Julia Haskins

Sufficient sleep is priceless, especially for busy students who tend to not get enough. Researchers consistently find that not getting enough sleep can majorly affect how students function.

For example, insufficient sleep negatively affects hormone regulation and other physiological processes, such as motor skills. Sleep deprivation is also linked to an increase in cortisol (the stress hormone), which can impact weight, mood, energy levels, immune function, and concentration.

Acute sleep deprivation is often associated with episodes of “microsleep,” or brief, uncontrollable periods of sleep lasting three to six seconds. “[They can] intrude upon wake at inopportune times, such as during [class],” says Dr. Michel Bornemann, a sleep medicine specialist and former co-director of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center in Minneapolis.

It can also be more serious—Dr. Bornemann points out that research shows driving after pulling an all-nighter is “very similar to the impairment experienced when driving while intoxicated with alcohol.”

How to help students get more sleep

  • Emphasize the essential role of sleep in physical and emotional well-being. Reiterate that sleep can help them in more ways than just feeling refreshed; their stress, concentration levels, immunity, and overall health will all improve.
  • Help your student find ways to prioritize getting sufficient sleep. If they can prioritize what needs to be done immediately and what can wait, they’ll likely get a bit more sleep. Keeping a journal by the bed to jot down worrisome thoughts can be a helpful tool.
  • Encourage your student to avoid driving and similar activities when drowsy. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy drivers are involved in 100,000 driving accidents per year.