Awaken your awareness to sleeping

By Erica Garnett

(Tony Alter/Flickr)
(Tony Alter/Flickr)

Between the retreats to one’s bed from the onset of the darker fall days to the tryptophan induced coma suffered on Thanksgiving, cold weather suits sleep. November, the month of National Sleep Comfort, is placed at a logical time of year to help raise awareness about the importance of maintaining healthy sleep habits.

This intrinsic need is not so easily perfected among people, especially college students. With changing day-to-day class schedules, more work than free time allotted for it and the demands of an active social life, sleep is generally sacrificed. Ironically, as a college student, the bed usually becomes the domain in which most of our daily routine is accomplished for anything but sleep. The bed is a multipurpose place used for eating, studying or passing the time with company. This disassociation with the bed as an exclusively sleeping platform can subconsciously discourage it within our minds. To prevent this, try and refrain from using your bed for anything but sleep. Create a comfortable environment conducive to relaxation whether that is comfy blankets and sheets or a luxury pillow.

For the constantly busy student who does not have time for exercise and is always eating on the run, there are simple changes that can be made in the essence of time. Try to expose yourself to daylight as often as possible, as this preserves your body’s sleep and wake cycles. These changes could be as simple as walking to class instead of taking the bus, or packing granola bars and water bottles to eat throughout the day instead of opting for a to-go burger and fries meal. You will not only be more inclined to sleep at night will be more energized during the day.

Not able to ward off that constant cold? Can’t seem to stay awake during a class? Sleep may not be the complete culprit, but it has something to do with that. During sleep, key hormones are released that alter mood and energy as well as fighting off common infections. By getting the recommended eight hours of restful sleep each night, your mood and immune system will not fall prey to the consequences of sleep deprivation.

The average amount of sleep needed each night can vary depending on each individual. An easy way to determine your unique sleeping needs is to set aside a week and let yourself wake up naturally without the aid of an alarm clock. At the end of the week, average the total number of hours to figure out what your body needs each night. A sleep diary can be a useful resource too.

If sleep still is not easily attainable for you, reevaluate your daily routine and be wary of how much caffeine and nicotine you are consuming as well as your overall diet. Using fewer stimulants throughout the day as well as eating a balanced diet will allow your body to sleep easier. Although lack of sleep can lead to insulin sensitivity, causing high calorie, sugary food cravings, this opportunity for a vicious insomnia vs. insulin cycle can be avoided by eating in moderation. Also, try to avoid sleeping in, especially on weekends because missing breakfast will retard your metabolism for the day. Exercise will also greatly help your body exhaust itself throughout the day and turn to sleep to replenish energy. Just remember to avoid strenuous activity three to four hours before sleep for risk of your body still being active.

While sleep deprivation is the more commonly experienced sleep disorder, oversleeping is a concern as well. And while your bed may be more enticing than going to the library or the gym, make it a priority to get out of your bed as often as you seek to be in it.

Erica Garnett can be reached at [email protected]