Zzz Your Way to A’s: Why Sleep is the Ultimate Study Buddy

Sleep is crucial to achieve academic success, improving memory and cognitive function, regulating mood and reducing stress levels. Adequate sleep also benefits physical health by reducing the risk of heart disease, allowing your body to fuel itself with more nutrient-dense foods (as opposed to quick energy foods craved by tired people), and boosting the immune system.

To get more restful sleep:

  • Set consistent bedtimes and wake-up times: Keeping a consistent sleep schedule helps regulate the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends, can help you feel more rested and alert throughout the day.
  • Create a sleep-conducive environment: Make your sleeping space comfortable and relaxing. Most of us benefit from comfortable bedding and a cool and dark room. Consider using earplugs, white noise machines, or blackout curtains to reduce noise and light disturbances.
  • Avoid substances: Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake, so it’s best to avoid it several hours before bed. Alcohol may help you fall asleep initially, but it can disrupt your sleep later in the night, leading to poor quality sleep. Cannabis and cannabinoids may help you fall asleep faster, but can disrupt your REM sleep, leading to feelings of grogginess and fatigue the next day.1 It’s best to avoid using them as a sleep aid, especially on a regular basis, although more research is needed to fully understand their effects on sleep. 
  • Manage stress: College can be a stressful time, and stress can disrupt your sleep patterns. Try to manage stress through exercise, meditation, or other relaxation techniques. Get support with underlying mental health concerns that may be contributing to your stress levels.
  • Prioritize sleep over other activities: It can be tempting to stay up late studying or socializing, but getting enough sleep should be a top priority. Naps aren’t nearly as effective as sleeping through the night. Make sure you have enough time for sleep; avoid staying up late to cram for exams, finish assignments, or hang with your friends. 

Remember, if you snooze, you don’t lose – you win a higher-functioning brain and improved health.  

Resilience is How You Recharge: Spring Break Edition

Resilience is often misunderstood. A lot of people think of football players when they think of resilience – able to take a hit, pick themselves up off the turf, and go for another play. Well-meaning students trying to celebrate resilience might support each other staying up until 3am trying to finish a paper. Overwork and exhaustion are the opposite of resilience. When we go to class or work exhausted, we don’t have the cognitive resources to do well, we have lower self-control, and we are often all up in our feels. 

A resilient person is a well-rested one. Resilience is adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or stress. It means rebounding from difficult experiences.

A resilient person tries really hard, then stops to rest, then tries again.

The more time a person spends in their performance zone, they more time they need in the recovery zone. So the more imbalanced we become due to overworking, the more benefit we get from activities that allow us to return to a state of balance. In other words, the value of a recovery period rises in proportion to the amount of work required of us. 

Most people assume that if you stop doing a task, say you put down your Bio Chem homework, your brain will naturally recover. When you start again the next morning, you’ll have your energy back. But have you ever spent time in bed unable to fall asleep because your brain is thinking about all the things you need to do? That’s one example of resting but in a way that can still leave you feeling exhausted. Rest and recovery are not the same thing. Stopping does not equal recovering.

Recover a bit this week 

Internal recovery is the short periods of relaxation that take place throughout our day through short scheduled or unscheduled breaks, shifting our attention, or changing to other tasks when the mental or physical resources required for task completion are depleted.

External recovery refers to actions that take place outside of scheduled work – so evenings, weekends, holidays, vacations. If after your day you lie around and get riled up by news you read on your phone or stress about the paper you have due on Monday, your brain hasn’t received a break from high mental arousal. Our brains need rest as much as our bodies.

External recovery means taking time to do things that are fun, enjoyable, and help you feel good. 

  • Explore new places
  • Go outside
  • Move your body
  • Remember the things you loved when you had more time to play; do more of them
  • Unplug
  • Get good sleep 
  • Eat yummy, nourishing food
  • Spend time with people who support and love you
  • Experience awe

The best person to know how you best recharge is YOU. Take time to recharge effectively and you’ll be better equipped to face whatever challenges come your way. 

Navigating conflict

It’s bound to happen while you’re in college. Some reminders for when you’re in conflict with someone:

  • Communicate respectfully: When conflicts arise, communicate respectfully and listen actively to the other person’s perspective. Avoid using accusatory language and try to approach the situation with an open mind.
  • Seek common ground: Look for areas of agreement or compromise that can help resolve the conflict. Even if you don’t agree on everything, finding common ground can help you move forward in a positive direction.
  • Take responsibility: If you’ve played a role in the conflict, it’s important to take responsibility for your actions and apologize if necessary. Acknowledging your mistakes can help de-escalate the situation and build trust with the other person.
  • Consider mediation: If the conflict is particularly complex or difficult to resolve, consider seeking the help of a neutral third party, such as a counselor or mediator. They can help facilitate a constructive conversation and find solutions that work for everyone involved.
  • Take care of yourself: Conflict can be stressful and emotionally draining. It’s important to take care of yourself during this time by practicing self-care activities, such as exercising, meditating, or talking with a trusted friend. Remember, you’re not alone and there are resources available to help you through difficult situations.

Failing Forward

All of us receive feedback at some point in our academic lives that make us feel like a failure. Whether that’s an actual failing grade, a lower grade than we desired, mean-spirited academic feedback, or something else – these types of critiques can be tough to handle.

If we can reframe failure, it can serve as an opportunity to learn and inform future actions and decisions. Consider these ideas before generalizing that negative academic feedback into a feeling about yourself:

  • Grades are an instrument of an educational system that quantifies learning using a “standard” measurement for a widely diverse population of students, and grades require that learning happens in a certain amount of time. These are not essential values for educating nor learning.
  • Receiving a low grade or negative feedback happens at one moment in time. It does not change the past, nor predict the future.
  • “Failure” is not indicative of intelligence, know-how, or worth. In fact, all grades are only useful for characterizing your work on a single assignment or exam in a brief moment of your life.
  • A low grade doesn’t necessarily equate to the effort you put into an assignment, project or test…but it might (if this rubs you the wrong way, please be sure to read the next bullet point).
  • College courses are designed to take up a lot of time. If you’re stretched by life’s circumstances and challenges, a low grade is likely a sign that you’re investing time into something more important instead.
  • Receiving a low grade can feel like we’ve “wasted” our time and effort. Another choice is to explore what happened and to decide if making some changes are worth it.
  • Receiving a low grade can feel terrible. Feeling terrible does not mean that you are terrible.
  • Most people who receive a low grade also graduate.

Once you’ve reframed the situation, think about what happened. Look at the situation objectively and consider what you could have done differently. How can you improve moving forward? Who can you reach out to for help? This could include seeking out resources like those at the Learning Center, using TA or Professor office hours, or working with a study group.

Be kind to yourself. Feeling like a failure hurts, but remember that everyone fails at some point. Treat yourself with compassion and use this as a stepping stone to greater success.

Spring Cleaning

The Mental Benefits of Decluttering

The flowers are popping, the quad is full – it’s spring at Carolina. Use the energy of spring to do some spring cleaning of your space and your life.

“Clutter isn’t just the stuff on the floor. It’s anything that gets between you and the life you want to be living.” – Peter Walsh

The environment around us influences our ability to complete tasks and our overall mental health. One study from the University of Connecticut, showed that by removing or controlling clutter, you boost your mood, sharpen your focus, energize you to be productive, and relieve anxiety.

 And yet, it can feel difficult to let go of things. A study at Yale showed the same areas of our brain light up when we get rid of things as when we burn our tongues or stub our toes. Getting rid of things is pain. Another study showed that just holding or touching an item can cause emotional attachment. So of course it’s difficult to donate an item or throw it away – you feel invested and connected to it! Here are a few tips:

  • Start small. Think of one small area that you can go through today like your junk drawer or the back of your closet before moving to larger areas. This helps build momentum and prevents feeling overwhelmed.
  • Declutter it! Sort items into categories like “Keep,” “donate,” “sell,” and “discard.” Questions to ask yourself:Is this item useful or does it bring me joy? If you have multiple items that serve the same purpose, consider keeping only the one you use most or brings you the most joy. Have I used it or worn it in the past year? Would it be hard to replace if I needed it again? Does it fit with my vision for the life I want to lead?
  • Keep going. Write out a list of the areas you want to declutter and tackle one small space each day or once a week. 
  • Consider various forms of clutter. Think about your calendar, the number of windows and tabs open on your laptop, and your phone notifications. Be ruthless! Close those tabs, turn off unnecessary notifications, and say no to (or postpone) commitments that just don’t fit. 
  • Keep things tidy. Set up systems for yourself to regularly declutter. If you bring something new into your space, get rid of something to help prevent clutter from building up over time. Use storage solutions to keep remaining items organized and easily accessible.

Life is stressful enough without spending hours cleaning and straightening. Work to keep clutter manageable and do what works best for you! By decluttering regularly and intentionally, you can create a more peaceful and organized space for yourself. 

Meditation’s role in Health and Well-Being

Campus scenes on October 26, 2022, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

There’s no magic potion to health and well-being, but if there was, meditation would be in it. Meditation is a powerful tool that improves both physical and mental health. It reduces stress and anxiety, calms the mind, improves focus and brain power, increases productivity and efficiency, increases relaxation, improves sleep quality, increases self-awareness, improves emotional regulation, increases resilience, positively impacts the immune system, and increases compassion and empathy. Talk about magic, right? 

Here’s a quick guide to start meditating:

  • Be patient with yourself. There is no “right” way to meditate. Simply focus on being present in the moment and cultivating calm awareness. 
  • Find a comfortable and quiet space, ideally one free of distractions, where you can sit comfortably for a few minutes. UNC Diversity and Inclusion has a list of campus meditation spaces.
  • Focus on your breath. Notice the sensations of air moving in and out of your body. 
  • Let thoughts pass by like leaves floating down a stream. Notice them, and let them drift away. 
  • Start with a few minutes of time, and increase the length of time with practice.
  • Don’t worry if your mind wanders, that’s normal! Just bring your thoughts back to your breath or the stream. 
  • Practice a few minutes a day. You can meditate while you brush your teeth, do the dishes, or walk in nature. You can meditate before you go to bed at night, or after you eat breakfast in the morning. 

With the known benefits of meditation, we should all be doing it more! Consider joining a meditation group or club to support yourself in practicing more. 

How to Have Great Sex…ual Health

Healthy sexual relationships can positively impact our well-being. Use these strategies to help keep everyone safe and healthy. 


Only you know when you’re ready for sex. Listen to yourself and consider your motivations, feelings, and boundaries. Sex comes with inherent risks – are you comfortable with the potential consequences? Are you clear about what you hope to gain? Remember that learning about intimacy and your own sexuality is a lifelong process.


What is sexy to one person might not be sexy to another. The best way to find out what a partner enjoys is to ask. It can feel difficult to talk about sex, but communication is critical and can also be hot. Pay attention to verbal and non-verbal cues from your partner. Tell your partner what makes you feel good and also what doesn’t. Ask and listen for the same insight from them. 

Get Consent

It’s critical to establish clear and enthusiastic consent from all parties involved and to communicate about boundaries, preferences, and desires. It’s best to talk about consent when clothes are on and emotions are chill. That way, no one feels rushed and everyone can voice excitement or concerns that they might have. Everyone deserves to know what they are consenting to, so reflect on what your partner may need to know before sex, like your STI status, how you protect yourself from STIs, and which contraceptives you use. 

Reduce Your Risks

You can use a latex or polyurethane barrier to help prevent sexually transmitted infections. You can get free latex or polyurethane barriers at Campus Heath, Student Stores Pharmacy, Student Wellness or in the Carolina Union. If you’re trying to prevent pregnancy, use a form of birth control. At Campus Health, contraception can be prescribed by a gynecology provider, primary care provider, or a pharmacist.  

By prioritizing sexual health, people can enjoy the physical and emotional benefits of intimate relationships while reducing the risk of potential health issues. Check out S.H.A.R.E. for additional sexual health education and resources.

Spread the Love

This Valentine’s Day, celebrate love in a diversity of ways! Some ideas:

Show the Community Love


Give your time and energy to make your community stronger.

Show Yourself Love

Have Some “Me” time

It’s easy to prioritize everything else – coursework, extracurriculars, jobs, relationships. Find a balance by loving yourself this Valentine’s Day too. 

Show Your Circle Love

Hang out

Spend time with those nearest and dearest to you – your “inner circle.” These are your besties, your ride-or-dies, your significant other, your roommates. Here are some fun ideas to spend time together regardless of your relationship status:

  • Watch a good movie
  • Eat or make yummy food together
  • Video chat with people you adore who are far away
  • Play some games

Ideas for Your Well-being Days

Ideas for Your Well-being Days

The recurring well-being days allow for our campus to have a break from classes to focus on mental health and overall wellness. The first of the spring semester are Monday and Tuesday 2/13 and 2/14. For some, these days may add more stress – the typical rhythm of your week is disrupted, you may fear that you’re missing out on fun activities, or you might just not know what to do with the extra time. Use this time for YOU! Some ideas:


Take some time to calm your mind, draw inward, and think deeply about your health and well-being. Be honest with yourself – it’s not about how you should feel. Consider what currently is feeding you, creating stress, pushing you past your comfort zone, getting you where you want to go, and connecting you with warm relationships. You could meditate, journal, go for a reflective walk or run – just take time to slow down and focus on your needs.

Do Self Care

  • Sleep. Go to sleep a bit earlier and wake up when your body is ready.
  • Eat. Use your extra time during the long weekend to focus on eating yummy, nutrient-dense foods. Cook yourself (and your friends?) an amazing meal or gather people you adore at a favorite place to eat.
  • Move Your Body. Spend time doing an activity that you like. Choose something that feels just right for today – you don’t have to push yourself hard, but take the time to do something active that you love.
  • Relax. Read something for fun. Watch a show you enjoy. Snuggle under a blanket. Do something that lets your body and mind rest and recharge.

Set Up Your Environment for Success

How can you improve the environment of your space to better support your health and well-being for the rest of the semester?

  • Bring in more sunlight. Move your workspace as close to the window as possible, strategically place mirrors, pull open curtains during the day.
  • Remove clutter. Get rid of what no longer serves you and keep things that bring you joy. Start small – pick one drawer to clean out today.
  • Incorporate your senses. Plants, art, photos of people or places you love, good smells, calming sounds – all of these can help you feel grounded, connected, and less stressed.

Help Someone Else

If you have the capacity for it, the well-being days are also a great time to support the people around you and strategize for broader impact.

  • Support a friend. Do you know someone who has had a tough time recently? Reach out to them to check in. Invite them to do something you both enjoy.
  • Serve others. Choosing to help others also benefits the helper! Volunteering is an act of self-care and offers many benefits for your health including finding a sense of purpose and passion. And of course it also helps an organization or another individual! Seek out service opportunities on a well-being day if you can.
  • Consider your communities. Use your influence for good in the spaces where you have some control. Consider how you can adjust to better offer structure, infuse flexibility, create a safe atmosphere, allow time for self-care, and advocate for systemic shifts in well-being on campus and in your groups.
  • Learn and advocate. Use some of your long weekend by learning to be a better mental health supporter and advocate. Visit the Heels Care Network and explore to better understand the mental health resources available and how you can help. Consider connecting with an organization or training to be a better advocate.

The well-being days next week are a time for you to meet your needs, and if you have the capacity – to help address the well-being of all community members. We are in this together here at Carolina. Thank you for being a part of our community of care!

How is your sleep these days?

Sleep can be elusive on campus. We are all still adjusting after winter break, but whether you have 8 am’s or all afternoon classes, improving your sleep gives you the energy to better perform in most aspects of your life.

Take control of your sleep with these simple (but sometimes difficult!) strategies:

  1. Plan your schedule around your internal body clock. There are those who are early risers and those who are night owls. Learn when your body and brain are most energized and reserve that time for your highest priority tasks.  
  2. Try starting a consistent sleep routine. Maintain the same sleep schedule every night. Eventually your body will earn to become tired and wake up at specific times. You make it harder for your body to adjust and when to get energy by switching up your schedule. Make the time when you get up for the day as consistent as possible.
  3. Be active in the morning. A quick stretch or morning walk will give you a boost of energy to get started with the day. Studies also show that you will tend stay more alert. Heart-pumping exercise right before you try to sleep can get in the way of relaxation.
  4. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep. For most college students this is the range of time you need. Daytime napping weakens sleep drive, making it more difficult to fall asleep at night, so avoid naps if you can. If you just can’t keep your eyes open, set an alarm for a 20 minute nap – short enough to recharge you but not long enough to disrupt evening sleep.
  5. Unplug before bed. Try putting away electronics and do something that relaxes you during the hour before bed, such as listening to music, doing gentle yoga or meditation, or reading a book. 
  6. Recognize your patterns. If you are sleeping through your lecture it may be time for a change! It is a sure sign you are not getting enough sleep in class. Find a way to switch up your routine.  

If you’re still struggling to sleep, consider connecting to mental health supports via care.unc.edu or your primary care provider (remember – Campus Health appointments can be made online).