Like most adults, the average college student needs at least 7 hours of sleep per night (source). However, while sleep is an essential part of every person’s daily life, not everybody can get a good quality of sleep regardless of the number of sleeping hours they get in a day. But does this explain why college students sleep so much?
College students sleep so much when they’re under mental stress, depression, physical exhaustion, fatigue, or emotional stress. Meanwhile, puberty, a disruption in the Circadian Rhythm, or withdrawal from caffeine abuse can also affect their sleeping habits.
College students have a lot on their plate. They have to juggle many things, such as school requirements, fun with friends, responsibilities at home, and sometimes even part-time jobs. In this article, I’ll discuss how these things can affect a college student’s sleeping habits.
6 Reasons Why College Students Sleep So Much
Most college students complain of not getting enough or having poor sleep quality at night. Because of this, several treatments and interventions, such as hypnotherapy for insomnia, have become available (source).
Inadequate sleep is a legitimate problem that needs an immediate and appropriate solution. However, oversleeping can also be a problem as it can be a symptom of an even bigger issue.
Let’s take a look at some of the causes of oversleeping.
1. Mental Stress and Depression
College is a fun period in many people’s lives where they transition from enjoying the freedom of childhood to taking on responsibilities that come with adulthood. Sometimes, however, this transition can take a toll on many college students’ mental health, making them spend much of their time sleeping.
Many students suffer from insomnia most of the school week due to the number of school tasks they have to finish, and they tend to feel sleepy and less energetic throughout the day. However, when they try to take naps during the day, the quality of sleep they get at night becomes worse.
Stress and sleep affect each other simultaneously.
Young adults who don’t get enough sleep tend to get stressed, but that stress makes it even more challenging to get a good, uninterrupted sleep at night. The cycle continues and makes the situation worse (source).
Extended periods of stress and lack of sleep can result in depression if not adequately addressed. Many young adults tend to overlook the symptoms or may be unaware of how to deal with the issue properly.
Before they know it, their stress has fallen to depression.
While most people with depression tend to sleep less, those suffering from atypical depression may oversleep because of sleep disruption during the night that prevents them from feeling well-rested. They end up staying in bed, trying to sleep longer.
Students who show signs of atypical depression often feel demotivated, like there’s no need to get up in the morning as nothing will go their way anyway. They sleep longer as a form of escape from things that they think would make their situation worse.
Oversleeping is only one of the manifestations of depression among young adults.
However, not all college students who oversleep suffer from the condition. Sometimes, they feel burned out from all the requirements they have to comply with at school or the social relationships they have to maintain.
2. Physical Exhaustion or Fatigue
College students generally have a lot of tasks at school.
Some even participate in social, academic, or sports clubs that take up plenty of their free time. In addition, doing part-time jobs could add some burden to their already hectic schedule.
These things contribute to the physical exhaustion or fatigue that young adults feel. As a result, they tend to sleep in until mid-day on weekends to make up for the lack of sleep they endured during the school week.
This pattern can be detrimental to a college student’s life as lack of sleep during weekdays and oversleeping on weekends can result in an abnormal body clock. They also experience daytime sleepiness, poor academic performance, and mood swings.
Even when they sleep for a long time on weekends, sleep disorders may prevent them from getting uninterrupted sleep, leaving them feeling deprived.
Therefore, sleeping in doesn’t really help solve the problem.
Ideally, young adults must get 7 – 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. However, the demands of social and academic life make this impossible. As a result, students become more likely to take naps during the day to compensate for the insufficient and poor quality of sleep they get at night.
Furthermore, there’s also an issue whether they suffer from acute sleep deprivation, such as staying up late for a few nights to study for an exam or chronic sleep deprivation that results from habitually staying up late at night and getting up early the next day (source).
Oversleeping due to fatigue may be difficult to address as students may feel that it’s a natural part of college life. They also feel like there’s no end to the tasks they have to comply with, considering that new projects come up one after another.
Every student has a different coping mechanism.
Those who feel like they’re not managing well must be encouraged to consult a school counselor for some tips to help them manage their schedule better.
3. Emotional Stress
Emotional stress could be one aspect or precursor of depression. Maintaining a balance between academic, personal, and social life can be stressful for any young adult.
While some people manage well, others may have difficulty doing so.
As every individual has their own struggles, it can be challenging to find a simple solution to the issue. Some unresolved issues or those that pile up over time can lead to depression, resulting in oversleeping as a form of avoidance.
Those who suffer from emotional stress may also show signs of physical exhaustion or fatigue. Sometimes, anxiety can prevent people from sleeping. However, emotional fatigue makes sleeping feel like a source of relief, causing some people to oversleep.
Oversleeping, however, is only temporary relief from emotional stress. It’s necessary to identify the root cause of the problem so that proper interventions can be employed to prevent the recurrence of the issue.
Puberty starts early for some teenagers but may last well into the freshman year of college for those who develop later due to genetic reasons. Either way, teens need plenty of sleep at night for growth hormones to work more efficiently.
How puberty affects a person’s sleeping habit is quite tricky.
On average, as puberty kicks in, adolescents’ sleeping time moves one to two hours later than usual. That’s to say, if they used to feel sleepy by 8 PM as kids, they wouldn’t feel as such until 9 – 10 PM when they hit adolescence.
However, they still need to wake up early for school on weekdays, reducing the actual number of sleep they get. Because of this, they feel sleepy during the day and tend to sleep in class. On weekends, they also sleep much longer.
As this pattern continues throughout their teenage years, it becomes more like a habit, leading to a chronic case of sleep loss and poor sleep cycles.
It can also result in earlier onset of sleep problems and depression (source).
Many adolescents bring this habit into adulthood. When they become college students, they may consider it normal to deprive themselves of sleep during the school week and catch up on some on the weekend.
As mentioned, in relation to depression and fatigue, this pattern can be detrimental as students will get a poor quality of sleep, and it’ll become a downward spiral.
Therefore, it’s necessary to practice a healthier sleeping habit as early as possible.
5. Disruption in the Circadian Rhythm
The Circadian rhythm, most commonly called the body clock, is a 24-hour cycle that determines the bodies’ behavioral and biological activities. Under normal conditions, people sleep and wake up at a fixed schedule every day for optimum health and performance.
Realistically speaking, however, several factors affect a person’s sleep-wake pattern, and most people tend to have a disrupted Circadian rhythm at one point or another. As discussed, poor time management and sleep deprivation can negatively affect the body clock.
Since the Circadian rhythm works on a 24-hour cycle, it’s crucial to have regular sleeping and waking time every day. College students who don’t get enough sleep on weeknights and sleep in on weekends suffer a lot from this disruption.
One health condition associated with an abnormal body clock and is common among young adults is the Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder, wherein affected individuals have difficulty sleeping early at night.
When they finally get some shuteye, they sleep in for too long and wake up past mid-day.
Oversleeping is one problem caused by this condition. However, Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders may lead to even worse situations that can affect a person’s life, career, and relationships.
For college students, suffering from such conditions can negatively affect their school life.
Academic performance can become poorer and social relationships may suffer because affected individuals may display negative behaviors, such as demotivation, laziness, foul mood, and tardiness. Other people may take these behaviors differently, leading to a conflict or misunderstanding (source).
Even if it seems pretty challenging, it’s possible to fix the Circadian rhythm by creating or changing some of your nighttime routines, such as the following:
- Sleep early: Ideally, you must sleep at the same time every night and wake up at around the same time every morning. The most important point is to get at least seven hours of sleep.
- Don’t eat or drink much up to three hours before bedtime. While digestion makes many people sleepy, sleeping on a full stomach may lead to other health problems. Drinking plenty of water before bed can also wake you up several times for a toilet break.
- Avoid caffeinated drinks at night. Caffeine keeps you awake at night. It’s also a diuretic that can interrupt your sleep for toilet breaks.
- Create an environment conducive to sleeping. Set a comfortable room temperature and turn off the lights. Shut the door or wear earplugs to block some noise if necessary.
- Reduce exposure to blue light from gadgets before bedtime. Using smartphones or watching TV before bed can delay your sleeping time.
- Keep the same sleep-wake schedule, even on weekends. It can help ensure that you maintain the pattern and your body clock can go back to normal more quickly.
6. Withdrawal From Caffeine Abuse
Many college students depend on coffee, soda, and energy drinks to pull an all-nighter for an exam. Some drink them out of habit. However, the consumption of too many caffeinated beverages can cause insomnia and other health problems.
Caffeine seems to be one of the most abused substances among college students.
Of course, many students know that too much is bad for their health, so they may try to quit drinking products that contain the substance. However, caffeine withdrawal can lead to headaches, drowsiness, depression, or tiredness.
Some people who quit drinking may suffer from insomnia.
On the other hand, some who feel depressed or severely fatigued tend to oversleep to cope with the changes in their body. Depending on how much caffeine an individual used to consume regularly, withdrawal symptoms usually last two to nine days.
Although it’s a good idea to quit drinking caffeinated drinks to stop being dependent on them, it may be counterproductive to do so all of a sudden. Consuming small doses of caffeine has been shown to positively affect behavioral health, such as happiness and sociability (source).
Many of the causes of oversleeping are interconnected, with one or more being a precursor of another. Therefore, it’s important to observe the signs and symptoms besides oversleeping before coming up with and employing an intervention.
College students suffering from any of the conditions above must not feel embarrassed to seek help if the situation seems to go beyond their control. On the other hand, family, peers, and school personnel must be observant and supportive to help address the issue accordingly.