Sleep Troubles PamphletBy: Chris Smith, M.A.
Attending college can be an exciting time in your life. On a daily basis you have the opportunity to meet new and interesting people. There always seems to be an event planned, and excitement to be had, and yes of course there is the learning. Working toward a degree and a career goal can be very exciting. It’s important to remember that although attending college can be an exciting and wonderful time for growth personally and academically, it can wreak havoc on your sleep schedule.
There are a number of common factors associated with attending college that can cause sleep difficulties: Studying, attending parties, reading and other homework for class, and roommates who stay up later can all lead to sleep difficulties. Anxiety, stress, and too much caffeine can also cause difficulties with sleep.
Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to help make it easier to get a good night’s sleep:
The first thing to do is set your room up in a way that is most conducive to sleep. Organizing your room in an away that allows you to get sleep, this means that you should try to avoid using your bed as anything other than a bed. This helps your body recognize that when you get in bed it is time for sleep.
Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule. This means that you will try to get up and go to sleep at the same time everyday… Yes, this includes weekends and vacation. This is helpful because our bodies operate on what is known as the “Circadian Rhythm” which governs when we feel tired and when we feel awake. Your body knows when to sleep and when to be awake, it is set within the biology of our bodies. When you wake up at the same time and go to bed at the same time every day you stay within this natural cycle. When you deviate from this your body has difficulty adjusting and performance suffers.
Avoid caffeine after 3pm. Most people are unaware but caffeine can stay in your system for 8 hours. If you drink it late in the day, it will be keeping you up when you are trying to get to sleep.
Limit alcohol consumption and don’t drink to fall asleep. Alcohol can have a negative impact on sleep. Although you may feel sleepy if you drink, your body is working to process the alcohol while you sleep; this means it will not be rested. Also drinking alcohol interferes with the body’s ability to get REM sleep which can leave you feel un-rested and tired.
Preparing For Sleep
These suggestions are ways to help get to sleep. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for sleep:
Make time to relax before trying to go to bed. If you go to bed feeling revved up from earlier in the day or worried about things you will feel the same when you are in bed. This can interfere with sleep. Take about an hour to relax. Watch TV, read a book, do yoga. Most activities that make you feel calm can help you sleep.
Learn to control stress and anxiety. Practice relaxation techniques, take up exercising, or another relaxing hobby. When you control stress you make it less likely that you will be thinking about stressful things at night instead of sleeping.
Don’t take naps after 3pm. When you take a nap later in the day, your body gets off its regular cycle and you will have trouble sleeping at night.
If you have continued difficulties with sleep there are medications. Speak with your family physician or a sleep specialist about your difficulties. He/She may be able to prescribe you a sleep aid.
Links for Sleep/Sleep Hygiene:
National Sleep Foundation: www.sleepfoundation.org
A non-profit information website about health challenges: http://www.helpguide.org/life/sleep_tips.htm