If Your College-Age Kid is Struggling at School, Take a Look at Their Sleep

You did it.  Your 18-year-old graduated high school, got accepted to the school of choice and you’ve driven away from their dorm room, tears streaming down your face as you look in the rearview mirror.

So why in just a few months is your young adult struggling with their classes, fighting depression and a lack of energy?  It’s not just the rigors of college or the fact that they miss you.  It may very well be their sleep; or lack thereof.

social activities may affect your college student's sleep health and lead to sleep disorders 

Studies show that 27% of college students are at risk for at least one sleep disorder and of those, the majority saw poor academic performance.  This may be due to both biological and social factors for this group of adults.  59% of adults age 18-24 consider themselves night-owls.  50% of college students report daytime sleepiness and 70% report insufficient sleep. Many of these students are young enough to still be dealing with biological changes that directly affect their ability to fall asleep and wake up early (sometimes necessary to make those early morning classes).  Other factors include the social aspect of college; late night parties and gatherings, living in a noisy dorm room and trying to make up for lost sleep on the weekends (which actually makes the problem worse).  Studies have also shown that sleep disorders in college affect women more often than men.

sleep disorders like insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness can lead to depression in college students.

Some of the consequences of a sleep disorder like Excessive Daytime Sleepiness include poor grades due to lack of focus and missed classes, depression, drowsy driving, risk-taking behavior, impaired social relationships and overall poorer health. 

So what can you do as a parent to help your child succeed despite the challenges of the college environment?  Before sending them off to college, monitor their sleep patterns.  If you know they are going to bed with their phone in their hands or TV on, work with them now on putting their phones away, setting a timer on their TV or adjusting the blue light on their electronics with apps designed to do just that.  This kind of good sleep hygiene is important now and once they live in a dorm room.  Try to choose a class schedule that accommodates later start times.  Even though you may not be able to make decisions regarding their social lives once they get to college, you can give them some tools to limit the effects of those late nights or super busy days.

If you notice the signs of poor or inadequate sleep now, get them in to a sleep specialist who can provide professional advice and tools for your student to succeed.