A good night’s sleep may help to improve your performance! The benefits of quality sleep include:
- Feeling energized and ready for school and work
- Processing information faster so learning and retraining information is easier
- Promoting memory consolidation of what you study
- Helping with maintaining concentration
Depriving yourself of shut-eye impairs your memory, concentration, reaction time, and ability to process information. The consequences of sleep deprivation (e.g. all-nighters):
- Daytime sleepiness
- Depressed mood
- Lapses in concentration
- Impaired memory
- Decreased academic performance
- Weakened immune system
- Increased risk for weight gain, diabetes, and high blood pressure
Working out isn’t the only activity that will increase your energy — Sleep does, too! Consider sleep as important to your health as eating well and exercising. There are several reasons to make sleep part of your fitness plan:
- Sleep affects hormones that control you appetite and regulate energy expenditure.
- Recent studies have shown that sleep loss can negatively affect your metabolism and make it difficult to maintain your energy balance.
Other helpful links to understand why you need sleep!
It turns out that what you do during the day can have an impact on how easy (or difficult!) it is for you to fall asleep and prevent you from getting a good night’s rest. Factors that impact your ability to fall asleep include:
Consuming caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine before bed:
- Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants, and can keep you tossing and turning at night.
- Alcohol may help you doze off, but can prevent you from entering deeper, more restorative sleep stages.
- Want more information on healthy eating? Check out Columbia Health Nutrition.
Exercising less than 2-3 hours before bedtime:
- Regular exercise can improve your sleep. Consider visiting Dodge Fitness Center or Columbia Health Physical Activity for more information on getting your body moving.
- Strenuous exercise too close to bedtime can also make sleeping difficult.
Optimizing your bedroom environment:
- If you’re able, set your thermostat so your bedroom is cool, but not cold. You may also use a fan or space heater to create a comfortable bedroom temperature.
- Avoid exposing yourself to bright lights right before going to bed (such as television, computer, and cell phone screens). The bright light emitted by these devices tells your body that it’s time to wake up!
- If rowdy hallway activity, street noise, or a loud roommate is keeping you up consider creating additional insulation from sound. You could try hanging a blanket on the wall or at the base of a door as this may help dampen the sound. You might also benefit from using ear plugs, a white noise machine, or a simple fan to drown out extraneous sound.
Keeping a regular sleep schedule:
- While this may be tough, especially on weekends, sticking to a routine will help you function at your best and help you fall asleep faster.
- If you can’t stick to a regular sleep time every day, try to stay within a two-hour window of your normal bedtime, and wake up around the time you usually do.
- Keeping your sleep schedule consistent not only maximizes the benefits of sleep, but also keeps from disrupting your body’s natural rhythms.
More resources to help you fall asleep faster!
- Go Ask Alice!: Fall asleep faster
- Go Ask Alice!: Sleep or exercise?
- National Sleep Foundation: Food and Sleep
- National Sleep Foundation: Relaxation Exercises for Falling Asleep
Quiet your surroundings! Use ear plugs, a white noise machine, or a simple fan to drown out extraneous sound.
- Consider using earplugs, a white noise machine or fan to help mask outside noise. You can get a sleep kit complete with ear plugs at Alice! Health Promotion.
- Creating additional insulation from sound, such as hanging a blanket on the wall or at the base of a door, may also help!
Have a chat with anyone sharing a sleep space with you. Quality communication with your sleep partner can help you both get a good night sleep!
- If your sleep partner snores, hogs the covers, kicks in their sleep, wakes up at an earlier time, or has different sleep preferences, this may impact your quality of sleep.
- Try talking to him/her about what is keeping you awake and how you can work together to alleviate the problem. This could include seeking doctor advice for snoring or buying earplugs, using two separate comforters, creating pillow barriers or using silent vibrating alarm clocks!
- Roommate keeping you awake? Think about completing a Roommate Agreement that includes sleep times, wake times, and other factors that may impact your ability to get shut eye.
One of the largest influential regulators of your biological clock is light.
- Use heavy curtains or blinds to help block out outside light.
- Is your alarm clock especially bright? Does your printer light display prominently? Try to cover these lights up at night, or consider the use of an eye mask.
- When purchasing an eye-mask, it is key to look for one that has an adjustable head-strap, is made from thick, breathable materials, is dark in color, and has a convex shaped eye area that won’t restrict eye movement. You could also pick one up at Alice! Health Promotion.
Other helpful links to help you fall and stay asleep alone or with a partner!
Your Sleep Environment
Use your bed for sleeping, not studying.
- Think of your bed as your sanctuary, free of work and stress – it’s no fun to wake up drooling on your textbook!
- Establish your bed as a comfortable, relaxing place and find other spaces to study.
- Use pillows or supportive mattress covers to enhance your nightly rest. Although replacing your mattress may not be feasible, adding a pillow topper and/or new pillows may help provide the comfort and support you need.
- Don’t underestimate the potential value of clean sheets: even if you can’t see the dust mites and bacteria that may be lurking, these critters may keep you up — especially if you have allergies or a cold.
Create an ambiance for sleep and turn off those electronics!
- Set low lights, and create a sleeping environment that is quiet, cool, and comfortable.
- If you can, avoid exposing yourself to bright lights right before going to bed, such as television, computer, and cell phone screens. The bright light emitted by these devices tells your body that it’s time to wake up!
Stress and Sleep
Do you have racing thoughts that just won’t quit? Write it all out before going to bed.
- If you find that your thoughts, worries, or to-do lists keep you up, consider writing it all out before settling down for the night. This may help you feel more organized, and perhaps a bit more in control.
- You could also try keeping a notebook next to your bed if something pops into your mind as you are trying to fall asleep.
Try coping with stress through meditation or deep breathing.
- Meditating may help direct your thoughts towards sleep and relaxation.
- When meditating, the first step is to clear your mind – try sitting in a quiet, comfortable place and become aware of your breath as it enters and leaves your lungs then nostrils. Close your eyes. Inhale while counting to three and then exhale while counting to three. Focus on feeling your abdomen rise and fall with each breath.
- While calming your mind may seem like an impossible task, with practice, it becomes easier.
Reach for the sky and get better shut eye.
- Stretching can help relax your muscles, a first step to relaxing your mind. You can use just about any stretching technique you know or try this quick neck stretch:
- Reach your left arm over your head until your fingers are just touching the top of your right ear.
- Gently pull your head towards your left shoulder, feeling a subtle stretch through the right side of your neck. Hold for a few seconds and feel the muscle lengthen.
- Then do the same on the other side.
- Be careful, stretching should never cause pain, but if you do it gently and in the right spots, this can be a really powerful technique.
Check out Columbia’s great stress-reducing resources with Stressbusters!
Other helpful resources to help you cope with stress and improve your sleep!
- APA: Stress and Sleep
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Anxiety and Sleep Disorders
- Go Ask Alice!: Stress, anxiety, and learning to cope
- Stressbust Yourself Tips
- Stressbusters Links to Success
Though getting a bit of midday shut-eye might sound good, napping can wreak havoc on your overall sleep.
- Daytime napping may disrupt your nighttime sleep
- Napping cannot make up for inadequate or poor-quality nighttime sleep
- Napping too long can make you groggy and even more tired
- If have trouble sleeping at night or a sleep disorder, daytime naps can worsen the problem
If you do need a nap, try limiting your siesta to 20-30 minutes.
- Set your alarm to wake you up
- Wear ear plugs and an eye mask to block out light and noise
- Pick a nap spot that is separate from where you study (e.g. the library). Otherwise your body might associate the library with nap time and interrupt your studies.
Napping this way can improve alertness and performance without disrupting your nighttime sleep or making you feel groggy. They will also:
- Improve concentration and memory
- Improve critical thinking and academic performance
- Reduce stress and improve mood
- These are also all benefits of getting a quality night of sleep!
To nap or not to nap? The take home message - A good night’s sleep is more beneficial than napping. However, if you must nap, keep it to 20-30 minutes.
Check out these resources to learn more about napping, what to avoid, and its benefits!
- National Sleep Foundation: Napping
- Mayo Clinic: Napping: Do's and don'ts for healthy adults
- Go Ask Alice!: Short sleep + long naps = healthy?
More Helpful Tipzzz
Still need help in getting a great night sleep? Visit Go Ask Alice! and explore some sleep questions and answers!