Sleep is a problem for students. Actually, I want to reword that. Sleep is a HUGE problem for students, myself included. (In fact, I’m really struggling right now, as all I can think about is taking a nap). In my last blog I wrote about finding time for you. Making sure that there was time in your schedule for the things that make you happy, however; I failed to mention in that blog, finding time for one of the most important things that you can do for yourself… SLEEP.
Now I can almost hear it in my head, “But we’re students, we’re supposed to be sleep deprived.” To that I say NO, and I bet your body would say a solid NO as well. There are so many reasons why your body needs sleep. When you sleep your brain consolidates and protects the memories that you formed during the day. This means that you are more likely to remember material if you get a few hours of sleep than if you pull an all-nighter. Sleep also regulates other important functions of the body, including hunger, hormone production, and your immune system. Lack of sleep can lead to a range of problems including:
- Increased moodiness and irritability
- Decreased ability to concentrate
- Decreased retention of new information
- Lessen your body’s ability to fight off illness
Yea. No bueno. So how to avoid these not-so-fun consequences? I can’t really tell you per say, sleep habits are really personal. What works for me, for your roommate, for that kid in your class who somehow always seems oh-so-peppy despite the fact that they were “up all night studying,” might not be right for you. While everyone’s sleep needs are different, according to the National Sleep Foundation, college students typically need somewhere between 7-8 hours of sleep to feel rested and alert the next day. This just means being aware of what your personal sleep needs are. For example, I personally know my sleep needs are higher on the sleep-need spectrum than most. I also know, if I don’t get enough sleep, it really impacts me and those around me. (Sleep Sarah= Grumpy Sarah).
Recognizing my own sleep helps me to set goals and boundaries that ensure I get enough sleep. For example, I avoid doing work after midnight and have a strict personal ‘No All-nighters’ rule. While I admit (like today) sometimes I don’t quite meet my sleep needs and maybe I ended up working after midnight, however; just knowing my own limits and working to stay within them helps me to be a more rested (and pleasant) individual overall.
Again, I want to reiterate, this may look completely different for you. If you’re interested in finding out what your sleep needs and schedule look like, a good way to start is to keep a sleep journal. (Here is an example) Important things to track in your journal, include the hours that you’re asleep (including points in the night when you wake up and naps during the day), the times at which you have caffeine or alcohol and when you exercised. It’s also helpful to track how you feel each day. Were you especially sleepy that day? Did you feel that you slept peacefully? Restlessly? Did you have trouble falling asleep? All of these things can illuminate your sleep pattern. It can also highlight changes you need to make that can help you get better sleep. For example, you might find that every time you have caffeine (coke, coffee, tea) with dinner, you just can’t seem to fall asleep.
There are also a number of apps out there that can help you track your sleep habits on your phone. A quick google search can help you find one that will be useful for you!
Well sweet dreams to all! Catch those Zzzzs.
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