Receiving the proper amount of sleep each night is vital to one’s overall health. According to health professionals, on average, the healthy amount of rest each night should be anywhere between 7-9 hours. But with the ever-growing number of responsibilities that must be maintained each day, it is easy for sleep to be overlooked or even neglected.
Whether studying for a huge upcoming math test as a college student, or grading papers as a professor, sleep may be the last thing on someone’s mind. However, acknowledging how vital sleep truly is is the first step to leading a more healthy and balanced life.
Dr. Melissa Terlecki, psychology department chair and professor, said, “A proper night’s rest allows for your body and mind to reset, recharge, and relax. Without sleep, you are physically and mentally exhausted and both your cognitive and physical state is affected. You can’t possibly seem to concentrate, it is more difficult to focus, and your memory becomes impaired as well.”
This shortfall trickles into every facet of our life, because without rest we can’t function properly or efficiently.
Value of a sleep schedule
Terlecki emphasized the importance of going to bed at the same time every night, because our body has its own internal clock. One can create these proper sleep patterns through time management by scheduling schoolwork, studying, exercising, etc., around a rest routine.
There are significant factors that can also delay and even prevent getting to sleep at night. Terlecki said that one way this can happen is by “associating stressful things with your bed. If you are studying while stressed and or worried, and you are doing it while you are sitting on your bed, your mind will then associate that anxiety and stress with your bed, which can create trouble in getting to sleep at night. You want to reserve your bed for peaceful and quiet time such as reading a book, where you can feel completely at ease.”
Raevan Williams, junior psychology major, shared her perspective on the importance of sleep and how college students can create a balancing sleep and work schedule. She mentioned that as college students, schedules can become extremely hectic, making it even more difficult to get an adequate amount of rest each night.
However, she believes a major reason college students struggle to get enough sleep is their phone use. She said, “Using any form of technology, especially our phones right before bed, make it harder to fall asleep at night. When I started limiting my own phone use before bed, I noticed a huge difference in terms of what time I go to sleep and my overall energy levels throughout the next day.”
Williams also noted how as college students, it is important to create a relaxing space right before bed as well. This can be done by either turning off or dimming the lights in the bedroom, playing relaxing music or white noise, and trying aromatherapy by using calming essential oils.
Five steps for bedtime
- Avoid caffeine right before bed. According to health professionals, caffeine should be avoided four to six hours before bedtime for most people, as this is how long it takes the body to metabolize half of its caffeine consumption. Caffeine works as a stimulant; therefore, it causes you to stay awake and interrupts sleep patterns
- Try meditation and mindfulness. This can help reduce anxiety, stress, and fear, which keeps one up at night.
- Exercise earlier rather than later. Exercising causes the nervous system to be aroused and can raise heart rate, which in turn, makes it even harder to get to sleep. If one is going to exercise at night, light to moderate--intensity activity is best. It’s also essential to finish a workout at least one hour before bedtime.
- Make sure the bedroom temperature is just right. Being too hot or too cold can interfere with a person’s ability to sleep. Ideally, your room temperature should be anywhere between 60-67 degrees.
- Try to avoid naps during the day. This is difficult, especially for college students and working adults; however, naps tend to disrupt overall sleep patterns.
Sleep is an important factor in leading a physically and mentally healthy and productive life. The advantages to proper sleep, and more specifically, a proper sleep schedule, are tremendous, making it that much more vital to implement into your day and night routine.