Let’s Talk About…

Sleep Deprivation

Let’s Talk About…

Sleep Deprivation

Countless times I have been told “Get a good night’s sleep, you will feel better tomorrow!”. But why is sleep so important?

Considering that the average person spends about 26 years sleeping, and 7 years trying to get to sleep, we definitely spend a lot of time in bed. I am 26 years old and, to be honest, thinking that in the span of a lifetime I will spend the years that I have lived so far, sleeping, makes me think about the importance of the famous good night sleep. However, before diving into what makes sleep good (which is kind of a challenging matter), let’s try to understand what makes sleep bad.

Sleep problems are multiple, and while some of them are true medical conditions, and others are the consequence of other disorders (i.e., obesity), they all reduce the quality of sleep and/or impede from getting a restful sleep.
Sleep disturbances signs and symptoms include, but are not limited to:
Having trouble sleeping and falling asleep.
Having nightmares.
Daytime sleepiness, even though you slept for at least seven hours the night before.
Reduced or impaired ability to perform regular daytime activities.

Conversely to what one might think, sleep problems and disturbances are not bound to a specific age group, as they can occur at any point in life, though they tend to be often (and wrongly) associated only with aging and older age. However, sleep problems and disturbances are a frequent phenomenon occurring among young adults, specifically university students.

Did you know?

In fact, previous research shows that up to 60% of college students report bad sleep quality (Lund et al., 2010), 15% state difficulties in falling asleep, and 26% report waking up frequently at night (Schlarb et al., 2012). Additionally, about 13% refers to have nightmares (Abdel-Khalek, 2010). The reasons behind theses high incidences seem to be closely related to the many challenges university students have to face, from new living arrangements, new social life, and new financial situation to the high academic demands (exams, deadlines, term papers and so on): these elements constitute stressors and create tensions that can, in turn, impact the sleep quality (Friedrich & Schlarb, 2018).

  • This article was written by:

Simona Dell'Angelo
Simona Dell'Angelo
For any questions, comments, or concerns about this article please contact: simona.dellangelo@samha.fi

But how does it affect you?

Nevertheless, not getting the right quantity (about 7 hours per night) or quality of sleep can yield to more than just feeling tired, with strong negative repercussions on students’ mental health (Clement-Carbonell et al., 2021; Lund et al., 2010). Specifically:

  1. Reduced learning capacity, poor declarative and procedural learning, and general reduced neurocognitive functioning (Curcio et al., 2006) with an impact on academic success and achievements (Owens et al, 2014).
  2. Increased use of stimulant beverages, alcohol, and cigarettes (Lohsoonthorn et al., 2013; Vail-Smith et al., 2009).
  3. Risky behaviours such as fighting and suicide ideation (Vail-Smith et al., 2009).
  4. Increased drug use and its personal and social consequences (Navarro et al., 2020).
  5. Increased risk of anxiety and depression (Ghrouz et al., 2019)

All that being said, it seems clear that prolonged sleep problems have a strong and negative impact on one’s mental health, while also increasing the risk for substance abuse, thus highlighting the importance of a good and restful night sleep.

It is important to take care of yourself and ensure your sleep habits are healthy

If you suspect you might have a sleeping disorder:

First thing first, if you suspect you or a friend has a medical sleep disorder, an appointment with a medical doctor should be made in order to confirm it or rule it out. However, if a clinical condition that impact your sleep quality is excluded, and you still have troubles in getting a restful sleep, you might want to consider changing some of your behaviours and habits to increase your sleep quality and promote a healthier sleep.

Here you find 10 tips and tricks about healthy habits that promote a good night sleep:

    1. Increase bright light exposure during the day: though this might be hard in Finland, daily sunlight or artificial bright light can improve sleep quality and duration, especially if you have severe sleep issues or insomnia.
    2. Reduce blue light exposure in the evening: wear glasses that block blue light, install an app that blocks blue light on your smartphone.
    3. Don’t consume caffeine late in the day: caffeine can significantly worsen sleep quality, especially if you drink large amounts in the late afternoon or evening.
    4. Reduce irregular or long daytime naps: if you have trouble sleeping at night, stop napping or shorten your naps.
    5. Try to sleep and wake at consistent times (sleep hygiene): try to get into a regular sleep/wake cycle — especially on the weekends. If possible, try to wake up naturally at a similar time every day.
    6. Don’t drink alcohol: avoid alcohol before bed, as it can reduce nighttime melatonin production and lead to disrupted sleep patterns.
    7. Optimise your bedroom environment: eliminate external light and noise.
    8. Relax and clear your mind in the evening: practice relaxation techniques before bed, including hot baths and meditation, may help you fall asleep.
    9. Exercise regularly, but not before bed: regular exercise during daylight hours is one of the best ways to ensure a good night’s sleep.
    10. Take a melatonin supplement: a melatonin supplement is an easy way to improve sleep quality and fall asleep faster. Take 1 to 5 mg around 30–60 minutes before heading to bed. Most supermarkets sell melatonin supplements.

Remember: it can always get better, the first step is yours!

SAMHA RY is here for you. If you need someone to talk to, to listen, and who can help you get better-contact us today.

If you need help don’t hesitate to contact us right away. We are available Monday-Thursday 10-17.00 for an appointment, reserve an appointment online, or contact us via Whatsapp, Phone call, email, or social media.



Abdel-Khalek, A. M. (2010). Prevalence rates of reported nightmares in a cross-sectional sample of Kuwaiti children, adolescents, undergraduates, and employees. Sleep Hypn12(1-2), 13-22.

Clement-Carbonell, V., Portilla-Tamarit, I., Rubio-Aparicio, M., & Madrid-Valero, J. J. (2021). Sleep quality, mental and physical health: a differential relationship. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(2), 460.

Curcio, G., Ferrara, M., & De Gennaro, L. (2006). Sleep loss, learning capacity and academic performance. Sleep medicine reviews, 10(5), 323-337.

Friedrich, A., & Schlarb, A. A. (2018). Let’s talk about sleep: a systematic review of psychological interventions to improve sleep in college students. Journal of Sleep Research27(1), 4-22.

Ghrouz, A. K., Noohu, M. M., Manzar, M. D., Spence, D. W., BaHammam, A. S., & Pandi-Perumal, S. R. (2019). Physical activity and sleep quality in relation to mental health among college students. Sleep and Breathing, 23(2), 627-634.

Hershner, S., & O’brien, L. M. (2018). The impact of a randomized sleep education intervention for college students. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 14(3), 337-347.

Lohsoonthorn, Vitool, Hazar Khidir, Gardenia Casillas, Somrat Lertmaharit, Mahlet G. Tadesse, Wipawan C. Pensuksan, Thanapoom Rattananupong, Bizu Gelaye, and Michelle A. Williams. “Sleep quality and sleep patterns in relation to consumption of energy drinks, caffeinated beverages, and other stimulants among Thai college students.” Sleep and Breathing 17, no. 3 (2013): 1017-1028.

Lund, H. G., Reider, B. D., Whiting, A. B., & Prichard, J. R. (2010). Sleep patterns and predictors of disturbed sleep in a large population of college students. Journal of adolescent health46(2), 124-132.

Navarro-Martínez, R., Chover-Sierra, E., Colomer-Pérez, N., Vlachou, E., Andriuseviciene, V., & Cauli, O. (2020). Sleep quality and its association with substance abuse among university students. Clinical neurology and neurosurgery, 188, 105591.

Owens, Judith, Rhoda Au, Mary Carskadon, Richard Millman, Amy Wolfson, Paula K. Braverman, William P. Adelman et al. “Insufficient sleep in adolescents and young adults: an update on causes and consequences.” Pediatrics 134, no. 3 (2014): e921-e932.

Vail-Smith, K., Felts, W. M., & Becker, C. (2009). Relationship between sleep quality and health risk behaviors in undergraduate college students. College Student Journal, 43(3), 924-930.

Schlarb, A. A., Kulessa, D., & Gulewitsch, M. D. (2012). Sleep characteristics, sleep problems, and associations of self-efficacy among German university students. Nature and science of sleep4, 1.

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