Feels like I got caught up on sleep over J-Term, but now that we’re a month into second semester I’m back to not sleeping well. I go to bed exhausted but sometimes just lay there. Or I go to sleep really late and then can’t get up in the morning for class. Don’t want to get into this pattern again and need your advice.
Sleepless on Campus
Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each night and I bet only a fourth of the students I see get this much sleep. The demands of school and work make regular sleep patterns a challenge for college students. Throw in trying to have a social life with these two makes it even more difficult to get the rest you need.
Studies show that it takes 3-7 days for the body to reset its internal clock to a new schedule. My guess is that you went home over the holiday break and then came back to campus for J-Term, which allowed for you to continue a somewhat healthy pattern of sleep. Then second semester hit and the changing schedule and added stress led to staying up later and needing to get up earlier. Getting a low number of hours sleeping often means less quality or REM sleep. I know that at times you can’t avoid getting too little sleep, but here are some ideas on how to get what you need.
· Avoid caffeine after 3 p.m..
· If you can find time to nap during the day, do it, but limit it to less than 90 minutes. More than this can interfere with night sleep.
· Exercise regularly, but avoid strenuous exercise right before bedtime.
· Engage in relaxation exercises before bed such as yoga, meditation, prayer, journaling, listening to calming music, etc.
· Eat healthy and avoid putting an excess of alcohol or drugs in your body.
· Turn your computers and smart phones off at least an hour before bed.
I’m sure you are thinking, “Yeah, right” to most of these. If I had to pick one of the above to really concentrate on that would lead to better sleep it would be…………get ready for this……. the last one. Now you are thinking, “She must be crazy. I can’t live without my smartphone.” Truth is you can and you should. Most students keep the television or computer on all night or at least a smartphone either in the bed or close to it. I know this one is a toughie, but staying on your computer or smartphone until bedtime not only can make it difficult for your brain to wind down, there is research that suggests that the artificial light from some technological devices may tinker with brain chemicals that promote sleep, mainly melatonin. Google it if you don’t believe me. And those of you that don’t want to miss anything on social media, try it. You may find that you are less anxious and more relaxed. Besides, it will be there in the morning when you may be better able to take it in anyway.
Bottom line, sleep affects everything. Performance in school and work, physical and mental health as well as social interactions can all be improved if you get the necessary sleep that you need. Make it a priority. For more information on how to improve sleep contact Tammy and Sue at the Loras Health Center.