Getting enough sleep not only contributes to how you feel and perform the next day, it also has a huge impact on the overall quality of your life. Sacrificing sleep means you are sacrificing your chance to live up to your fullest academic and creative potential.
There is a lot going on in your body and brain when you sleep. A typical night’s sleep occurs in 90 minute cycles of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and non-REM sleep. Your pulse, breathing, and body temperature rise and fall during these cycles. Brain-waves are active during REM sleep and researchers believe that the brain takes care of important tasks involving learning and memory during this time.
Why is sleep so important?
Sleep is essential for good health, mental and emotional functioning, and safety. Research indicates that sleep loss impairs your ability to perform tasks involving memory, learning and logical reasoning, which may contribute to unfulfilled potential at school and strained relationships. Insufficient sleep can also be extremely dangerous, leading to serious or even fatal accidents.
It should take you fewer than 30 minutes to fall asleep. Symptoms of insomnia include difficulty falling asleep, frequent awakenings, waking up too early and not being able to fall back asleep, and not feeling well-rested after a night’s sleep. Stress is the most common cause of insomnia.
How much sleep do you need?
“Enough sleep” is the amount you need to not feel sleepy the next day; sleep experts generally recommend an average of 7-9 hours per night. If sleepiness interferes with or makes it difficult to do your daily activities, you probably need more sleep.
Sleep need is biological. Exactly how much sleep any individual needs is genetically determined. How can you determine what you need? Sleep until you wake on your own, without an alarm clock. If you feel rested, that is your sleep need.
If you’ve been having sleep problems for more than 1-2 weeks or if sleepiness interferes with the way you feel or function during the day, make an appointment at health services to discuss this with a health care provider.
Regulating Your Sleep Schedule
- To fall asleep quickly, avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol in the evening.
- If possible, go to sleep at about the same time each night.
- Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine. This may include relaxation techniques such as guided meditation, guided mindfulness, or mindfulness based stress reduction.
- Exercise regularly (at least three hours before sleep) to promote healthy sleep cycles.
- If worry prevents you from falling asleep, try regularly writing in a journal before going to sleep.
- Avoid using your bed for non-sleep-related activities (like schoolwork, watching TV, browsing the internet or eating).
- Make your sleep environment as pleasant, comfortable and quiet as you can.
- Keep your alarm clock out of sight.
- Try not to fall asleep on an empty stomach.
- Eliminate screen time (including computer and smartphone) use at least 30 minutes before sleeping and opt for a screen-free way to unwind, like reading a book, journaling or meditating.
More sleep help
- Uncle Joe’s Peer Counseling and Resource Center at 314-935-5141 also provides brochures on sleep.
- The National Sleep Foundation and Harvard Division of Sleep Medicine have more information on sleep.