get up and do something relaxing to wind down.
  • Reserve your bed for sleeping. This means not studying, watching tv, or looking at your phone in bed. This can help train your body to know that when you go to bed, it’s time to sleep.
  • Address things that are keeping you from sleep. If you have noisy roommates, wear earplugs or use a sound machine.
  • Keep your bedroom at a comfortable, cool temperature.
  • Limit napping. Taking naps throughout the day can make it harder to fall asleep at night. If you do nap, limit it to less than an hour, and do it before 3PM.
  • Wake up at the same time on weekends as you do on weekdays.
  • Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening.
  • Get regular exercise, but not right before bed.
  • Use light to train your internal clock. Dim the lights in the evening, and in the morning, let the light in.
  • Take time to wind down and relax for 30 minutes before bed. Put away cell phones and focus on clearing your mind.
  • Avoid alcohol and large meals before bed.


Something else that you can do to improve your sleep hygiene is to turn off your phone. Looking at a screen before bed affects the hormone levels in your body and can throw off your sleep cycle, known as your circadian rhythm. By practicing good sleep hygiene, you can improve the quality of your sleep and your health. 

If you don’t sleep well for one night, you may experience short term effects, like fatigue. But a chronic lack of sleep has been shown to have long-term negative effects on your health, such as elevated blood pressure and heart disease. 

Rod Rambo has worked as a Registered Sleep Tech in Decatur for over 30 years. According to Rambo, everybody sleeps, but millions of people don’t sleep well. 

He reports that there’s been an uptick of young people developing sleep disorders. If you have been practicing good sleep hygiene methods for a month and you’re still not feeling rested, it may be time to speak with your doctor. 

There are tests that can be done to see if you have a sleep disorder. The DMH Sleep Clinic offers a free home sleep test you can use if you’re using healthy sleep habits but still not feeling rested. For more information, contact the DMH Sleep Clinic at 876-3602. 

With your health and academic success at risk, you can’t afford to not prioritize your sleep. Next time you are looking at your calendar and planning out your day, make sure you plan your night, too. Prioritize seven to eight hours of quality sleep a night and set yourself up for success.