Better sleep for college and high school students

Sleep problems for students in high school and college are surprisingly common, considering this age group generally does not face the same kinds of issues that come later with normal aging.  Fortunately there are a few simple guidelines that will generally help most young adults sleep better.

First, this age group faces the unique challenge of synchronizing a biological clock that often experiences a day that lasts much longer than 24 hours.   In fact, it’s common from about age 14 through 30 to experience more of a 28 to 30 hour day instead of a 24-hour day.  This means 11 p.m. may feel more like 7 or 8 p.m.  And 7 a.m. may feel more like 3 or 4 a.m.  Sure, those hours can make it tough to sleep! So resynchronizing your biological clock each day back to a 24-hour circadian rhythm is important.

Recalibrating to a 24-hour day is simple if you make a commitment to do this:  get up at the same time every day, consistently without fail, every day, as much as possible.  Use an alarm clock.  Get up and out of bed ASAP and expose yourself to bright light immediately, preferably indirect sunlight.  This gets your biological clock restarted in subtle but profound ways.  Do not allow yourself to sleep in on weekends or any other day.  Consistency is important.  Your sleep system thrives on this sort of regularity.

Second, set a consistent bed time.  We suggest for this age group to allow at least 8 even 9 hours to start, and see how you do. If you’re tossing and turning, cut that back a little by going to bed a little later (keep your wake-up time set) and see what happens. You’ll soon discover your best sleep timing.

Third, be sure to schedule some time for exercise every day.  Tire yourself out mentally and physically every day, and you’ll sleep better at night.

Fourth, try to avoid or at least minimize any caffeinated beverages or foods with caffeine (there are many, including chocolate) after lunch.

Fifth, allow yourself a relaxing wind-down period before bed.  This can be something like a relaxing bath, getting your clothes ready for morning, reading something enjoyable, just whatever you like doing and find relaxing so you can let stress go before bed.  Developing a consistent cool down routine every night helps prepare your mind and body for sleep.  Avoid any sort of stress during this wind-down time.

Think of it like this: your mind and body are like a finely-tuned machine designed to automatically get all the sleep you require. Then relax and let go the worry about sleep.

All of these ideas are part of cognitive behavioral therapy applied to insomnia.  For much more, including a comprehensive 6-week sleep training program, check out the Sleep Training System.

Good luck to all students.  Getting a good education is a great experience, a time to grow and learn and enjoy life.

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7 Comments on “Better sleep for college and high school students”


  1. […] luck.  School is an exciting time for growth and learning.  And by prioritizing a good sleep supportive lifestyle, you can help yourself be at your […]


  2. […] Try to get up at the same time every day, consistently, weekends included.  Do not try to “catch up” on lost sleep.  Consistency in your sleep schedule is important.  Use an alarm clock, then get up and out of bed ASAP and expose yourself to bright light immediately, preferably indirect sunlight.  This helps reset your natural circadian rhythm, which largely controls sleep.  Your sleep system thrives on this sort of regularity. […]


  3. […] Usually, and especially at your age, sleeping issues resolve on their own.  That’s what you can expect too.  To help recover your sleep, It’s important to lead a healthy sleep supportive lifestyle. […]


  4. […] help yourself sleep better, there’s a number of simple things you can do.  Having a consistent sleep-wake schedule as much as you can every day is one of the most […]


  5. […] are many other good sleep supportive lifestyle habits to cultivate as well.  Daily exercise, exposure to bright light early in the day, a relaxing […]


  6. […] counter the negative thoughts that largely perpetuate insomnia, and you also learn good positive lifestyle habits that support better […]


  7. […] sleep hygiene, such as a consistent sleep-wake schedule, daily exercise, avoidance of caffeine later in the day, […]


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