Most adults in America, and even more so college students, are not getting the right amount of sleep each night. A sleep guide released by the McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois, reports that only 40% of adults get the right amount of sleep each night. Only 11% of college students surveyed met the criteria for quality sleep.
Sleep doesn’t only affect how you feel during the day, insufficient sleep can lead to anxiety, cognitive difficulties, depression, health problems and weight gain. Researchers have found that adults under 40 who get less than 5 hours of sleep each night gain significant amounts of belly fat. To be healthy, happy and fully functioning, the typical college student requires 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
Academics, sports and social activities often take priority over sleep for college students. Whether it’s pulling an all-nighter to studying for an exam, or staying out late at a sorority party, most college students are not getting the sleep required to be healthy — mentally and physically.
How does lack of sleep cause weight gain?
When the body is deprived of sleep, production of the hormones that are related to appetite are altered. Leptin is a hormone that signals the brain that the body has had enough food. Ghrelin is a hormone that triggers hunger. Without adequate sleep, production of leptin decreases, which means you are less able to tell when you are full.. On the other hand, excess ghrelin is produced, triggering hunger.
Lack of sleep can also increase cravings for sweets and carbohydrates. When you are tired, your body craves carbs because carbs contain gluten, which fuels your brain.
Not getting enough sleep creates the perfect storm for weight gain: excessive hunger, decreased appetite satisfaction, and increased craving unhealthy foods.
Tips to help college students to get more sleep
If you are in college, it’s important that you form good habits that will in turn promote adequate, healthy sleep. Here are a few tips included in the sleep guide from University of Illinois:
- Develop a bedtime routine.
- Go to bed at the same time each night, even on weekends.
- Avoid worrying or thinking about the next day’s activities while in bed. If this is difficult for you, try journaling your thoughts, tasks or anxieties before you head to bed.
- Keep your bed for sleeping. Not eating, talking on the phone or studying.
- Keep your room dark and quiet. Use earplugs or a fan to create white noise if necessary.
- If you can’t fall asleep after lying in bed for 30 minutes, get up. Read, listen to music or sit quietly until you are able to fall asleep.
- Limit caffeine intake, especially in the evening.
- Exercise in the morning, not at night right before bed.
- Create a schedule to manage your time and stick to it.
- Avoid or limit naps during the day.
- Do not eat a large meal before going to bed.
- Be prepared for the next morning by laying out clothes, and getting books together.
Simply getting enough sleep could help college students avoid gaining the typical college weight gain.