McAdvice: Sleeping

Image by Kyle Parks.Image by Kyle Parks.

Sleep, the thing college students dream about.

College students are some of the most sleep deprived people in the world. We live on caffeine and other energy sources. But it doesn’t always have to be that way. Sleeping is hugely important for us to get through life, regardless of how much you say you can survive on two hours of sleep a night. Our brains need it, our bodies need it, and we would be much healthier if we had a consistent amount of sleep each night.

According to the National Institutes of Health, “sleep deprivation in students has been linked to lower GPAs because sleep affects concentration, memory and the ability to learn.” By getting a good night’s rest, you are helping yourself get through college. So how can we do that? There are countless tips and tricks to getting a good night’s rest online, here are some of the most effective.

1. First and foremost, avoid caffeine and sugar later in the evening.

This comes off as blatantly obvious, but I guarantee that most of us do consume coffee in the late hours of the evening. Caffeine takes about 45 minutes to take effect, and it stays in your system for around four to six hours.

Sugar, although not as effective as caffeine itself, also does not help. If you make it your plan to avoid sugary and caffeinated drinks after 3 p.m., you’ll be more likely to fall asleep earlier. If you need to drink something to keep you up, always have a bottle of water with you. Water has been proven to be more effective in keeping people awake in the long run and it is much healthier than all the chemicals that go into energy drinks and things of the like.

2. Avoid naps.

I know, blasphemous! Naps are one of a college student’s best friends. But the longer you sleep during the day, the less you will sleep at night, it will be a vicious cycle. Long naps can disrupt your circadian rhythm, leading to a disrupted sleep pattern.

If you need to take naps, take a power nap. A short 20-30 minute nap scheduled into your day can help energize you without messing up your sleep pattern. Make sure you limit it to one to two naps a day, anymore than that and it would be the same as taking one long nap and it would mess up your sleep pattern.

3. Make sure your bed is only used for sleep.

Many times, we use our bed to do everything but sleep. This can trick your brain into thinking the bed is not the place to sleep. If you constantly use your bed to do homework, your brain will start to think that and it will be even tougher to get to sleep. Keep your bed as a haven for sleep; if there are few choices to do homework and the such, then minimize the intensity of the activity.

4. Manage your time and avoid all-nighters.

By making a good work schedule you can plan power naps throughout your day, and avoid all-nighters (check last week’s article for tips to avoid procrastination). Sure, an all-nighter might have to happen, but only if you procrastinate, which is something we all do.

If you properly manage your time, you can avoid cram sessions before tests, or long nights writing essays. An all-nighter will simply deprive you of sleep, research has shown that sleep deprivation will hinder your ability to do most day to day tasks. Studying and working while sleep deprived is also pretty detrimental as you will most likely forget most things you read.

5. Lastly, don’t rely on weekends to “catch up” on sleep.

If you use the weekend to catch up on sleep, you can actually ruin your sleep even more. Sleeping too little can lead to issues, but sleeping for too long can lead to the same amount of issues. If you use the weekend to binge sleep, your circadian rhythm can be ruined even more. The best way to avoid this is to try to get the same amount of sleep each night. A reliable and consistent amount of sleep is the best way to avoid “catching up” on sleep.

We can stop dreaming of sleep, and actually do it this time. This is one dream that is achievable. Take your power nap, schedule your day, and get your eight hours of sleep, you will be healthier and happier.