Students encouraged to prioritize good sleep amidst excitement of school

Published 4:03 pm Thursday, September 7, 2023

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The fall semester is in full swing at high schools and colleges throughout the region, with students focusing their attention on classes, assignments, work and activities with friends and organizations. But in all the excitement and busyness, there might be one important thing to which students give short shrift: a good night’s sleep.
The high school and college years can be a time when teens and young adults develop poor sleep habits which sometimes continue for years to come.
“The excitement around getting the most out of the school experience often leads to higher engagement in social activities, as well as ‘all-nighters’ to complete assignments or prep for exams,” said Dr. Alison Davis, director of the Counseling Center at East Tennessee State University. Inconsistency in daily routines, she added, such as different class times on Mondays-Wednesdays-Fridays than on Tuesdays-Thursdays for college students, can disrupt sleep patterns if students do not go to bed and wake up on a set schedule.
“Poor time management, stress and mental health concerns also influence the ability to obtain sufficient amounts of sleep,” Davis said.
Sleep deprivation, both short- and long-term, can have serious detrimental effects on students’ health, safety and well-being.
“Interestingly, extreme fatigue has been compared to alcohol intoxication in its effects, such as poorer reflexes and higher risk of accident and injury,” Davis said. “Poor or limited sleep can also increase risk of depression and contribute to higher levels of stress.”
Halie Darby, assistant director of student wellness with ETSU’s Basler Center for Physical Activity, added that sleep deficiency is linked to the development of various chronic diseases, elevated blood pressure, hormone imbalances and cognitive issues.
“In the short term, a student may lack the focus needed to study, pass a test or perform responsibilities well,” Darby said. “Long-term, these challenges may impact their ability to continue pursuing such commitments as school, work or sports.”
A good night’s sleep, however, can result in improved mood, lower stress, better concentration, and greater physical health, including optimal heart function and immune responses and better recovery after exercise sessions.
Davis and Darby offer students numerous tips for getting a good night’s sleep.
“Limit the time you spend in bed that isn’t connected with sleep,” Davis suggested. “Do homework and other activities in a different location so that you link your bed with rest.
“Limit time on your phone and other electronics for at least an hour before going to bed. Make sure your bed and room are as comfortable as possible. You may need to adjust the temperature and lighting, as well as noise – some people may need a light, soothing sound to sleep while others may need to block sound. And have a nightly bedtime ritual that allows your brain and body to prep for sleep, such as brushing your teeth, washing your face, showering and reading.”
Tracking sleep can also motivate students to improve their sleep hygiene, Darby said.
“Maintaining a written journal or using sleep-tracking apps or settings on smartphones and fitness watches can help assess sleep and encourage individuals to take steps to meet their sleep goals,” she said.
Darby stressed that education regarding sleep hygiene can lead to improvement in both sleep quality and quantity.
The ETSU Counseling Center offers several tips and resources on good sleep on its website at More information is also available on the websites of the National Sleep Foundation ( and the National Institutes of Health (
“Individuals experiencing prolonged sleep deficiency are encouraged to discuss their sleep challenges with a counselor or physician, as these professionals can provide guidance and potential interventions to improve sleep,” Darby said. “The University Health Center is a great resource for any medical needs while on campus

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