Students learned about the importance of a good night’s sleep and how to improve sleeping habits at a University Student Union Life Skills and Learning course last Tuesday.
Sleep is one of the most important activities a human body needs to thrive. A human body needs water, calories and sleep to survive, and most students forgo sleep as a way to extend their productivity or have more personal time.
Mark Stevens, director of the University Counseling Services, said, “There isn’t always a routine for college students, so your brain and your body don’t match up.”
“Sleep helps break down food and digest, and you burn calories while you sleep,” Stevens said.
As many people know, a lack of sleep causes irritability, decreased concentration and can be potentially life threatening, especially when tired people drive cars. A lack of sleep can also weaken the immune system, which makes people even more susceptible to colds and the flu.
“I’m just amazed at students complaining that they’re tired, and over time they think that that’s the way they should be feeling,” Stevens said.
Stevens suggests setting a routine to help establish solidarity in your sleep schedule. He explained that a student should try to go to sleep at the same time every night, and wake up at the same time in the morning.
“The room temperature when you go to sleep should be a little cooler than usual,” Stevens said. “Heat dries you up, so your sleep gets a little bit shaken because there is not enough humidity.”
He also suggests using your bed solely for sleep, because the bed should establish a memory in the brain as being a place for rest.
“If your brain doesn’t know that your bed is just for sleep, you might have trouble falling asleep,” Stevens said.
Stevens recommends exercising three to four times a week, and emphasized that walking across campus doesn’t count as exercise.
“Things like chocolate and red wine can keep you up, because you have to detox alcohol out of your body, and chocolate is really rich. If you have trouble sleeping, I’d take caffeine out of your diet completely.”
Stevens suggested that students should not eat three hours before they go to bed, as the digestion can halt ability to snooze.
Students will also be surprised that napping can actually be detrimental to their sleep schedules.
“Your body gets used to your naps, and then you don’t want to sleep as much at night,” he said.
Too much sleep works in the same way, and some students also suffer because they use sleep as a means to escape depression, anxiety or stress. He recommends using a note pad to jot down worries before turning in for the night. Once all worries have been written down, stop thinking about them.
“The reality is, you’re not going to solve your worries between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.,” Stevens said.
“Writing down my problems will help me go to sleep,” said Karla Dodley, a freshman biology major. “I can write about it, and then forget about it.”
Stevens described how certain breathing exercises can help students fall asleep, and students lied down on the floor and practiced using counting and breathing as a relaxation method.
“I sleep pretty well, but I think the breathing exercises will help,” said Evan Wake, a senior Cinema and Television Arts student.
At the end of the workshop, Stevens answered questions regarding student’s sleep problems and habits. One student asked about hitting the snooze several times in the morning.
“It’s an option to stay in bed, and you need to think that in 30 seconds your bed will blow up,” Stevens said. “Get up, and turn on as many lights as you can,”
Another student asked if it is better to stay up late and finish an assignment, or to wake up early and finish the assignment. Stevens was adamant in pointing out that neither option is the best, and the student should budget time so that they can avoid having to sacrifice sleep.
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