Balancing sleep and study at uni

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As students, probably one of the most difficult lifestyle balances we have to achieve is that between work and play. It can be tons of fun to go out every night with our flatmates, but at the end of term, when we realize how much work we have due, things can get a little stressful. As a PhD student, I’ve had a number of years to try and get this balance correct, and even now, I struggle with it on a daily basis. Cramming and pulling all-nighters, especially as you get older, just doesn’t seem realistic, and often it can be a detriment to our health.

The NHS has whole pages on their website devoted to how much sleep you should get and what prevents you from having a good night’s sleep. One GP in London, Dr. Rupal Shah, has published her discoveries on the NHS’s pages, and some of her findings may be helpful for university students in particular. Dr. Shah wrote that if you drink alcohol in the evenings, such as on nights out, ‘it tends to wake you up in the middle of the night.’ She continued, ‘If you drink a lot regularly, it can make you depressed and affect your sleep.’ So if you’re wondering why you’re being faced with the blues outside of winter, you might want to look at how much you’re drinking.

The recommended amount of sleep for students is around eight or nine hours a night, and while you may sleep in, those all-nighters aren’t doing you any favours. Experts say that the light from TV and computer screens can mess up our sleep patterns and stop us from getting the rest that we require to properly function. Of course, there are ways to help us get deep sleep, like turning of monitors an hour before we want to go to bed and drinking a relaxing tea to help calm our systems down, but one major thing that we can do, especially on campus, is to learn how to effectively set up a study space versus a sleep space.

While studying on your bed can be comfortable, it can also re-train our brain to see the bed as a ‘work space’, making us more alert when we try to settle down for the evening. It’s much better, instead, to study at our desks. Even that, however, can become a distraction. There are tons of places on campus where students can study, from the well-known locations of the library and Learning Zone to the lesser-traversed tables in Barker House Farm and the departmental study pods for undergraduates and postgraduates.

The pods in the Learning Zone are easy to book (you can scan the QR Code in the pod itself or you can log online and book using your university email address through the library webpage). Pods can be booked up to three hours a day and a total of nine hours per week, up to one month in advance! Because they’re fully equipped with a table, chairs, and plenty of outlets, they make for a great space to meet up with course-mates, even if you’re going to work in silence. You can also book new group study spaces in the library itself, following the same guidelines. Booking a space can also help you schedule an allotted time to set aside the fun for a bit and start prepping for those essays. The next time you’re sitting in bed at three o’clock in the morning questioning your life choices, get up and book a study pod instead and see if that helps you get back on track!

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