Finding benefits of sleeping
With the competing demands of academics, extracurricular activities and social life in college, students often do not get enough sleep during their time on the Hill. Sleep, however, is vital for maintaining good health physically, mentally and emotionally. Adults and college students alike should aim for eight hours of sleep each night.
The importance of the quality and quantity of sleep cannot be understated. Studies by the National Sleep Foundation have shown that inadequate sleep can negatively affect academic performance. Research at the German University of Bamberg Department of Physiological Psychology shows that people who sleep seven hours a night perform better on memory tasks than those who do not. Sleep also makes you more alert, reduces stress and may help you lose weight.
While college-aged students often use sleeping in on the weekends as a method to compensate for a weekday lack of sleep, sleeping until noon on Saturday won’t necessarily remedy a week of sleep deficit. In fact, just one night of inadequate sleep can negatively affect functioning and mood the next day.
As busy college students, here are some tips to help increase the quantity and quality of sleep we all get on the Hill. First, a fixed bedtime and waking time are helpful in maintaining good sleep hygiene. Second, developing a consistent bedtime routine can also help you wind down after a busy day, and can help you to relax before climbing into bed. Third, when preparing for bed, let go of the day’s worries and practice relaxation techniques before sleep. Fourth, yoga and deep breathing may help reduce muscle tension and anxiety, while taking a shower may help others prepare for a good night’s sleep.
For many, the act of falling asleep can prove difficult. If you often find yourself lying in bed awake at night, try a few of these techniques to help ease the transition into sleep. First, avoid caffeine, including caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, soda and alcohol for four to six hours prior to bedtime. Decaffeinated tea is a good alternative for those looking for a warm bedtime beverage. While alcohol may be a depressant and can lead to the rapid onset of sleep, ultimately the blood alcohol concentration will decrease, leading to premature waking and disrupted sleep.
Second, there are other activities that one can do—or not do—during the day to help increase the chances of a peaceful sleep at night. Exercise during the day helps to both manage stress and promote good sleep; exercising immediately before bed, however, is counterproductive. Vigorous exercise within three hours of bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep, as it stimulates the heart, brain and muscles and raises the body temperature—all things that can contribute to an inability to fall asleep.
Third, avoiding napping during the day can also help students fall asleep at the end of the day. A nap in the early to mid-afternoon that is kept under 30 minutes may be useful, but longer naps later in the afternoon or early evening make it difficult to fall asleep later. If you find yourself craving a nap, it is likely a sign that you are not getting enough sleep at night. Try resting your eyes for a few minutes to feel refreshed and continue the day. Fourth, it is also best not to use the bed for other daytime activities, such as doing homework or watching television. In general, reserve the bed for sleep.
Continuous disrupted sleep patterns may signal possible medical, psychological or mental health problems, including anxiety, depression or stress. If sleep disturbances persist despite implementing the tips listed above, seek assistance with one of the counselors at the Garrison-Foster Health Center at the College.
In order to achieve the best night’s sleep possible, a simple development of personal habits can help restore the length and quality of one’s sleep.