We spend about a third of our lives asleep. The importance of sleeping well should therefore be one of our main interests when aiming for improved general wellbeing. The benefits of having enough regular and high quality sleep are manyfold. From improved cognitive performance and heightened emotional stability to more efficient bodily functions and a general restful feeling, the outcomes of having excellent sleep are worth working towards.
It can be really difficult to maintain a pattern of healthy sleep at university. Academic and social responsibilities can amount to levels at which we happily discount sleep to have more hours in the day to accomplish the things we feel we have to do. This trade-off can have a really negative impact on the way we feel, our mood and our general health. It seems easier said than done but honoring the importance of sleep and taking our time to improve our sleep can bring about amazingly positive results for our general wellbeing, even within a short time frame.
Having good ‘sleep hygiene’ is paramount to our quality of life, therefore we have compiled a list of things you could do to bring about a positive change to your sleep routine.
- Listen to classical music or a story – Put on some classical music or an audiobook (e.g. Harry Potter or Agatha Christie) and fall asleep whilst listening to a 30-minute chapter. Science says these methods are very effective!
- Routine – Follow a similar routine before going to bed each night. Alongside going to bed and waking up at similar times, following a similar procedure before and after sleep will prime your brain to get ready to go into rest mode. Keeping up such a routine for just a week or two will allow you to go to sleep with much more ease.
- Lights and technology – This can be a tricky balance. It is recommended that we do not look at bright lights up to two to three hours before sleep (Health.harvard.edu, 2018). However, this can be unrealistic given our increasingly prevalent use of technology in the form of social media and streaming sites during bed time. Many devices now have functions whereby we can make the light ‘more warm’, which can reduce its negative effects. If you use technology as part of your bedtime routine, consider having a bedside lamp on as well. This will strain your eyes less.
- Activity during the day – being very active during the day can make you tired, ready for a good sleep at night. Try exercising daily and avoiding naps during the day if you are having trouble sleeping.
- Your bedroom – try to invest in an environment in which you feel invited to snuggle up and have a really good rest. This includes making sure the room is dark, cool and quiet at night. It can also mean saving up for a comfortable mattress and pillows. It is amazing how much your sleep can improve if the setting is right.
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine or heavy and spicy meals before bed time. These can all keep your circulatory and digestive systems very active, thus preventing the body from resting.
- The Harvard Medical School offers a comprehensive guide to various resources giving information on ‘Why Sleep Matters’, ‘The Science of Sleep’ and ‘Getting the Sleep You Need.’ Check it out here for some really useful information!
- The NHS provides a useful guide on sleep and tiredness.
- Mind dedicates a website to advice on how to cope with sleep problems. The focus lies around mental wellbeing and could be useful if you are experiencing getting to sleep.
Self help apps
- Sleep Cycle – an alarm clock that tracks your sleeping patterns by listening to your nightly movements using your microphone. Sleep Cycle can optimize the time at which you wake up by choosing the lightest part of your sleep cycle to wake you up.
- Meditation apps: Pzizz, Headspace and Calm are all apps designed to help you meditate and be mindful. Being more at ease could really help you get to sleep!
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