Life as a student can be demanding; the balance between class, homework and other commitments have the ability to drain your energy quite easily. The only way to truly replenish that energy is through sleep. According to Stanford University’s Department for the Diagnosis and Treatment for Sleep Disorders, post-secondary students should be making the effort to get at least eight hours of sleep each night in order to avoid what experts refer to as “sleep debt”. Sleep debt is a term that is defined as the cumulative effect of not getting enough sleep and, if left to build, this can lead to noticeable physical and/or mental fatigue.
Harvard Medical School published an article that outlined a number of tips that you can consider to help avoid piling sleep debt and to also help avoid falling back into its cycle. Here are a few of the notable ones:
- Create a sleep sanctuary
It’s important to maintain your bedroom as a place that is exclusively for rest and relaxation. They recommend the removal of screens from this area as they can divert you from a restful sleep and decrease your ‘sleep hygiene’.
- Nap only if necessary
Personally, I find this to be a difficult one to come to terms with. While that late afternoon nap seems incredibly necessary, it can throw a wrench into your sleep pattern at night time and send you into a more tiresome spiral. But, it should be considered that some studies actually determined that a short 20 minute nap doesn’t have a major effect on your nighttime sleep. Find out what works best for you.
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon
This is kind of a no-brainer. Caffeine gives you that extra boost of energy, not exactly something you want when you’re trying to catch some sleep.
- Settle a short term sleep debt
What they mean by this is use the weekends to your advantage. For most of us, this is a time when we have a little more freedom to sleep. If you missed out on a few hours during the week, take the time to make up a few on the weekend.
- Avoid backsliding into a new debt cycle
Finally, you’ve done the work to catch up; now the key is to maintain that healthy sleep cycle. It may sound over the top, but figure out how much sleep works for you and create a real sleep schedule. It makes a difference to go to bed and wake up at the same time.
If these suggestions don’t seem to be making a difference for you, it may be time to visit a physician for a referral to undergo a sleep study.
You may have heard of insomnia, as it’s a term that can be thrown around loosely, but it’s a legitimate medical condition. Those with insomnia can have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep or find themselves waking up too early in the morning. As a result of this, it can have an impact on your life during the daytime. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), 30 to 35 per cent of adults complain of insomnia. However, insomnia can present itself in two different forms: short term insomnia and chronic insomnia. AASM says that chronic insomnia “occurs at least three times per week and lasts for at least three months” and that about 10 per cent of people experience this.
Sleep deprivation is common, but sleep is a vital part of each of our lives. If you find yourself experiencing reoccurring issues with your sleep patterns it wouldn’t hurt to seek an opinion from a medical professional. We’re more energetic and productive on a good night’s sleep, so let’s take care of ourselves and value our bedtime.
Did you know? Brock is home to the Brock University Sleep Research Laboratory that hosts numerous training opportunities for Undergraduate students to work or volunteer in. Visit https://brocku.ca/sleeplab/ for more information.