To all the college students out there - are you feeling exhausted, distracted, drowsy, or moody? Maybe all of it at once? There's a cure for that. And it's easier and healthier than Adderall or coffee, since it only requires one thing: your bed.
Yes, I'm talking about a nap. A short, simple 20-minute resting period that allows your brain and body to take a break from memorizing study guides, staring at your computer screen and stressing about all the assignments due tomorrow. College students are prone to think of sleep as a waste of time, something negligible, way down at the end of our list of priorities. We shouldn't.
That doesn't mean we have to get full eight hours of sleep every night, even though that is highly recommended by experts - and everyone who ever experienced how well-rested you are after a long night under the covers, snuggled up in a warm, comfortable blanket. But let's be honest. When was the last time a college student was able to get a full eight hours of sleep every night? As a student myself, I know how unrealistic that is, especially during finals week, when we actually need it the most. Eight hours is often simply out of reach, thanks to the countless books, readings, essays and presentations assigned every week that have become the dictators of our daily routine. Most students don't even have the time to prepare their own meals, so where and how should we get those extra hours of sleep?
"Naps are too often reserved for children. In fact, a 20-minute power nap benefits people of all ages."
But a short night with only five to six hours of sleep doesn't mean we have to be sleep-deprived zombies, wandering through campus with our eyes barely open and our attention span shortened. And we don't need to stand in line for a life-saving cup of coffee for 20 minutes. It sure doesn't mean we need to take a pill to get our focus back. There's an easier way to get through the day; a way that will actually help you stay focused and attentive without any harmful side-effects: a nap.
Naps are too often reserved for children. In fact, a 20-minute power nap benefits people of all ages. It's the easiest and quickest way to improve focus and performance. A NASA study found that a 26-minute nap can already improve your performance by up to 34% and you alertness by up to 54%. And in case you have some extra time: NASA also found out that 40-minute naps can increase your attentiveness by up to 100%. While 20 minutes might seem short, it's actually far superior to sleeping for a whole hour because you won't enter a deep sleep phase and wake up groggy. Why struggle over that conclusion paragraph when you could take a short nap and come back to your paper refreshed?
So next time you're in desperate need of a caffeine fix, just lay down for twenty minutes. You'll gain attentiveness, focus, and a rendezvous with your new best friend: your bed.
This post is part of our series on sleep culture on college campuses. To join the conversation and share your own story, please email our Director of College Outreach Abby Williams directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can find out here if the #SleepRevolution College Tour will be visiting your campus, and learn how you can get involved. If your college is not one of the colleges already on our tour and you want it to be, please get in touch with Abby.