For parents and college women
Healthy Sleep Tips for College Students (Tips for Parents)
By: Maria Pascucci, Founder & President, Campus Calm®
According to the American College Health Association, stress and sleep difficulties are the top two life issues that students say affect their studies. We need to lead by example to show young people that sleep deprivation is not a prerequisite for success. We also need to realize that there is no band-aid approach to the problem; we simply cannot order students to shut off Facebook, get their butts in bed and be done with it.
During Q&A following my keynote presentation with parents at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, one parent asked the following question: "What can I do to help my daughter get enough sleep when she's too stressed out to fall or stay asleep?"
Here are my suggestions* to help college students and young professionals develop good sleep habits:
1. Send your stressed out student a sleep care package. As someone who has experienced and survived my own fair share of stress induced sleep difficulties in college and in my twenties, here are my top healthy sleep picks:
- AM/PM Yoga. Whenever I'm feeling really stressed out, I pop in this DVD. The 25-minute PM segment really helps me calm my body and mind down so I can fall asleep more easily.
- Daily Dose of Dharma. This double-disc DVD set features three Yoga segments and three meditation segments that really do a great job of helping you calm down when you have trouble sleeping. Insomnia is a stress trigger for me; I find that regular meditation is my best defense to ward off both stress and sleep difficulties.
- Healthjourneys Healthful Sleep. This 60-minute audio CD features, says the website, "images that are evocative enough to successfully compete with all the internal brain chatter that keeps us up." I once listened to this CD on my headset on an overnight flight from California to New York and found it very helpful.
- Healthjourneys Meditation to Relieve Stress, a 72-minute CD. I especially enjoy the walking meditation segment when I'm feeling stressed out and need to quiet my overactive mind after I'm finished working.
- Say Good Night To Insomnia. This book is excellent for chronic insomniacs. Gregg Jacobs, a professor at Harvard Medical School and founder of the Behavioral Medicine Insomnia Program, promotes a drug-free program of healthy sleep patterns based on biofeedback, relaxation, positive thinking and good sleep habits.
- Sleep mask. A good sleep mask blocks early morning sun light, which can cause students to wake up before they're well-rested, especially if they stay up late at night. Note to students: Don't wear a sleep mask if you have an early morning class, unless you have your alarm set!
- Ear plugs. Loud roommates, snoring roommates, music blaring at midnight three dorm rooms over, you get the picture….
- Room darkening window shade. Search online for "blackout blinds." Your student will thank you!
- Nature CD. You can pick one of these up at a local health store, and even your neighborhood grocery store if they have a healthy living section. My husband and I now sleep to the sound of waves pooling in and out with the tide, or birds chirping with flutes whistling melodies in the background. Quirky yes, but it gives your mind something to focus on to quiet mental chatter.
- Chamomile, lavender, passionflower or other calming herbal teas. My favorite brand is Traditional Medicinals; please make sure you read the label to ensure the tea is caffeine free. Note to students: Drink herbal tea as part of your evening ritual, but don't drink it too close to bed, otherwise, you'll be up half the night—well—peeing. Been there, done that! :-D
- A fan. If it's hot in their bedroom, your student may have trouble sleeping. The hum of the fan also helps some people fall asleep.
- Three Steps to Time Management for the College Student. This workbook is written by Beverly Coggins, Campus Calm's Time Management Expert. "Sleep should be the first thing blocked off on a student's schedule," say Coggins. Good time management is key to keeping procrastination at bay, which will ward off stress!
- My book Campus Calm University. College students write to tell me that they read a chapter in my book when they can't sleep and it helps them relieve stress, which helps them go to sleep.
*Note: I personally own every product I've recommended above, and am not receiving any financial gain for endorsing them (except for my own book). It's also imperative to note that I'm not a medical doctor, so please consult your doctor or healthcare practitioner if you have any questions on individual usage.
2. Encourage your college students to wind down at least one hour before bedtime. Turn off the computer, close the textbooks and dim the lights. Watch something uplifting on television, read a book for pleasure, write in a gratitude journal, or do a Yoga or meditation DVD (see above for my top picks). Our brains need time to relax, doing homework until five minutes before we go to bed is no way to ensure a good night's sleep. Which brings me to my next point…
3. If your stressed-out students say that they don't have time to wind down before bed because they're up late every night doing homework, that it's time to take a look at their schedules. It's a mark of personal leadership development to admit that we're human, and need rest to function at full capacity. Perhaps it’s time to drop an extracurricular activity, or an hour at work if they're feeling too overextended to sleep. (Also refer to the time management tip above).
4. Although I cannot speak for young men, I know from personal experience that stress can wreak havoc on young women's hormones, which in turn, can cause insomnia. If your daughter is suffering from chronic insomnia, it may be a good idea to visit your doctor or a trusted healthcare practitioner. Something may be off with your daughter's thyroid, hormones, or she may be experiencing adrenal exhaustion from stress. I personally chose to visit a credentialed naturopathic doctor who helped me straighten out my hormones, which helped to alleviate my insomnia. Remember that you have choices when it comes to preventative care.
5. If your college student is having trouble sleeping due to stress, encourage her to seek help by visiting her school's on-campus counseling center. I sought counseling as a stressed-out college student. I know from experience that a trained professional can teach your student stress-reducing techniques to combat sleep difficulties.
6. Lastly, consider modeling positive solutions for your college student or young professional. Make a pact to help each other adopt healthy sleep habits. Be each other's accountability partners! Show your kids that you're not perfect, that you struggle too, and that it takes courage to make positive changes to prioritize self-care. For all you moms and dads out there up way best your bedtimes, we want you to get a good night's sleep too!
Do you resonate with Maria's story? If so, you're the person Maria's speaking to in her book Campus Calm University. It's designed to empower you to give up the exhausting pursuit of perfection (whether it's grades or body), and instead embrace the real steps to success, health, happiness and leadership. Chapters teach you how to be a lifelong learner, infuse your career search with some PG passion, love yourself, embrace risk, focus inward and surround yourself with a network of positive people who can help you reach your goals. And much more too!