I’ll be the first to admit that, as a college student, sleep isn’t always my number one priority. With late night studying, going out with friends, and reruns of Friends being on all night, it’s hard to go to bed at a decent hour. Some people say when it comes to college, time only permits two-out-of-three activities: sleep, study or social life. In most cases, sleep takes the back burner. What we don’t realize is how detrimental sleep deprivation is to our health.

College students are among some of the most sleep-deprived people in the country. Sleep deprivation can negatively impact normal day-to-day things such as concentrating in class, driving, or even carrying on conversations. It has also been linked to psychological issues such as depression and mood swings, and can lead to long-term sleep issues like insomnia.

For some of us, stress-related factors play a large role in our sleep deprivation. Some us of spend all day in class or at our internships, and the only time to study or see friends is late at night. Then, after staying up all night, it’s time for class again in the morning. It’s difficult to juggle these things, leaving less time for the mandatory sleep needed for optimal performance.

And we can’t ignore how alcohol affects our sleep. When alcohol is in your system, your body is fighting to get it out, like a toxin. Normally (sober), your body spends at least 90 minutes at a time in an REM sleep cycle (a.k.a. deep sleep), leaving you feeling well rested the next day. However, when you’re drunk, your body is fighting so hard to get the alcohol out of your body that it only spends about 10 minutes in an REM cycle leaving you feeling exhausted the next day. Not to mention, most college students stay up until the wee hours of the morning drinking. No bueno for a good night’s rest.

Whether it’s studying, partying, or staying up late to watch TV, it is extremely important that we do not push our body to extremes when it comes to sleep. I know it’s difficult to manage school, internships, friends and everything else without giving up sleep, but try setting a specific bedtime for yourself so that you’re getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night. It may mean having to give up some of your social life (or that episode of Real Housewives), but ultimately, getting a good night’s rest will make all other aspects of your life seem easier because you can actually focus and stay awake. Besides, who likes feeling like a zombie all the time? Not me.

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