Just like many other university students, I have experienced my fair share of sleep deprivation.
University students deal with copious amounts of work, which often comes at the cost of sleep. I know I am not the only one who has felt actual guilt in going to bed instead of studying all night for a test or midterm. University students deal with high levels of stress and anxiety, which takes their toll on both the quality and quantity of one’s sleep. These factors have such an impact on our brain, that although we are physically exhausted, we can have trouble getting a good night’s sleep.
The importance of sleep for our mental and physical health cannot be overstated. We can ensure we rest fully by practicing good sleep hygiene.
Four years ago, if you had asked me what sleep hygiene was, I would not have been able to give you an answer without doing a quick Google search. Now, having dealt with difficulty sleeping, I would define it as the practices I undertake everyday before I go to bed in order to ensure I fall asleep quickly, stay asleep, and wake up feeling rested. This helps me get the best sleep possible. These practices can vary for each person based on what they find works for them. However, there are some common practices which tend to be helpful for the general population:
- Avoid studying in bed.
Although it is super comfortable, limiting activities other than sleep in bed helps brain associate your bed with the activity of sleeping.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine.
Practicing habits like reading, mindfulness, meditation or yoga can allow you to go to bed with a relaxed, clear mind.
- Limit later caffeine intake.
Limiting the amount of caffeine you consume in the afternoon and evening can help you fall asleep quicker.
- Reduce screen time.
This can be very difficult for students as much of our work is done online, but where possible, try to reduce the amount of time you spend looking at an electronic screen before bed. The blue light emitted from screens prevents our brains from releasing melatonin, our sleep-inducing hormone.
- Create a good sleep environment.
An optimal sleep environment is a clean and quiet space with a cooler temperature. You can create an environment that works for you by using things like a fan, blackout curtains, a sleep mask or white noise.
- Establish a sleep routine.
Try your best to get up and fall asleep at the same time each day. Having a schedule can improve the quality of your sleep.
- Practice healthy lifestyle habits.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly where possible supports good quality sleep.
Incorporating some of these habits into a routine can help you get a better night’s sleep. Try building a routine this reading week and see what works for you!