On Wednesday Nov.13, Peer Health Educators (PHEs) led a discussion and meeting on sleep hygiene tips for the St. Mary’s College of Maryland community in Goodpaster Hall. With fresh chamomile tea to drink, eyeshades to decorate, and tips and flyers to discuss, students were able to learn how to destress and discipline themselves to hit the hay at a reasonable hour.
One tip discussed was turning off any and all digital devices. The blue light that comes from screens of digital devices affects one’s sleep quality. Using digital devices that emit blue light before bed prolongs the time it takes to fall asleep. When people lie in bed scrolling through social media, their brains become more “turned on,” and their natural circadian rhythm decreases. With more social media created this decade, students are hyper addicted to their cellphones and laptops. PHEs suggest reading a book before bed and journaling all worries and thoughts that cause concern.
Another tip discussed is to make sure that the room is dark and cool. Keeping the room dark is especially important for letting your brain know that it is time to go to sleep. Our brains developed well before humans could even control fire, let alone electricity, so it makes sense to keep your sleep environment as similar to a natural setting as possible. Secondly, bodies begin to secrete melatonin and sleep onset when there is a drop in internal body temperature. The typical recommendation for temperature while sleeping is between 65 and 72 degrees. However, different people feel comfortable at different temperatures. If you are someone who likes to sleep under a big pile of quilts, you are probably going to want the room cooler so you don’t wake up sweating in the middle of the night.
Next, watching what you eat and drink affects one’s quality of sleep. Avoiding caffeine and nicotine four to six hours before bedtime is recommended as these substances may initially help you fall asleep faster, but as your body metabolizes during the night it may cause you to wake up and have difficulty falling back to sleep.
One of the last tips discussed is one that is difficult for every college student nationwide. This includes waking up at the same time everyday and maintaining a relaxing bedtime routine. With classes starting at a different time each day, sleeping in on weekends, and going out late on Saturdays, it is no wonder our bodies can’t keep up with the sudden changes.
The PHEs recommend getting up around the same time on weekends that you do during the week. This does not mean you have to quickly get ready and go do something strenuous. Curl up with a blanket and watch some Saturday morning television, or enjoy a leisurely breakfast with a friend instead. In addition to keeping your sleep routine steady, you may also get a little more done on weekends. Also, your brain knows when your starting to prepare for bedtime, giving cues that will help your systems slowly power down. Reading a book, taking a warm shower or relaxing with a cup of herbal tea and your journal may help you unwind from your day and signal to your body that it’s bedtime. For better results, practice a similar routine,such as washing your face, changing into your pajamas and then meditating for five minutes,before getting into bed each night.”
The great thing about establishing a bedtime routine is that you can make it whatever you want it to be. Like the scent of lavender? Light a candle. Enjoy a light snack before bed? Grab a glass of milk and a piece of banana bread. Whatever it is, make it yours, and you’ll find yourself looking forward to bedtime instead of procrastinating it.
Practicing proper sleep hygiene can lead to a better quality of life quality. Groggy and propelled by caffeine is not a recipe for success — particularly for anyone looking to take on the challenge of college coursework. Take these sleep hygiene tips to heart and evaluate what you can improve.
Sleep is important, but it isn’t the only piece of the puzzle. Stress can also cause trouble for students looking to be their best, academically. Fortunately, there are a variety of activities you can practice to relieve stress and keep yourself running at peak condition.