Sleep hygiene is one of the most common problems among college students and Wes students are no exception. Sleep is often the first thing neglected in order to focus on other areas of our lives. However, poor sleep hygiene impacts all those areas in a negative way, and so the cycle begins. You may stay up to get work done and then the quality of the work suffers, or the work is good, but you are irritable or cannot retain information in your classes the same way. On the flip side of that, research suggests that getting adequate sleep helps learning and memory. A well rested person can optimally focus hir/her/his attention and therefore learn efficiently. Sleep plays a large role in the consolidation of memory, which is necessary for learning new information.
If you are concerned about your sleep, one of the first things I would suggest is taking the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. You can easily find the scale online as many health education sites use it. This scale will measure your daytime sleepiness which is a good indicator of whether you are getting enough sleep and thus predicts what your next course of action should be. If your score is high I would encourage you to make an appointment with a provider at the Davison Health Center. If you have a medium score then you can set up an appointment with me at WesWell and we can create a specific plan for you to improve your sleep hygiene. If you have a low score then it is a good indicator that you are getting enough sleep.
Many of the best practices for sleep hygiene are simple, but are different for everyone. I want to share a couple with you that you can try. You should try a combination of the ones that you think might work for you for 7-10 days. Then assess if they are working. If they work, great! If you don’t feel your sleep hygiene has improved, then eliminate the things you didn’t find helpful, add new techniques and try for another 7-10 days.
- Create a good sleep environment – this could mean ensuring it is completely dark in your sleeping area, sleeping in a cool temperature or not falling asleep with the television or computer on.
- Establish regular sleep hours – these hours and the length of them is different for everyone but it should be between 6-8 hours a night, and the time you go to sleep and wake up should be around the same time every day, even on weekends. This will help regulate your circadian rhythm.
- Create bedtime routines to help unwind – establish a routine pattern that will become an indicator to your body that it is time for sleep. This could include reading for pleasure, dimming the lights, listening to relaxing music, guided relaxation exercises or anything you find relaxing.
- Reduce and manage stress close to bedtime – you may want to keep a notebook next to your bed where you can write down the thoughts or ideas that pop into your mind so that your mind can rest. You also should avoid doing stressful activities or doing anything that increases your heart rate 2 hours before bed.
- Reduce water and food intake two hours before bedtime –research suggest that eating or drinking before sleeping can cause a bit of reflux. Your digestive system is working at full speed when your body should be relaxed, calm.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol intake – caffeine is found in coffee, tea, soda and chocolate. Be conscious of what you are consuming if trying to avoid caffeine. While alcohol may help you fall asleep it will disrupt sleep later and interfere with restorative sleep.
- Use your bed for sleeping & sex only – try not to use your bed as an office, workspace or hang out space. This will allow your body to associate your bed with sleeping.
Please feel free to contact me for more information on sleep or stop by the WesWell resource room to gather some of our sleep resources.
Tanya Purdy, MPH Director of WesWell – Office of Health Education, 1st floor Davison Health Center, firstname.lastname@example.org