Tips for Creating a Sleep-Friendly Dorm Room

While college life can be a wonderful and exciting new adventure, it does come with its share of challenges. Academic, financial, personal, and social stressors on top of a new environment and a hectic schedule mandate students’ vigilance in putting their physical and emotional health first and foremost.

Why is sleep so important to a college student?

Unfortunately, irregular sleep schedules can lead to inadequate sleep and daytime sleepiness, which plague many college students and put them at greater risk for the many consequences of sleep deprivation, including;

  • impaired immune systems
  • increased obesity risk
  • inability to focus
  • decreased motivation
  • poor mood, irritability
  • accidents and injuries
  • depression
  • increased risk of academic failure
  • substance abuse
  • risk-taking behaviors
  • poor judgment

What constitutes sufficient sleep?

One of the most fundamental requirements for a successful college experience is sufficient sleep. For teenagers through age seventeen that is in the eight to ten-hour range per night, while younger adults age eighteen and older require seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Adherence to these guidelines is crucial as adequate sleep is essential for optimal functioning and general well-being.

How can I get the sleep I need in a dorm room?

Adhering to a consistent bedtime routine, avoiding all-nighters, powering down electronics at least thirty minutes before bedtime, and even setting a bedtime alarm to avoid bedtime procrastination are some helpful sleep strategies to employ. For optimizing your sleep environment, consider the following:

  1. Sleep surface. If you have a dorm-issued mattress that looks like it has seen better days, you may want to consider a new one. If replacing the mattress is not an option, consider investing in a mattress topper (note if your mattress is a twin or twin XL). It may be just the thing to make a dorm-issued mattress “sleepable.” Mattress toppers are available in a variety of materials ranging from latex to memory foam to wool, and can easily provide an extra layer of support and added comfort.
  1. A bed for your head. A comfortable pillow that suits your preferred sleeping position is essential. Pillows should be slightly thinner for back and stomach sleepers or slightly thicker for side sleepers. Although we don’t advocate studying in bed, sometimes cramped living quarters necessitate that your bed becomes a study zone—in which case, a larger pillow or a back rest can help keep you comfortable in a sitting position.
  1. Sheets. Depending on the climate and the draftiness of the dorm room, colder climates may call for some cozy flannel sheets, while warmer climates may warrant those that wick moisture.
  1. Noise. You need peace and quiet for sleeping and studying, and sometimes dorms can be the last place where you will find peace and quiet. Noise-cancelling headphones can help. Earplugs should always be within arm’s reach, and white noise machines can be quite effective in drowning out unwanted noise. An extra throw rug or two will also absorb sound and help keep noise levels down.
  1. Light. Sleep masks are an easy way to make your sleep environment as dark as possible to help ensure your best sleep. They are great for midday napping, and they also come in handy when your roommate has different sleep and wake times than you. Blackout curtains or shades will help keep that morning light out when it is not quite time for class. If curtains are provided, some chip clips can help close any gaps that let in light when you are trying to get that all-important sleep.
  1. Scent. Some lavender may be just the thing to relax you and help you drift off to sleep. A 2006 study involving forty-two female college students found that lavender aromatherapy had a beneficial effect on insomnia and depression, while a small study published in 2012 found that nighttime exposure to lavender relieved sleepiness upon awakening.
  1. Temperature. A fan can help keep the room cool as well as provide some white noise, while an extra blanket or two can come in handy if your roommate prefers a colder sleep climate.
  1. Do not disturb. We’re talking sleep here—but don’t hesitate to hang a Do-Not-Disturb sign.
  1. Bed placement. To reduce noise as much as possible, place beds as far as possible from the front and bathroom doors.
  1. Quiet reminders. Consider hallway signage that politely reminds 2:00 a.m. partygoers that dorm residents are sleeping. Sometimes a friendly reminder will help keep the noise down when other students are trying to get the sleep they need.

Show a little respect

It’s great for everyone to respect the need for sleep—in yourself and in others. Showing your roommate and hall mates consideration when they are trying to get some shut-eye may cause them to pay back the kindness.

You may have a packed schedule, but don’t forget to schedule sleep

Consistently getting sufficient sleep is critical for learning, for focus, for helping you deal with stress, for a healthy weight—for your physical and emotional health—and for optimal cognitive functioning. Getting the best sleep possible will go far in helping you make the very most of your college experience.


Blogger: Terry Cralle, MS, RN


Sleep Health and Wellness Professional


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