So say you're a college student. You have a test tomorrow so it's 3 a.m. and you likely haven't slept in, I don't know, 20 hours. You're now on your third red bull and your hands are shaking and you keep misspelling your name, but that A in contemporary biology to make up for your last D is the only think on your mind. This story could stop right here, but this isn't actually abnormal for you. Your daily sleeping schedule is somewhere in between complete insomnia & sleeping through 5 alarms, but you haven't dropped out yet and you've convinced yourself that this is good enough until graduation.
I mean, so what? Who needs a constant sleep schedule when you can just sleep whenever you aren't hanging out with friends, partying, on tinder dates or behind on contemporary bio homework right? RIGHT?!
Above is your friend Matt. He tells you that sleeping plays a vital role in your personal, emotional and even mental well-being, and a healthy sleeping life is not a luxury but a necessity. Matt affirms that while in sleep mode, your body is helping you maintain a healthy brain and physical health. He exclaims that sleep helps children and teens (yes, even 18 years olds) grow and develop into healthy adults.
Although he's the most sensible in this equation and between convulsions from the red bull intake, you're not convinced. You go hard on the books until 6, scarf down some donuts and take your backpack and partial consciousness to the contemporary bio lab at 9 to take the test confidently.
"I aced that because I studied," you say. Matt shakes his head in disappointment.
"I don't understand why you keep doing this to yourself."
"Doing what?" you say, burping so hard you stumble a little bit.
"Hurting yourself by not maintaining a healthy sleeping schedule. I mean, I feel like most if not all of your stress would be minimized if you just find a schedule that works for you a stick to i-"
You puke. Matt walks off in digust and vows to not speak to you due to your "destructive behavior". It doesn't matter, though. All that matters is getting good grades, no matter what it takes. You're on top of the world and feeling so good that you go home and finally take your first shower of the day. Nothing could ever go wrong. You just aced a test even when Matt doubted you. Right?
Wrong. Your teacher upgrades the gradebook and put a big "56" next your name. You're devastated.
"I can't believe I failed a test I studied so hard for. This is worth 20 percent of my grade. What will I do? What can I say to make this go away? Why can't I just skip this class?"
You loathe so much that you look like this. Your friends don't want to partake in your pity party because this is the 5th time this semester this has happened, but you didn't learn. What do you do next? What can you do next?
The answer to all of your problems is simple: healthy sleep. Sleep affects how we think, work, react, interact with others and learn in school. The likelihood of a successful study session on less than 5 hour of sleep is slim to none because you're suffering from sleep deficiency. The damage from sleep deficiency can occur in minute situations (such as failing a test) or major ones (crashing a car).
Experts suggest that college-aged people attain 7-9 hours of sleep and maintain a stead sleep schedule. Some other helpful tips would be to create a bedtime ritual so you fall asleep within 20 minutes of laying down, make sure your sleeping space is comfortable, include physical activity in your sleeping time, and limiting daytime naps to 10-30 minutes.
If this isn't convincing enough for you, check the infographic below for some detrimental ways bad sleeping habits can harm you.
From a health perspective, it is without a doubt that inadequate sleep can lead to very bad things. It is imperative that we as aspiring successful humans make sleep a priority and not a luxury. To put it in perspective, in order to keep yourself on the same schedule, set alarms that coincide with your sleep schedule. In order to maintain a bedtime ritual, think of something that calms you down (writing, cycling, singing, listening to music, etc) and do it every single night before you lay down. The Sleep Foundation provides these tips to help your sleeping schedule instantly:
- Evaluate your room. Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep. Your bedroom should be cool – between 60 and 67 degrees. Your bedroom should also be free from any noise that can disturb your sleep. Finally, your bedroom should be free from any light. Check your room for noises or other distractions. This includes a bed partner's sleep disruptions such as snoring. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, "white noise" machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices.
- Use bright light to help manage your circadian rhythms. Avoid bright light in the evening and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning. This will keep your circadian rhythms in check.
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening. Alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine can disrupt sleep. Eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort from indigestion that can make it hard to sleep. If you can, avoid eating large meals for two to three hours before bedtime. Try a light snack 45 minutes before bed if you’re still hungry.
- Wind down. Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading. For some people, using an electronic device such as a laptop can make it hard to fall asleep, because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is activating to the brain. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid electronics before bed or in the middle of the night.
- If you can't sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired. It is best to take work materials, computers and televisions out of the sleeping environment. Use your bed only for sleep and sex to strengthen the association between bed and sleep. If you associate a particular activity or item with anxiety about sleeping, omit it from your bedtime routine.
- If you’re still having trouble sleeping, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor or to find a sleep professional. You may also benefit from recording your sleep in a Sleep Diary to help you better evaluate common patterns or issues you may see with your sleep or sleeping habits.
In addition, Sleep Ridiculously Well has some articles on Cooling Mattress Pads, Stomach Sleeper Pillows, Side Sleeper Pillows and Pillows to Help Reduce Neck Pain to help you make additions to your new comfortable sleeping space.
You now probably look something similar to this. Healthy sleep is both a rewarding and healthy committment, and you have to want it for yourself. If you take nothing away from this, know that if me, a college student with three jobs and 12 hours in school (and the person I've been describing throughout this article), can do this, you can too. For more information on a happy and healthy sleeping lifestyle, visit http://www.sleepridiculouslywell.com/.