The importance of good sleep for students – and how to improve yours
Have you ever heard someone bragging about “pulling an all-nighter” working on an assignment?
Well, sometimes with deadlines approaching and a dose of procrastination thrown into the mix, it’s the only option, but you guessed it - it’s really not an ideal thing to be doing to your body!
On the contrary, as a young student, getting enough sleep every night is one of the best ways you can set yourself up for success. Most people need somewhere between seven to nine hours of quality sleep per night in order to be performing as well as they can, and some need even more than this.
We’ll soon explore some of the ways you can improve your sleep, but first let’s dive into the details of why consistently getting good night’s rest is critical as a student.
Sleep helps you restore your energy and grow.
After you’ve been asleep for a while, you’ll enter the ‘deep sleep’ phase where you become harder to wake up, your muscles become most relaxed, and your body will grow and repair.
A variety of things happen during the deep sleep stage which are critical to your development as a young person. Physical recovery occurs, detoxes are removed from the brain, and the immune system is refueled, amongst other complex processes. Without enough deep sleep these things can’t happen, so you start to feel sleep deprived.
Sleep helps you concentrate.
We’re pretty sure you’ll have experience with this one! If you’ve ever stayed up late on a school night, you’ll know that it can be difficult to make it through a full day without a good night’s rest.
The effects of not having enough sleep can compound over multiple days as well, to the point where you’re unable to effectively take in any new information (or even recall any old information!) until you’ve put yourself to bed to catch up on lost sleep.
Sleep helps you process everything going on.
Have you ever heard the phrase ‘sleep on it’? Well, it’s a real thing! Your brain processes complex thoughts and emotions while you sleep. This is one of the reasons why you’ll often feel refreshed and focused in the morning.
Every 90 minutes or so, you have a cycle of ‘rapid eye movement’ (REM) sleep. It’s in this phase that you’re most likely to dream. The benefit of dreaming and REM is that it helps to lift the lid on those complex emotions that you haven’t yet got your conscious mind around.
OK, so we’ve established that sleeping well on the regular is probably something you want to try to do. That’s great – but we all know that’s easier said than done! How can you go about doing it?
Here are a few steps to take to improve your sleep quality.
Try to work to a regular sleep and wake-up schedule.
As a student, a regular sleep schedule doesn’t always come naturally. With deadlines and assignments to complete, you might be up burning the candle at both ends more often than not! However, one more reason to stay on top of your workload so you’re not scrambling for due dates is that a regular sleep and wake-up schedule will actually improve your quality of sleep.
This applies to weekends as well as weekdays. It’s not always the best idea to stay up late on weeknights and ‘catch up’ on sleep on the weekends! Try not to vary your sleep schedule by more than a few hours on any day of the week. This way, your body will become used to sleeping and waking at specific times, and you’ll start to find doing so easier.
Don’t study in your bed.
When you come home after a long day at school, it can be tempting to hop into bed right away, even if you’ve got a bit of homework to do. This can be comforting, but we recommend you avoid your bed until it’s actually time to sleep!
The reasons for this are similar to those for a regular sleep schedule. By saving your bed for sleeping and nothing else, you’re sending a signal to your body as soon as you get to bed that it’s time to start winding down for rest. This way, you’ll be able to fall asleep faster and get a better night’s sleep overall.
Make sure your sleeping environment is set up well.
There are a few things you can do to set up your sleeping environment for a good night’s rest. One of the first things to consider is whether there are any lights which might interfere with your sleep. If you live in a densely populated area with lots of outside light, you might want to consider investing in a set of blackout curtains. Similarly, if you have electronics in your room, it can be good to unplug these before bed, as even a small blinking light can have a surprising effect on your quality of sleep.
If you’re wanting to be a bit extra, some people find that experimenting with rain or storm sounds for a short time after falling asleep can help them relax better, so there’s no harm in giving that a go either!
Stay off screens before going to sleep.
If at all possible, it’s really important that you stay off screens at least an hour before going to bed. Using screens too soon before bedtime can make it harder to switch off, and can lessen the amount of quality REM sleep you get in the evening.
If you are needing to use your cellphone or laptop and it’s getting close to bedtime, you can enable a blue light filter which will make your displays warmer. Better yet, ‘night mode’ is available on plenty of applications and operating systems these days, and will invert light colours so you’re mainly looking at a darker screen. Both of these mechanisms can help lessen the strain on your eyes and make it easier to settle in once it’s time to put the devices away and go to sleep.
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