For many, late nights and college life go hand in hand. Stroll onto a college campus at midnight, and you’ll probably find students having coffee-fueled conversations with friends, cramming before a major test, or working on research papers that are due at 8 AM the next day.

But these late-night habits aren’t a phenomenon found exclusively among “traditional” college student populations. Those students who juggle coursework along with full-time jobs or family concerns will need to fit in study time whenever they can—which can often mean long hours hitting the books, sitting in the classroom, or focusing on the computer after those responsibilities are fulfilled for the day.

Granted, certain demands on our time cannot always be delayed or avoided, and the occasional “all nighter” will not be detrimental to your overall well being. However, maintaining the energy and focus necessary for a busy lifestyle that includes school, work, family, and other responsibilities requires adequate sleep and rest. In their book Your Guide to College Success: Strategies for Achieving Your Goals, Seventh Edition, Jane S. Halonen and John W. Santrock share a few suggestions that students

  • Wake up and go to bed at regular times every day. This helps your body establish a regular sleeping pattern.
  • Create a quiet, cool, and comfortable environment for rest. Minimizing distractions and discomforts such as bright lights, loud noise, or stuffy air can make it easier for you to fall asleep.
  • Keep your pre-bedtime routine as stress-free as possible. Do read or listen to something that puts you in a mellow mood; don’t  attempt to tackle a difficult homework assignment or begin a conversation about a thorny issue.
  • Avoid naps. But if you must nap, get one in before 3 PM, and keep it shorter than one hour. Any later, or longer, and you run the risk of interrupting or disturbing your regular night’s rest.
  • Be sure you incorporate exercise into your daily routine (but don’t work out right before bed—strenuous activity can make it more difficult to doze off).
  • Practice good time-management techniques. If you keep on top of your schedule and your responsibilities, you’re less likely to stay awake in bed, wondering how you’re going to get everything done.
  • Don’t rely on sleep medications to get you through every night. If, after trying some of these tips, you are still unable to get a good night’s rest on a regular basis, visit your health-care provider. (Halonen and Santrock, 370)

Reference: Halonen, Jane S. and Santrock, John W. 2013. Your Guide to College Success: Strategies for Achieving Your Goals, 7th ed. Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Instructors: How do you inspire students to make the most of their time in college? Share them in the comments.