Sleep Deprivation in College Students Is Serious. You Can Help.

Sleep Deprivation in College Students Is Serious. You Can Help.

If you’re one of the many parents about to pack their kids off to college, you might be harboring a few concerns. Having done it several times, I can relate to one of these concerns in particular: “Is my kid going to get enough sleep?” It’s a legitimate one: 

More than 50% of university students suffer from sleep deprivation and daytime sleepiness. Here are some eye-opening statistics from the article, “Sleeping in College: The Impossible Dream?” by Carolyn Burke for Sleep Advisor:

  • Studies show sleep loss can hurt academic performance just as much as binge-drinking or drug use.
  • A study from the University of Arizona found that nearly 25% of student-athletes reported excessive fatigue.
  • Nearly one-third of female students at Brown University suffered from insomnia.
  • University of Georgia students say sleep loss hurts their academic performance, causing lower grades, missing classwork or skipped classes.
  • According to Sleep Health Journal, first-year students are more likely to suffer bad grades due to poor sleep and are 14% more likely to drop a class for every day of missed sleep compared to other undergraduate students.
  • Sleep debt can cause memory problems, mood regulation issues and poor decision-making, according to the University of Pennsylvania’s Daily Pennsylvanian.
  • The Mayo Clinic reports that proteins called cytokines are produced less often when people are sleep deprived. Antibodies and cells that fight off infection are also produced in lower numbers. This means tired students are more likely to get sick!

While parents don’t have much control over when college students go to bed or rise, you can greatly improve the chances of your college kid getting a good night’s sleep by investing in good sleep equipment. Consider these six tips:

  1. Swap out the provided mattress for a new one. Not all colleges allow students to bring their own mattress, but if they do, it’s a great idea! Dorm mattresses typically are not very comfortable. Check with the housing office to confirm if the mattress size should be Twin XL (most are).
  2. Encase it. Mattress protectors, pads, and encasements will prolong the life of a new mattress and protect your student from what an old one can harbor — nasty bed bugs, mold and bacteria thrive on college campuses. If a new mattress is out of the question, choose an impermeable encasement that fully encloses the mattress to prevent bedbugs from entering through fabric.
  3. Top it. Particularly if you are using the dorm-provided mattress, add comfort with a foam pad or topper. These come in a range of thicknesses, levels of firmness and materials. Prices vary, depending upon materials and thickness, but again, comfort is worth the investment.
  4. Add a new pillow — or three. Students often want to take their favorite pillow from home — but just how old is that pillow? Sleep experts recommend pillows be replaced every year or two for two good reasons: Flattened pillows can exert strain on the neck, shoulders and back, and hair and body oils provide a breeding ground for bacteria and dust mites. Unless your student’s pillow is brand-new, this is a great time to replace it. And, since dorm beds do double-duty as sofas, buy a couple of large throw pillows for back support.
  5. Increase versatility and space. Since dorm rooms are often small, why not make your student’s college bed even more functional? Increase the under-bed storage area by using bed risers, which can elevate a bed eight or more inches — just don’t make it so high it can’t also be used as a sofa.
  6. Be sure the foam is certified. When choosing a new mattress, topper, pillow or upholstered chair, always make sure the foam inside is CertiPUR-US® certified. This is your assurance that the foam has been tested and analyzed by independent, accredited laboratories to be low VOC (less than 0.5 ppm for indoor air quality) and is made without Tris flame retardants, lead or heavy metals, phthalates regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and other chemicals of concern. Find participating companies at

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