A social life, good grades and sleep: choose one

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As students, we’re generally expected to do an awful lot of things without actually having that much time to do them in. There’s lectures, reading, essays, societies and socials to deal with before we’ve even gotten to the simple things like cooking, cleaning and sleeping. This isn’t even taking into account those with part time jobs. People often joke that as a student, you can only choose two from a social life, good grades and sleep – what many don’t realise until they arrive is that for some, that’s a reality! While we all want to get as much from our time in Lancaster as possible, it’s important not to let your health suffer.

So, how much sleep do you actually need? Generally, research suggest that adults (anyone over the age of 18) need 7.5 – 9 hours of sleep to function properly. While our sleep needs have been fairly precisely studied based on age group, it’s important to remember that they are also based on the individual. In sleep as with all things, everyone is different and has different needs. A general rule for telling you’ve had enough sleep is making sure you feel refreshed and alert the next day – if waking up for that 9am is a real battle, that’s probably because you haven’t had enough.

Many feel as though they can get by without the recommended amount of sleep, but just because you manage to stay awake through your 9am lecture doesn’t mean you’re functioning adequately. Research shows that reducing your sleep by as little as an hour and a half per night can cause a 32% loss in daytime alertness. Making it to your 9am is one thing, but actually being able to pay attention in it would probably be more useful! A lack of sleep can also lead to memory and cognitive impairment, hindering your ability to process and recall information. If this stuff isn’t enough to persuade you to get to bed a little earlier, sleep deprivation is also cited as the cause of over 100,000 road accidents a year.

For those of you who have just been too busy for a proper night’s sleep, hopefully you’ll consider wiggling down with a film and a hot chocolate (or whatever it is you indulge in before bed) a little earlier tonight! Just in case you aren’t sure how to go about it or need a bit of a hand getting things moving, here are a few tips for improving the length and quality of your night’s sleep:

Schedule Your Sleep

As lame as it sounds, set yourself a bed time. You schedule your lectures and plan your nights out, so why is planning time for sleep so difficult? It’s also helpful to wake up at the same time every day (yes, even on weekends) so try setting a daily alarm. If you need a little more flexibility in your life, try giving yourself a 2 hour window to wake up in.

Create a Routine

Create a set of steps before you go to bed to help yourself wind down a bit. If you go straight from a stressful task or high energy activity to trying to sleep, you’ll probably be lying there for ages while you clear your mind a bit anyway. While working out your routine, try not to make it too food heavy though – eating before bedtime is a big no-no in the world of sleep research.

Keep Your Bed Free

Sleep scientists suggest that if you keep your bed exclusively for sleeping (and sex) then it’ll be much easier to drift off as you’ll not associate it with other activities. Try and eat your lunch, write your essays and read the latest copy of SCAN elsewhere in your room (I would recommend a desk).

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Ellie Vowles

Deeply unfashionable and chronically unable to take things seriously. A lover of travel, music, food and anyone who will listen to me talk about things.

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