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How Much Sleep Do College Students Need?

The duration of a college student sleeps is among the strongest determinants of success. In addition to assisting learners to fix and/or consolidate memories, sleeping is also handy at preventing the deterioration of their memories.

When it comes to academic performance, sleep duration is equally important just like sleep quality and consistency.

Doctors recommend that students maintain constant sleep and wake times throughout to avoid distressing the circadian rhythm that controls wakefulness.

A consistent pattern is magical in ensuring the brain processes and cements new information thus potentially translating to better performance and higher grades.

Before looking at how much sleep do college students need, it is imperative that we first have a clue on the three types of sleepers based on their sleep duration:

Types of Sleepers Based on Sleep Length

how many hours we sleep

Source: Terry Cralle, RN

The following are the three main types of sleepers based on sleep duration:

  • Short sleepers
  • Average sleepers
  • Long sleepers

Short sleepers

Short sleepers are college students that if permitted to come up with their own sleeping schedule, would sleep six or fewer hours. A major highlight of short sleepers is that they are psychologically healthy, energetic and ambitious.

Compared to long sleepers, short sleepers are less creative, more neurotic, more psychologically maladjusted and more susceptible to hallucination.

Of course, psychological maladjustment, neuroticism, and anxiety are all linked to below-par academic performance. They reduce learner’s concentration and attention ability. Moreover, these characteristics increase errors related to task-performance.

In comparison to average and long sleepers, short sleepers report lower educational performance and GPAs.

Average sleepers

Average sleepers are those that spend 7 – 8 hours on their sleep. In comparison to short sleepers, average sleepers have a better concentration and attention span.

They can remain focused on activities touching on education. Self-efficacy, which is an attribute linked to educational prowess, is their major plus.

How Much Sleep Do College Students Need short

Source: Terry Cralle, RN

Long sleepers

Long sleepers are individuals that spend 9 hours and above out of the available 24 hours. Long sleepers are often depressed, worried, self-critical and nervous.

The best highlight about these types of sleepers is the fact that while they spend more of their time sleeping, their level of functioning is higher compared to the rest.

Longer sleepers enjoy higher GPAs compared to short sleepers.

Having known the different types of sleepers and their attributes, let us now delve deeper into the topic:

How Much Sleep Do College Students Need?

There is no substance answer as to the number of hours college students need to sleep. The rule of thumb is that it differs from one learner to another. However, ideally, it should be 7 – 9 hours of regular, and uninterrupted sleep.

Unfortunately, the life of a student is quite unpredictable. One day a student can sleep 4 hours during the day and 3 hours during the night. The next day the opposite takes place. During weekends, things take a different turn. The consequence of this is unbalanced sleep patterns. These are dangerous especially to college students.

Some of the questions that can point to the effects of an irregular snoozing pattern include:

  • How long do you take to fall asleep once you hit the sheets? – Falling asleep even before laying your head on the pillow is an indication that you’re not getting adequate sleep. On the flip side, if you take more than one hour to sleep, you might be trying too much (perhaps you are oversleeping).
  • Are you always waking up at night, out of the blue? – Although different sleep conditions can disturb your sleep, too much sleeping is a major factor in sleep continuity.
  • Do you always wake up before the alarm rings? – If yes, your brain is trying to notify you that the amount of sleep you have had is enough. Even if you opt to go back to bed, sleeping won’t be that beneficial at this point.
  • How do you feel during the day? – How we feel during the day is a prime indication of how our night was in terms of sleep. Feeling sleepy? Fatigued? Groggy? All these are highlighters of inadequate sleep. If you feel energetic and full of life to handle all your classwork, then chances are high you had enough sleep.

Sleeping students and diligent pupil in a school classroom

Effects of Optimum Sleep to Students

Sleeping the recommended hours has the following benefits to college students:

Good Memory

Sleep plays a huge role in memory consolidation. There is no doubt about that. Synaptic connections that are active when one is awake, tend to get stronger during sleep. What this does is the fact that it facilitates memory consolidation. In addition to this, inactive synaptic connections are weakened.

Therefore, for students to enjoy good memory, they need to ensure they have ample sleep. Because of the role sleep plays in memory consolidation, it allows students to recall whatever they studied in class.

Good Grades

Many students admit that lack of adequate sleep negatively affects their performance in these ways:

  • Class withdrawal
  • Missing project or paper deadlines
  • Poor grades
Many college students depend on studying throughout the night and/or cramming when exams are due. This can be highly counterproductive. When you are sleep deprived, you decrease the qualities you require to perform incredibly well on tests like alertness, concentration, and recall. Lack of adequate sleep is a recipe for lower GPAs.

Effects of Inadequate Sleep to Students

Poor Cognition and Attention

Inadequate sleep results in poor cognition, concentration, and attention in learners. Sleep deprivation is not only a notorious contributor to fatigue.

On top of that, it deteriorates cognitive functioning. Just to show you how serious this is, do you know that if you are awake for roughly 17 hours nonstop, your cognitive performance is similar to that of a person with a 0.05% blood alcohol concentration? Now you know!

Students who are persistent poor sleepers tend to experience more daytime challenges in terms of sleepiness, poor cognition, and fatigue than those that enjoy adequate sleep.

Poor Mental Health

Sleep deprivation can take a toll on a student’s mental and psychological health. Lack of enough sleep can play a role in making college students suffer from anxiety and depression.

How Much Sleep Do College Students Need Poor Mental Health

Source: Terry Cralle, RN

Sleep plays the restorative function of ‘recharging’ the brain daily just like it is necessary to recharge our phones after a day’s use. By maintaining a consistent sleep-wake cycle, we enable the body’s natural rhythm to reset hence optimizing the functioning of the brain.

Progressive poor sleep quality is a major risk factor in the development of depressive disorder. As the insomnia severity increases, the risk of feeling anxious and/or depression increases which can be detrimental to the life of a college student.

Mental health professionals assess if you are grappling with the mental issue by looking at symptoms such as:

  • Frequent bouts of fatigue, always desiring to nap or sleep
  • Oversleeping or ”escape sleeping”
  • Feeling tired or burdened to handle daily class assignments
  • Repetitive behaviors and patterns of anxiety-provoking thoughts
  • Shortness of breath particularly when trying to remain or fall sleep

Establishing a regular sleeping schedule and the sleep-wake cycle is one of the things that you need to do to improve the quality of your sleep.

Secondly, ensure that the temperature, light, and noise in your bedroom are sleep-friendly.

Finally, yet importantly, limit your intake of stimulants such as alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine close to bedtime.

Read More:

Effects of Too Much Sleep to Students

Excessive sleeping can be as a result of different sleep conditions such as:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Medications
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol
  • Seasonal affective disorder

More: How Does Alcohol Affect Sleep?

Too much sleep can affect college students in the following ways:



Spending longer periods in bed than necessary is linked to more regular awakenings and less restful sleep generally. Daytime fatigue brings with it negative consequences in different elements of a student’s life including:

  • Increasing the risk of accidents
  • Impairing cognitive abilities
  • Altering your moods

Lack of energy, weariness, and tiredness are all subjective symptoms of fatigue. Avoid fatigue related to sleep, you should get ample sleep in terms of quality and quantity. Try and do the following:

  1. Maintain consistency when it comes to when you get into bed and wake up
  2. The bed should be used for sleeping only
  3. Light reading should help you wind down for sleep


Depression and sleep disturbances go hand in hand. Although this is the case, oversleeping, according to this study, negatively impacts the recovery process.

Generally, people that sleep for more than 10 hours daily score lowly when it on measures of mood and mental health compared to those that sleep normally. To mitigate depression symptoms, you need to establish healthy sleepy patterns such as avoiding to oversleep.

Read More: Is There A Link Between Insomnia and Depression?


Too much sleeping triggers migraines and headaches. Experts believe that the phenomenon that goes by the name ”weekend headaches” is informed by disruptions in key levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin. Similarly, too much napping that results in obtaining a healthy night’s sleep is associated with morning headaches.

Some of the medical issues related to oversleeping include:

  • Back pain
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease

Read More: The Best Sleeping Positions for Lower Back Pain

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