For a more successful college career, get a good night’s sleep

Written by: Alek Culpepper & Keren Moros

Sleep and the college lifestyle seem mutually exclusive. The after-midnight study sessions, stress, socializing and the freedom to choose when to sleep work together to disrupt sleep in college.

Jaime Tartar, Ph.D., associate professor of social and behavioral sciences, said people need at least eight hours of sleep for proper psychological and cognitive functioning. She said sleep loss has been shown to impair learning and memory.

If you want to be productive, sharp, balanced and energetic throughout the day, follow these tips to get a good night’s sleep.

Have a regular schedule. Set a specific bed time, and, no, the 20 minutes in your 9 a.m. class don’t count as sleep. Choose a time that you regularly feel tired, so you won’t be tossing and turning all night. Then wake up at a certain time every day.

Tartar suggests that students wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. She said once you start doing this, your body will let you know when it is time to sleep.

“Having a regular sleep and wake time is best for good sleep hygiene and proper daytime functioning,” she said.

Make your room sleep friendly. Make sure your room will help you fall asleep. Use your bed only to sleep, not to eat or study.

“The bed can become associated with the activities that one carries out while in bed,” Tartar said. “It is easier to fall asleep in bed, if the bed is associated with sleep.”

Tartar also suggested turning out the lights.

“Light cues send signals to the brain that promote wakefulness,” she said.

Relax. In order to get better sleep, you need to be relaxed and comfortable before going to bed. Ana Fins, Ph.D., associate professor in the Center for Psychological Studies, said stress and anxiety are the main causes of sleep disruption among college students.

“Although it is difficult to avoid stress, especially around exam time, it can promote good sleep to try not to dwell on [stress] before sleep,” she said.

Fins said students should do activities that relieve stress.

“Planning and studying ahead can help students feel more in control of the material they need to learn and reduce some of the anxiety associated with exams,” said Fins.

Tartar said one way to distract oneself from stress is by reading a book. So, grab your favorite book or turn on your favorite TV show and forget about the day’s stresses. Savor that last hour before bed.

Pour out the soda. Fins said caffeine can negatively impact a person’s sleep. Tartar said alcohol and nicotine also interfere with sleep.

“Students should avoid caffeine close to bedtime. Some sleep experts recommend that no caffeine be consumed about four to six hours before bed time,” said Fins.

Avoid substances that keep you counting the cracks and crevices on your ceiling.

Exercise. Many of us spend much of our day stressing and sitting motionless in front of a computer working on Blackboard or digging our faces in our biology books. The next time you walk into the Don Taft University Center, skip Starbucks and hit the gym. Fins said exercise helps reduce some of the physical tension associated with
feeling stressed.

However, Fins said, “Exer-cising too close to bed time is not recommended as it may make it more difficult to fall asleep, so try to avoid strenuous exercising a couple of hours before bedtime.”

Sleep is not just an “escape.” It is an essential part of life. Follow these suggestions, and you just might notice an extra pep in your step the next morning. Put down the book, turn off your phone, “like” your last status and get some shuteye.


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