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Dealing with insomnia as a student

Whether it’s procrastination or talent for working under pressure, most students have done an all-nighter at one time or another during their time at university. For those suffering with insomnia, however, all-nighters are a more frequent occurrence and can make those essay deadlines even more stressful.

Sufferers of insomnia may experience consistent lack of sleep, an initial struggle to fall asleep, or an inability to fall back to sleep after waking up. This disorder can be exacerbated or be brought on by stress, anxiety, drug use, and alcohol amongst other things. In some studies, the percentage of students at university suffering from insomnia can be put between 9.4% and 38.2%.

Insomnia is only a temporary affliction for some, but for many others it is a constant struggle.

Having been an insomniac myself for over five years, I know all too well how much insomnia can negatively impact student life. Most of my first year at university was spent skipping lectures because I was too tired, feeling guilty for missing those lectures and, subsequently, staying up into the early hours of the morning trying to catch up with work.

I struggled particularly around exam time because it was impossible for me to get up early enough to get a good seat in the library or the Ali G. I found myself trying to balance getting into uni in time for a seat while still being alert enough to do some actual work. There’s nothing worse than dragging yourself into uni and then being too tired to actually do anything productive. There’s only so much coffee or Red Bull can do, unfortunately.

Being unable to get some decent sleep exacerbated my stress which made it even more difficult to get to sleep at night. This felt like a never-ending cycle during the first and second years of my degree. But, some small tweaks helped me get through my third-year (mostly) intact.

In order to tackle the guilt I felt in relation to my uni work, I stopped trying to force myself to get up ridiculously early to get to the popular student study spots and found lesser-known places that I could arrive at much later than normal. Having that little more time to sleep enabled me to be more productive during the day and left my evenings free to wind down and relax.

To try and alleviate the lack of sleep itself, I forced myself into a regular sleeping pattern. It took time to get used to but it has significantly improved my sleep quality and doesn’t leave me too tired in the day to work. While keeping up with a schedule can be difficult, committing to the schedule on weekdays can be extremely beneficial.

These are the changes that worked for me but, unfortunately, they may not be a fix for everyone. However, finding small ways to change your lifestyle can help your uni-induced stress and, hopefully, will help you get some decent sleep.

If, however, you think your insomnia is having a significant impact on your mental or physical health, please contact your GP. If you do not want to contact a medical practitioner, the University counselling service is also available. Alternatively, and very apt for us insomniacs, you can talk to someone at Nightline: a confidential service, running from 8pm to 8am every night, that gives anonymous advice and support for students. Their number can be found on the back of your student card.

Tags: insomnia, Mental Health, sleep, stress, university advice

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