5 Ways to Get Enough Sleep in College
61 sheep, 62 sheep, 63 sheep… Why am I still awake? Well, it is only 3:05 a.m. We have been all there. When you are at college, getting quality sleep is easier said than done. Today, a team of PaperCheap writers will show you how sleep is tied to your physical and mental health as well as give you five easy ways to get that refreshing sleep that you need.
We all feel groggy and slow after watching Netflix until 5 a.m., but that is not the only effect the lack of sleep has on our bodies. Yeah, we start with obvious. If you have not heard it, not getting enough sleep over an extended period can lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks, aneurysms, and so on. Unfortunately, that is not all.
How Sleep Affects Our Brain and Health
Staying up late studying for a test? Writers know the feeling. College can be overwhelming sometimes, and it can seem as though there is not enough time in the day to keep up with new class content, assignments, and tests. So, you may feel forced to sacrifice sleep, thinking that cramming the night before will be beneficial. After all, one all-nighter can’t hurt, right? Well, not getting enough sleep actually worsens your cognitive ability.
A recent study showed that students who did not sleep at all before doing activities requiring them to learn new information performed significantly worse than students who slept. Interestingly, these sleep-deprived students also thought they both performed better and put in more effort into activities than others.
To properly store the information that you have learned, you need a full-night sleep. This includes going through both stages of it: non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM). NREM begins when you first fall asleep with the REM stage following directly afterward. Researchers have found that memory formation is initiated during the NREM phase and is then consolidated during the REM phase. Over a night, each cycle is repeated around four to six times, with each cycle lasting for one and a half to two hours. More importantly, one’s ability to learn is greatly dependent on the amount of NREM sleep during the first quarter of the night.
How Does Sleep Improve Your Memory and Performance?
Well, all information is stored in neural networks of your brain. The stronger the connections are, the easier it is to access this information. When you are studying and learning, there is a possibility of it interfering with pre-existing neural networks. To cope with this, your brain temporarily stores the new info into an intermediate buffer. The brain, then, requires an offline mode (provided by sleep) to integrate this new information with pre-existing long-term memories gradually.
During sleep, your brain also reactivates neural networks, further enhancing the transfer of new memories to long-term storage. This neural reactivation is extremely important because, on the test day, you mostly retrieve information from that long-term storage.
A lot of students think that they can pull an all-nighter the night before a test and catch up on sleep the following day to feel rejuvenated again. However, as previously mentioned, staying up all night interferes with the brain’s ability to consolidate memories. A full-night sleep is required immediately after learning for proper memory formation.
It is not so easy to get that good quality sleep. Some nights, you stay awake worrying about that test you need to pass, other nights, you just can’t get comfortable. These five tips will get you on the path towards good sleep.
1. Develop a Relaxing Bedtime Ritual
Do you remember being a kid? When your mom forced you to take a shower first, brush your teeth, take on a soft pajama, and go to bed. Well, if anything did not change, you have to move out of the parents’ apartment, because you are already 22! In case you live in a dorm or rent a room, you have to establish a bedtime ritual as it was when you were 7. It should not necessarily include soft pajama, but we would recommend you to come up with new things like reading five pages of an old book, writing a plan for tomorrow, taking a bath, or meditating.
All these processes will set your body to the sleep mode after practicing this ritual for a couple of days. So, when you meditate, your organism will know that it is bedtime.
However, here is a list of things you should exclude from your “bedtime ritual” list:
- drink caffeine and alcohol;
- working on a computer.
2. Maintain Regular Sleep and Wake Schedule
The body craves routine and performs its best when you can stick to a sleep schedule. It creates a natural rhythm for your body. Now, what is the perfect sleep and wake schedule? Well, it all depends on your body and regime existed, but there is officially an optimal time to go to bed – between 9 and 10:30 p.m. It all because of one of the main hormones – melatonin. Not only it makes you feel sleepy, but it provides dozens of other benefits.
Melatonin is a hormone that our body produces to regulate sleep. During a calm and proper sleep, all vital processes in the body occur: the metabolism is restarted, for example. No melatonin, here you have a metabolic disorder, which leads to half of the known diseases, weight gain, and depression.
Now, the least favorite part: the brain begins to produce melatonin at about 9 pm, which means that you need to fall asleep no later than 10 p.m. If you miss this window, cortisol kicks in, giving you a second wind and keeping you awake. Moreover, there should not be any phone in front of your eyes (it catastrophically reduces the production of the hormone). So, remove it even from your bedside table.
Did you fall asleep after midnight, feel broken, and eat the whole cheesecake the next day? Now, you know that there is a reason for that.
3. Make a Bed Your Sleeping Place
If you used to study, watch movies, and sleep at the same place, there is a chance that it will be hard for you to fall asleep during 7-10 minutes (usually, it is the time required for a healthy person to fall asleep). When your body starts to associate the bed only with a dream, you will forget about insomnia.
4. Exercise During the Day
And the crucial part of this tip is the last three words. We have already mentioned that exercises at night time are a terrible idea. They elevate body temperature, stimulate hormones such as cortisol, and interfere with sleep. Exercise during the day, instead, can increase the amount of time you spend in the deep, restorative stages of sleep.
5. Watch What You Eat
Okay, when commenting on all the previous advice, a college student can say, “I am a student, I do not have time or space for that,” watching what you eat is something can and should do. Student’s daytime eating habits play a significant role in how well he or she sleeps. Just reduce the share of sugar and refined carbs such as pastry, white bread, and pasta. Gradually, you can switch on a healthy diet.
So, like any goal, good sleep starts with a habit. Give yourself five days and try to incorporate one of these tips each day. Make the first step to a huge change!