Whether you’re a college student, professor or just simply a human being, sleep is an essential part of life. In order to learn more about sleep debt, I talked to Justin Geijer of the HERS department, and Kate Noelke, the Director of Integrated Wellness.

Getting 7-9 hours of sleep as a young adult each night is extremely important, but as a college student, school and work can complicate reaching the recommended sleep time.

What is sleep deficiency? 

“Sleep debt refers to a time-measurement of sleep deficiency that is not easily remedied,” Noelke explains. Sleep deficiency can result from one single night of sleep or multiple nights of missed sleep.

Geijer explains that “sleep deprivation can have deleterious impacts on cognition, immune functions, stress levels and hormonal balance.” As a college student, this can hinder our academic performance.

All-nighters: yea or nay?

When someone ‘pulls an all-nighter,’ it can be compared to feeling legally drunk, said Noelke. “if you have the choice between one extra hour of sleep or one extra hour of cramming for a test, choose sleep,” Noelke insisted.

“24 hours without sleep has been shown to reduce total brain activity by as much as 6%.” Geijer added. When you lose brain activity, your learning and study habits, quiz/test performance, and even social interactions are reduced significantly.

Playing Catch Up

It’s obvious to see sleep is important, but it’s harder to put into practice. As busy college students, it’s natural to fall behind on sleep here and there, and a nap can seem like the perfect way to catch up. However, Geijer and Noelke agree that research shows one long nap isn’t going to help catch up on sleep. The process of catching up on sleep is gradual, and a daily practice.

Getting into a sleep schedule and sticking to routine is the most important. Adding an extra hour of sleep each night over a few nights is a more effective way to catch up on sleep if you find yourself feeling sleep deprived.

Sam’s Tips For Sleep

  • Nap only for 30 minutes or less each day – I know, it’s tempting to sleep for longer
  • Keep your bed for sleeping only. Do not study, read, or watch TV in your bed (not even Netflix!)
  • Avoid stimulants such caffeine or nicotine
  • Exercise during the day
  • Put your electronics away before bed

Assessing Your Sleep

For more personalized tips on how to maximize sleep benefits, take a sleep assessment online. It’s a confidential and anonymous, and absolutely free. It only takes 30-45 minutes to fill out. After you have filled it out, it will give you tailored answers on how to improve your sleep.

We spend a good portion of our days asleep and clearly it is an important activity. As college students, we don’t need to add more stress to our plates. Studying and social lives are important, but getting a good night’s sleep should be toward the top of the to-do list.


If you continue to have issues sleeping, you can make an appointment with WSU Health, Counseling & Wellness Services. To make an appointment, call 507.457.5160






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Samantha Schierman

Samantha is graduated in 2017 with a BA in English Writing and minor in Mass Communications. She is from Chaska, MN and enjoys reading, writing, dancing and listening to music in her free time.

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