Counseling Corner: Getting Good Sleep

We’re half-way through the semester!

Wellness Wednesday (6:30 to 7:30 pm on Zoom and in Egan 211) has covered How Sleep Helps Our Bodies and Why it is the First Thing We Give Up, which included understanding the stages of sleep, how sleep deprivation affects a person, recommendations for a sleep hygiene routine, and the challenges college students face in getting good sleep.

According to the Eric Suni with the Sleep Foundation (2022), the four stages of sleep relate to what a person’s body and brain does during sleep. During these stages, the body releases chemicals and hormones that affect healing and recuperation of the body, memory formation and consolidation, and effective thinking. 

Stage 1 (lasts 1 to 5 minutes) and Stage 2 (lasts between 10 and 60 minutes) are the stages where brain and body activity slows. Muscles relax and a person can be easily awoken during these stages. Stage 3 lasts between 20 and 40 minutes and is a deeper stage of sleep with continued relaxation. Finally, Stage 4 or rapid eye movement (REM) lasts between 10 and 60 minutes. In this stage, brain activity increases and the muscles become tense, with the exception of breathing and the eye. Intense dreaming can occur at this stage and REM is considered one of the most important stages of sleep for brain development. A person will repeat these four stages, or sleep cycles, throughout their sleep time. 

College can be a challenging time for students to get good sleep. The effects of sleep deprivation include: daytime sleepiness and fatigue, irritability and short temper, mood changes, trouble coping with stress, difficulty focusing, concentrating, and remembering as well as brain fog (Harvard Summer School Blog, 2022). 

Many college students believe that reducing sleep can be the best way to get everything done or cram for an upcoming exam. 

They may compensate for sleep deprivation with increased caffeine usage. Because sleep is connected to memory formation, a student is more likely to perform better if they have gotten adequate sleep.

Sleep hygiene, or the routine a person has for winding down in the evening, is an important process for improving the quality of sleep. Strong sleep hygiene means having both a bedroom environment and daily routines that promote consistent, uninterrupted sleep. Keeping a stable sleep schedule, making your bedroom comfortable and free of disruptions, following a relaxing pre-bed routine, and building healthy habits during the day can all contribute to ideal sleep hygiene. Other recommendations include (Harvard Summer School, 2022):

•Limit caffeine in close proximity to bed time. College students should also avoid alcohol intake, which disrupts quality sleep.

•Avoid electronic screens (phone, laptop, tablet, desktop) within an hour of bedtime. 

•Engage in daily physical exercise, but avoid intense exercise within two hours of bedtime.

•Establish a sleep schedule. Be as consistent as possible in your bedtime and rise time, and get exposure to morning sunlight.

•Establish a “wind-down” routine prior to bedtime.

•Limit use of bed for daily activities other than sleep (e.g., TV, work, eating)

You can join Wellness Wednesdays from 6:30 to 7:30 pm to learn more about topics such as managing depression and relationship skills. You can also participate in Drop-in Counseling or make an appointment by contacting the Counseling Office at 907-796-6000 or e-mailing 

Drop-in sessions are also available on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays this fall semester.

Take good care,

Carrie Kline

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