By: Maddie Boyer
One of the most important contributors to our wellbeing is also one of the first we forego when stress kicks in: sleep. Whether it’s staying up late cramming for an exam or anxiety just making you toss and turn, losing sleep can take a large toll on both your physical and mental health. Sleep is crucial to power the mind, heal the body, and keep yourself functioning fully. As we enter the final exams period, we have some tips on how to develop good sleep habits to get you through the end of the semester and carry you forward.
I know, it’s easy to rationalize staying up just a few more hours to cram before a big test, but you could actually be causing yourself more harm than good. A consistent sleep schedule is one of the best things you can do for your sleep heath. This means weekends too… It’s tempting to sleep in, but picking a consistent wake-up time will help your body become accustomed. An added bonus: no more worrying about sleeping through your alarm!
Get at Least Seven Hours
The National Sleep Foundation recommends between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night for healthy adults. It is important to know yourself and your individual needs to best assess what level of sleep is right for you. This does not mean “knowing you can function after an all-nighter.” Instead, try tracking your sleep (I like the app Sleep Cycle) or keeping a sleep journal to determine how much sleep is best for you. Personally, tracking my sleep has helped me realize that with my sleep cycle, I tend to be asleep for 1-2 fewer hours than I’m in bed thinking I’m asleep. This has helped me adjust my schedule accordingly to add an extra hour into my routine so I can wake up feeling rested.
Studies have shown that regular exercise can help with better quality sleep and help individuals fall asleep more quickly. 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise can result in an immediate difference in sleep quality. However, when you exercise may play a role in how it affects your sleep. For some people, exercising too close to bedtime can keep them from sleep rather than inducing better sleep. Others find that exercising immediately before bed is best. Personally, I exercise first thing in the morning to wake up my body and so I am fully tired before bedtime. Find what works best for you!
We all have fallen into the temptation of scrolling aimlessly on our phone right before bed, but this habit can actually affect your body’s production of melatonin. Blue light can interfere with your circadian rhythm and affect the amount of time your body is in REM sleep. Try creating a bedtime routine without electronics for at least 30 minutes before bed. Whether this involves meditation, reading, etc., stepping away from screens can help you sleep better. If you must cram up to bedtime, try switching to paper notes, using Night mode on your electronics, or using blue light blocking glasses.
Keep Your Bedroom for Sleep
This tip may be a little more challenging if you live in a dorm room, but if possible, limiting your bedroom for only sleep may help you sleep better. This can help condition your brain to mentally prepare for sleep if it associates your room with just that. If this is not an option, try doing so with your bed and make your bed a sacred space for sleep alone. Next time, hit the library or the outdoor Farrell study tables and get out of your room!
The benefits of actively improving your sleep apply across all facets of life. From boosting your immune system to improving memory to regulating your mood, sleep can increase your wellbeing across the board. Skip the all nighter and start building better sleep habits! Your body and mind will thank you.