Ideally you should go to sleep when you’re tired and when your schedule allows you to get eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. Unfortunately, most of our schedules don’t allow us to do that. However, sleep is a fundamental need.
Explore the tabs below to discover ways to improve the frequency and quality of your sleep, as well as discover causes for sleep disruptions and ways to address these issues.
The following two assessments can help you assess your sleep habits.
Evaluate your sleep and find out how much you know about sleep and healthy sleeping habits.
Take this self assessment to help assess your sleep. Lack of sleep can be a sign of something more serious than just a busy schedule. There are physical disorders that make a good night’s sleep difficult.
There isn’t a clear reason as to why we need sleep but science proves that it is vital to both our physical and mental health. Physically, sleep allows the body to replenish energy levels. Our bodies repair muscles and tissues and replace chemicals and aging cells while we sleep. During childhood and early adulthood growth hormones are released during sleep. It is thought that our brains repair the synaptic connections that have been shifted during the day. Our brain organizes information, throws out useless information, reinforces memory, and solves problems as we sleep.
Getting an adequate amount of sleep can be a challenge especially for college students. The amount of sleep one needs varies per individual and with age, a minimum of seven hours is a general recommendation. An adequate amount of restful sleep can improve performance and give you the energy to manage your daily schedule. Going to bed early and waking up early or going to bed late and waking up late is fine either way. It’s really up to the individual to decide what they are comfortable with and what works best for their schedule. Just remember to stay consistent. Keeping regular sleep habits in college can be tough but you will benefit from a healthy sleep pattern. Adequate sleep is absolutely essential to your mental and physical health.
If you experience drowsiness, even during boring activities, you probably aren’t getting enough sleep. If you find yourself tired during the day a short 10-20 minute powernap might help, or you can try increasing the number of hours that you sleep each night.
Try not to get behind in your studies, staying up late for homework or stressing about assignment will only cause more disruptions to your sleeping patterns.
REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep usually occurs about 90 minutes after the onset of sleep. REM sleep will steadily increase in duration throughout the night during each sleep cycle with the longest lasting approximately an hour. This is what the body goes through when you’re in REM sleep:
- Brain wave patterns become similar to those you have when you’re awake
- Eyes move rapidly and in different directions
- Respiration and heart rate become erratic
- Twitching in the legs, fingers and face occur
- Major voluntary muscle groups become paralyzed
- Intense dreaming
Although brain activity increases during REM sleep, you most likely won’t know when you’re in REM sleep since you’re not exactly in a conscious state. Being able to recognize when you’re dreaming or experiencing sleep paralysis may be the best way to identify REM sleep.
The lowest amount of sleep an individual needs to function is dependent on the individual. Some individuals have trained themselves to require less sleep. Studies have suggested the least amount of sleep needed to function is four hours, but this varies from individual to individual.
Sleep deprivation affects both your mental and physical health. Inadequate sleep impairs your body’s ability to maintain a healthy immune system, handle stress, think, and moderate our emotions. The brain isn’t able to work effectively without sleep which causes memory to be impaired and concentration levels to drop. Problem solving and decision making abilities are also compromised with insufficient sleep.
Other sleep deprivation effects include:
- Heart disease
- Slower reaction times
- Slurred speech
Insomnia is another common sleep disorder. Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or maintain sleep. A good way to start assessing insomnia is to figure out the pattern and what might be causing it. Everyone will experience insomnia at some point in their lives from stress, anxiety, or environmental factors but consistent insomnia can be a problem and can affect quality of life. There are medications that can help with insomnia but it’s important to remember that these should only be used for a short period of time because the body will build a resistance.
There are also many sleep disorders that should be considered. Other common sleep disorders are; sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and narcolepsy. The underlying symptoms of these conditions are:
- Feeling unrested and fatigued during the day
- Gasping or snorting during sleep
- Creepy, crawly feelings in the legs and back
- Loss of muscle control with emotion
- The inability to fall asleep or stay asleep
- Hallucinations or vivid dreams while falling asleep
If you have any of these symptoms more than three times a week or your quality of life is affected, contact the CSU Health Network Medical Services or call (970) 491-1721
Here are some simple tips for getting better sleep.
- Go to sleep only when sleepy.
- Try to get up at the same time every day, this will help regulate your sleep cycle.
- Try not to nap in the daytime – OR – consistently take a 10 to 20 minute “power nap.”
- If you can’t sleep, get out of bed and do something relaxing. Try relaxation techniques (muscle relaxation, breathing techniques, imagery, etc.)
- Try to avoid caffeine in the later afternoon and evening.
- Get vigorous exercise each day – early in the day and try to avoid exercising after 7pm.
- Institute a nightly pre-sleep ritual to prepare you for sleep to wind down and relax.
- Sleep in a room that is cool, quite, dark and comfortable. Sleep with covers that can be easily removed or added so you can remain comfortable during the night.
- Try not to study or do homework in bed.
- Avoid alcohol, smoking, or eating (unless it is a small snack) before going to bed.
Although our busy schedules may leave us feeling as though an all-nighter is the only option, and in some cases it is, all nighters should be avoided. A study conducted at Lawrence University showed that students who regularly pulled all-nighters had lower GPAs than those who didn’t regularly pull all-nighters. The body isn’t built to function at its best with no sleep. Sleep allows the brain to organize information and discard any useless information. Without sleep the brain is unable to sift through information and your memory is affected. Not sleeping can also cause physical discomfort like fatigue that can affect performance. The lack of sleep also affects the immune system and lowers its ability to fight illnesses.
Campus Recreation – Exercise is a powerful tool! Explore what they have to offer. Mind/body classes like yoga can be especially helpful in helping you wind down and relax after a busy day.
CSU Health Network Medical Services has a group of caring professionals ready to assist you regarding any health concerns. For an appointment, call (970) 491-7121.
Massage Program – Looking for a great and affordable way to relax? Schedule a massage at The Student Recreation Center.
Better Sleep Council is devoted to educating the public about the importance of sleep for good health and quality of life.
National Sleep Foundation is dedicated to improving public health and safety by achieving understanding of sleep and sleep disorders, and by supporting sleep-related education, research, and advocacy. This web site has a great sleep facts and information section.
Ulifeline has resources about sleep difficulties facing college students and other useful information.
Your Sleep is a site that provides you with everything you wanted to know about sleep, but were too tired to ask. Informations provided from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.