The Fit File: Catch some zzz’s

Ever heard that we should get so many hours of sleep per night? Do you know why? Not to worry, my fellow Duhawks! By the time you’re done reading this, you will have an answer. So what is sleep? Why is it so important? Well, sleep is “a condition of body and mind such as that which typically recurs for several hours every night, in which the nervous system is relatively inactive, the eyes closed, the postural muscles relaxed, and consciousness practically suspended” (American Sleep Association). Sleep is similar to the concept of shutting down your computer. If you never allow yourself to rest you won’t be able to perform optimally the next day.

The number of hours of sleep you need depends on your age as well as a number of other factors. For toddlers, for example, it is recommended that they get 11-14 hours of sleep per night, but as we age we require less sleep to still function optimally. For college students, it is recommended to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night according to the National Sleep Foundation. You see, throughout the day, our bodies are in a constant catabolic state. Being in a catabolic state means that our bodies are being broken down throughout the day. When we sleep we experience an anabolic state which means our bodies repair any damage we caused to ourselves throughout the day. Our bodies all require long periods of sleep in order to restore and rejuvenate, grow muscle, repair tissue, and synthesize hormones.

Researchers have also shown that after people sleep, they tend to retain information and perform better on memory tasks. Failing to get enough sleep night after night can compromise your health and may even shorten your life. Sleep “debt” can add up and from infancy to old age, the effects of inadequate sleep can profoundly affect memory, learning, creativity, productivity and emotional stability, as well as your physical health. Some of the most effects of too little sleep involve mental processes like learning, memory, judgment and problem-solving. When we sleep, new learning and memory pathways become encoded in the brain, and adequate sleep is necessary for those pathways to work optimally. People who are well rested are better able to learn a task and are much more likely to remember what they learned. So the all-nighter studying for that exam in the morning could be causing you more harm than good. The more you sleep the better you are also able to retain experiences you had throughout your day.

So how can you be sure to get the best night’s sleep possible? I’ve laid out five steps for you that, if followed correctly, can improve your next night’s sleep tenfold.

First, pick a schedule and stick to it. The more consistent you are with when you go to bed and get up in the morning allows your body to adapt and create a habit. Second, create a bedtime ritual. Creating a bedtime ritual allows your body to recognize when it’s time to call it a day. Things to include in your ritual could be: a warm bath or shower, reading, having herbal tea, listening to soothing music preferably with the lights dimmed. Something to take note of is to avoid screen time a half hour before going to bed. The blue light in screens keeps you alert and may make it harder to doze off. Third, limit daytime naps. Naps might seem like a good idea at the time but the better night’s sleep you get the less likely you are to need any naps at all. Try to limit your naps to 10-30 minutes in the mid-afternoon. Fourth, get active! We’ve all heard that we need to “get out and play for 60 minutes a day!” Thanks, Obama. Even as little as 20 minutes of exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality.

However, be conscious of the time you are exercising. Exercising too late at night could inhibit your sleep. Fifth and lastly, manage your stress. I’ll admit, college can be stressful, but there are many things we can do to alleviate stress. Start with the basics, such as getting organized, setting priorities and delegating tasks. Give yourself permission to take a break when you need one. Share a good laugh with a friend, exercise, pray, listen to music. If you still feel stressed before bed, jot down what’s on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow. By following these five steps, you have what you need to get a better night’s sleep tonight.

Goodnight Duhawks,
Your personal trainer,
Kylie DeWees

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