Have you ever thought to yourself, “Why do classes, work, appointments, and meetings ever start before 10am?” I do…almost daily! I never used to need much sleep at all until college came along. When I began college I found myself tired ALL the time and getting going in the morning has been a constant struggle ever since! I’m sure many of you can relate. Many of you have also heard complaints from your parents about how much you sleep. See, apparently many adults view our sleeping habits as laziness, I prefer to think of it as mastering a skill! Regardless, the point is- we like to sleep…a lot.
As many of you head back to school, your early morning alarms will probably be a shock to your system. Even as a somewhat recent college graduate, I still battle it out with the Snooze button daily. I recently began wondering if this was normal, so I resorted to my trusty friend- Google. What did I find? The average college student (I am still your age, so I am counting myself as a college student!) needs at least NINE hours of sleep per night! In our dreams, right?! (No pun intended!) Say you have an 8am class, meaning you need to be up by let’s say 7am. That means you would need to not only be in bed, but also ASLEEP by 10pm. I cannot tell you the last time I was asleep by 10:00, and I’m sure the majority of you would echo my statement. But it’s hard isn’t it? You have to cram class, work, sports, homework, and a social life into ONE day and be asleep by 10:00? It seems impossible.
Maybe that’s why studies show only 11% of us are getting quality sleep. Truth is, most of us only get 6-7 hours of sleep a night if that. According to a study in the College Student Journal, those who slept 6 hours or less per night had an average GPA of 2.74, while those who slept 9+ averaged a 3.24. Shockingly, reducing your nightly sleep by merely an hour an a half (even for a night) can reduce your daytime alertness by up to 32%! While lack of performance is a large side effect in the short term, lack of sleep can also have long term effects. The chances for developing high blood pressure, obesity, depression, and ADD are all increased by sleep deprivation.
So if we know we aren’t getting enough sleep, and we know it is having a negative impact on us, what do we do? Well, here are a few tips I’ve found to getting a BETTER nights sleep:
1. Find a routine. Waking up and going to bed around the same time every day will help your body reinforce your sleep-wake cycle. Also,
come up with a few things to do before bed to let your body know it’s time to slow down. This may be reading, taking a shower, turning on the iPod, whatever works for you.
2. Avoid energizers late at night. Listening to upbeat music, playing video games, working out, and caffeine and/or nicotine intake will all disrupt your sleep quality.
3. The power of the power nap. If you have time, grab a 20-30 minute nap during the day. According to the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, naps keep your brain activity high during the day, instead of letting it gradually decrease as it would without a nap. However, if the nap lasts too long it may keep you from falling asleep later, so be cautious.
4. Exercise. I know, I know- the answer to all health question these days is “Work out.” But it is true, regular exercise will promote better sleep. BUT! As I said before, make sure you don’t exercise too close to bedtime so you can fall asleep easier.
5. Turn off the T.V. I am so guilty of this. Sure you can go into the biological reasons why this harms your sleep due to melatonin etc., but in my completely unscientific analysis- television is just distracting. I may get in bed at 10:00 but with 2 full hours of ‘Friends’ reruns on Nick@Nite I am sure to be up until at least midnight! I know its tough, but put the DVR to good use…
So there you have it my friends, we NEED the sleep. While we may not always be able to control how much we get, there are definitely ways to improve the quality of what we are getting. Best of luck in improving your sleep! And remember, its only about another 45 years until retirement….right?..
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