Every day seems to either be celebrating or raising awareness for a cause or initiative. From National Squirrel Day to Talk Like a Pirate Day, some of these “holidays” seem to be more humorous than anything else.

From March 6 through March 12, however, it is time to take a look at a much more serious matter—and one that is easy to look past. Sleep Awareness Week, an annual event of the National Sleep Foundation, aims to spotlight the health, productivity, and safety benefits of good sleeping habits.

Not getting enough sleep or getting a low quality of sleep are common issues for college students. According to Illinois State University Health Promotion and Wellness, “students report lack of sleep as the second biggest barrier to academic success.”

Sleep specialist and Assistant Professor of the Mennonite College of Nursing Teresa Valerio cites sleep deprivation (a result of not allowing enough time for sleep) and insomnia (difficulty falling or staying asleep) as reoccurring problems with which students struggle. Another common issue is a delayed sleep pattern, which is when an individual has difficulty falling asleep until after 2 a.m., and then has difficulty waking up for morning classes. All of these issues, according to Valerio, can inhibit students from staying awake in class, being able to focus, and remembering what they have studied.

Luckily, Valerio also has suggestions for students who struggle with sleep-related issues. “Students that are having difficulty with their sleep can start helping themselves by making sleep a priority and allowing enough time for sleep—at least seven hours. There is even more benefit with eight to nine hours of sleep every night,” says Valerio.

She also suggests reducing or eliminating electronic use just before bedtime and during the sleep period. According to Harvard Health Publications, the light emitted from the screens of laptops, smartphones, or tablets has the ability to confuse your circadian rhythm, which may prevent you from falling asleep or from entering deep sleep. Additional health sleep-related habits can be found on Health Promotion and Wellness’ website.

If students who are making sleep a priority are still unable to sleep for seven to nine hours, or are tired during the day despite sleeping at least eight hours nightly, are encouraged to schedule an appointment with Valerio, or another provider at Student Health Services, by calling the appointment line at (309) 438-2778, or by scheduling an appointment online.

It is possible individuals are dealing with less common sleep-related issues, such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, or narcolepsy. In these cases, seeking individualized care from a health professional can make a large difference in the quantity and quality of sleep. Regardless of your sleep habits or sleep-related issues, being aware of the role sleep plays in academic success and how to improve your own sleep habits are important steps toward a good night’s sleep.

If you have any specific questions about sleep or any other health-related issues, please call Student Health Services’ Nurse Consult line at (309) 438-7676.