Published: Nov. 18, 2019

woman sleepingAfter enough late nights and early mornings, feeling sleepy can seem like another part of the college experience for your student. But sleep is vital to overall health—research shows that getting 7-9 hours of restful sleep every night makes a world of difference for cognitive functioning, mood, metabolism, memory, immune function and more. Here are some tips to share with your student to help them get their sleep cycle back under control.

Preparing for a restful night

The things we do during the day play a role in how well we sleep at night. For example, caffeine can stay in our systems for eight hours, meaning that it’s best to finish their last cup of coffee in the early afternoon.  

Exercise is a similar situation, as the adrenaline from a good workout increases alertness. Finishing exercise at least three hours before bed then gives your student time to unwind from this increased adrenaline, making it easier to fall asleep afterwards.

Last, encourage your student to put away devices (or go on Night Time Mode or use a blue light blocker) at least one hour before they plan to go to sleep. The blue light emitted from phones and computers can interrupt our natural ability to produce melatonin, which lets us know it’s time to go to sleep. When we’re overexposed to blue light, our body feels like it has to stay awake longer.    

Getting in the zone

Setting ourselves up for sleep is key to feeling rested. Your student can start with their immediate sleeping environment by adjusting their room temperature to keep things cool, trying a fan or a white noise app to clear any distracting sounds and making sure the room is dark so their internal clock knows it’s bedtime.

Starting a bedtime routine can also help. Encourage them to try a calming activity every night before bed—like stretching, taking a shower or meditating along with an app (we like the free Insight Timer-Meditation Timer)—to let their body know that it’s time to wind down.

Sometimes our systems need a few more cues that they can calm down. If you’re student still can’t sleep, they can get up and do something low-key (like reading a book) for another twenty minutes before trying to go to bed again.  

If sleep difficulties persist

Many students facing sleep difficulties can benefit from using free apps like the Activity and Mood Diary or CBT-i Coach to track their sleep. These apps can help with developing better sleep habits, improving sleep environment, learning techniques of cognitive behavioral therapy and alleviating insomnia. Services are also available on campus through Counseling and Psychiatric Services for chronic sleep concerns that do not improve with time.

All fee-paying CU Boulder students are eligible for free groups and workshops through Counseling and Psychiatric Services, many of which deal with stress and anxiety. Find out more online at