Now that it is November, the mid-semester grind is upon us. Whether it be the stress arising from evaluations, late-night work shifts or pulling all-nighters for the next mid-term exam, these aspects of the school year may affect one crucial part of our daily lives: Sleep.
Research shows that college students struggle to get enough sleep due to many factors, which may result in decreased grades and work performance. Although most students may not admit it, sleep is crucial for academic achievement and overall health.
The Harvard Medical School and American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) provides information on the benefits of getting a full night of sleep and some strategies on how to improve sleep habits.
When it comes to receiving enough sleep, there are a variety of benefits in getting enough sleep:
- Improved learning and memory: While sleeping, the brain quickly processes new information into memory through memory consolidation. After learning a new task, sleeping right afterward increases success on exams, which may result in a higher overall GPA.
- Better weight maintenance and metabolism: Without enough sleep, people are more likely to gain weight due to changing hormone levels affecting eating habits and the processing of carbohydrates.
- Increased safety: Getting enough sleep can help people be more alert and awake during the day, making errors in school or work less likely.
- Positive mood: Adequate sleep reduces irritability, impatience, moodiness, and increases one’s concentration levels.
- Better cardiovascular health: Sleep affects the flow of blood throughout the body. Sleep deprivation can lead to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat.
- Lower chance of disease: Improved sleep leads to a better immune system, and can help fight cancer.
As one can see, getting enough sleep at night is vital in overall well-being. Knowing these benefits, one may be asking, “How do I improve my sleep every night?” Fortunately, there are many tips you can use to improve your sleep.
Eight tips to getting better sleep
- Sleep earlier: The average adult needs between seven to nine hours of sleep. Try to fall asleep early enough to get a full night rest.
- Relax before bed: If falling asleep is difficult, try doing a relaxing activity until you feel tired. This could include just laying in bed for 15-30 minutes quietly without TV or looking at a phone.
- Use the bed only for sleep: Find another place to study, read, watch TV, or talk on the phone to train your brain to associate your bed with sleep.
- Reduce the number of naps: If rest is needed, keep it to an hour or less and before 3 p.m., so you still feel tired by bedtime.
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule: Going to bed and waking up at the same time, even on the weekends, makes it easier to wake up every day and helps you to feel well-rested.
- Avoid caffeine late in the day: Since caffeine can stay in the body’s system for hours, it could make it challenging to fall asleep if consumed in the afternoon or evening.
- Adjust lighting: When it is close to bedtime, adjust the lights to inform your body, it is almost time for sleep. Opening the windows and letting the natural sunlight in during the morning can help increase your alertness and make it easier to wake up.
- Eat a small snack: Eating a large meal before bed can make it difficult to fall asleep. Eating a dessert or a small snack can help to make sure you do not sleep on an empty stomach.
Now that the demands and workload in classes may be increasing, it may be a challenge for some to prioritize their sleep. However, sleep is essential if we want to perform our best and focus on the coursework or the requirements of our jobs.
Now that you have tips to improving your sleep pattern, it is encouraged to practice these on a daily basis in order to make sleep more consistent and easier to achieve. That way, we can all be the best possible person we can be not only during the day but throughout the remainder of our lives.
American Academy of Sleep Medicine. (2017, November 30th). College students: getting enough sleep is vital to academic success. Retrieved from AASM: American Academy of Sleep Medicine: https://aasm.org/college-students-getting-enough-sleep-is-vital-to-academic-success/
Harvard Health Publishing. (2006, January). Importance of Sleep: Six reasons not to scrimp on sleep. Retrieved from Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School: https://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/importance_of_sleep_and_health
Joshua Bigner is a second-year graduate student in the HDFS Marriage and Family Therapy Program. Josh grew up in the small mountainous town of Livingston, MT. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sociology to become a therapist. Joshua’s therapy interests include working with children and families, specializing with those families and children who come from traumatic histories or teenagers living with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Growing up in the mountains of Montana, Joshua enjoys several outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, whitewater rafting, hunting, fishing, and snowboarding. Along with the great outdoors, he enjoys performing, traveling, playing video games, going to the gym, and hanging out with his family and friends.
The Center for Family and Couple Therapy (CFCT) is a part of the Marriage and Family Therapy Program in CSU’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies. As a commitment to campus partners, the CFCT welcomes the opportunity to support you and your family in increasing mindfulness and effective self-care in your lives. Please call 970-491-5991 or visit our website for more information.