Getting enough sleep? HA! If you are like many students, you are pushing yourself to the max and likely experiencing some of the negative effects of not having enough sleep such as irritability, head and body aches, poor concentration and forgetfulness – to name a few. These kinds of difficulties can interfere with normal sleep patterns and negatively affect your ability to learn and retain important material.
Why do we need sleep?
Sleep is as essential to health as food and water and the body needs to replenish itself nightly. Sleep increases alertness, reduces stress, bolsters memory, and promotes overall wellness.
5 College Sleep Myths
Myth #1: All-nighters will help me retain information. When it comes to higher-order processing, such as exams that make you apply what you’ve learned or giving a presentation, the all-nighter will put you at a severe disadvantage. It is during sleep that information transfers from short-term to long-term memory. Studies show that students who pull all-nighters tend to have a lower GPA than students who make time for sleep.
Myth #2: Alcohol makes me sleep better. Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but it deprives you of the deeper, more restorative sleep stages. It also masks the real reason you may have trouble sleeping, such as stress, anxiety, relationship difficulties, or something else.
Myth #3: Sleep isn’t important; I can get by with just a few hours. Getting by and functioning optimally are two different things. If an individual consistently gets less sleep than they need, sleep debt can make you more susceptible to poorer health, cause adverse effects in cognitive function, and increase stress-hormone levels and blood pressure. Sleep helps strengthen our immune system; we are more likely to get sick when we are not regularly getting 7-8 hours of sleep.
Myth #4: Naps can help me catch up with sleep. “Power naps” are effective in supplementing our sleep but not in replacing the eight hours of sleep you should be getting. 20-30 minute naps are most beneficial when taken between 10-11am and 2-4pm when the body has a natural dip in circadian rhythms. Keep in mind, deep sleep (long) naps interfere with nighttime sleep.
Myth #5: I can stay up during the week and catch up on the weekend. Crashing all weekend and not sleeping during the week is a no-no. This behavior upsets your circadian rhythms and makes it even harder to get refreshing sleep. Consistent sleep is important because it limits our stress and enhances our alertness and reactions.
10 Ways to a Great Night’s Sleep:
- Consistency: Establish a schedule. Go to bed and get up at regular times, even if you’re tired in the morning. Don’t vary your bedtime or when you get up.
- Duration: Get at least 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. Often when students are stressed and overwhelmed, sleep is the first thing to get cut, which in turn leads to more stress, which leads to less sleep. Break this cycle by getting a solid 7-8 hours of sleep every night, no matter what. Sleep reduces stress, increases memory and improves academic performance.
- Exercise: Regular physical exercise improves sleep. It also improves health, combats stress and muscle tension, and can even improve mood. Exercise during the day, keeping in mind that exercising too close to bedtime (3 hours or less) is actually counterproductive to sleep.
- Preparation: Develop a 30-minute sleep ritual before bedtime. This is a relaxing activity you do every night in the same order at about the same time before you get into bed. A hot shower, bath, deep breathing exercises, or reading may be helpful. In addition, recent research has shown that wearing very warm socks as you get ready to sleep (and then taking them off as you get into bed) can increase the body’s readiness to sleep.
- Meals Before Sleep: No heavy meals right before bedtime. Eat a small snack about two hours before bedtime. A good choice would be a banana and low-fat milk.
- No Stimulants: Avoid alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, sugar or other stimulants within 4 hours of going to bed. Avoid even moderate use during the day. Temporary alertness does not equate to improved health, safety, learning, mood, or productivity.
- The Bed is for Sleep: Eliminate non-sleep activities in bed (such as reading or doing other work) to strengthen associations between your bed and sleeping (unless these other activities are part of your sleep ritual).
- Thoughts: Keep a notebook by your bed. If something is on your mind, you can get some peace by writing it down, knowing it will be there when you wake up. Then, focus on positive thoughts.
- Sleeping Environment: Reduce noise through the use of ear plugs or a noise-masking machine. Remove or turn off potentially distracting noises, like cell phones or ticking clocks. Keep your room at a comfortable temperature if possible. Also, keep your room as dark as possible, and get comfortable sheets, blankets, pillows, pillowcases, and pajamas/clothes to sleep in. If you have roommates, be sure to have a conversation about the importance of sleep and how you can each support one another to get the most restful sleep.
- Don’t Fret and Fight about Sleeplessness: Don’t try to make yourself sleep or lie in bed until you hopefully fall asleep. If you’re unable to fall asleep after 20-30 minutes, leave your bed, and engage in a relaxing activity (such as listening to a relaxation tape, having a cup of herbal tea, or reading for pleasure). Avoid watching TV or studying which stimulate the brain and will not help you relax.
If These Sleeping Tips Are Not Working:
If you have tried all of these tips and you are still having a difficult time falling and staying asleep, you may be struggling with insomnia. Insomnia is a common sleep disorder among people dealing with depression or anxiety, however it could be due to an underlying medical issue. If your sleepless nights persist for longer than a month, please consult with the Student Health Center or the Counseling Center. Research has shown that people who learn to recognize and change their stressful thoughts sleep better than those who take sleeping pills. Student Wellness is here to help you learn the tools you need to help manage your insomnia.
Check out these spots to catch a quick nap around campus!
- University Center Commuter Lounge
- Lawn behind Institute of Peace and Justice (IPJ)
- Lawn between Founders and Immaculata
- Lawn between Immaculata and Aromas
- Student Life Pavilion (SLP) Rooftop
- University Center (UC) or SLP Lounge Spaces
- Couches in Student Leadership, Involvement, and Changemaking (SLIC) or 4th floor SLP
- UC Lower Foyer
- Maher 5th floor Lounge
- Sports Center Pool Deck
- Palomar Lounge
- Mission Crossroads Lounge
- Frank’s Lounge