March News 2012

Better Sleep, Better Attitude

Losing an hour of sleep due to daylight savings time presents a great opportunity to examine our sleep habits. For many of us in school, sleep is treated as a luxury: we get what we can when we have the time. However, we may want to reconsider how we fit sleep into our busy schedules. Studies have shown that getting the proper amount of quality sleep is crucial for both our physical health and our emotional well-being.

Not getting the proper amount of sleep has been shown to weaken our immune systems, which could increase our chances for getting sick. Lack of sleep also inhibits activity in the areas of our brain that help manage our emotions. Getting an adequate amount of deep sleep (7+ hours) helps the brain perform this important function--and when we deprive our brains of rest, we get grumpy and distracted.

The benefits of getting adequate sleep are many: it has been correlated to lower cancer risks, it reduces incidents and symptoms of depression, it improves alertness, it supports proper memory function, and it has been shown to aid in weight loss. So the next time you find yourself dozing in class or struggling on an exam because you burned the midnight oil, just remember all of the ways in which sleep could have helped you succeed.

Here are some helpful tips from Mayo Clinic for getting proper sleep:

Keep a Sleep Schedule
Lie down and get up at roughly the same time, even on weekends and breaks. This will help your body's natural sleep cycle stay consistent and effective.

Pay Attention to What You Eat and Drink
For many of us, it seems like there is more caffeine than blood in our veins. But be aware that caffeine, nicotine, and going to bed full can wreak havoc on our attempts to sleep. Try to go to bed neither hungry nor full and avoid stimulants in the last few hours before bed.

Have a Bedtime Ritual
Dim the lights, drink some hot tea, take a bath or shower, listen to soothing music, or read a good book. Think of this as priming your body for sleep. Not only will this help you get to sleep faster, but it will also improve the overall quality of your sleep.

Get Comfortable
Make your room and bed as comfortable as possible. For some that may be cool and quiet, for others it may be warm with white noise.

Limit Daytime Naps
It's okay to nap if you need it, but if that nap is longer than 30 minutes and is later than 4:00 pm, you could end up making it harder to get to sleep at bedtime.

Get Physical
The obvious benefit for exercising during the day is that you are more likely to be tired at bed time, but it also promotes deeper sleep. Exercise also supports higher blood oxygen levels which can improve your sleep as well.

Manage Stress
There's wisdom in the old saying: "Don't let the sun set on your anger." If you are stressed when you lie down or you are working in bed it can seriously hamper the quality and length of your sleep. Try to manage your stress by being proactive during the waking hours and using stress relieving techniques before you go to bed, such as deep breathing and mediation.