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If there’s one thing that all of us students can relate to, it’s sleep deprivation. Juggling work, a social life, and domestic life is challenging and as a result we often end up sacrificing sleep, which leads to an even more stressful life for us students. In light of this, I’m going to offer a few tips on how to maintain good sleep patterns to ensure that your body is well rested and energised.
A consistent sleep pattern is a great way to start. Try and go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Research shows that the average adult needs around 8 hours sleep – too much more or too little proves will not leave your body well rested, so do try and stick to this. Our bodies like routine and once they are in that routine, the prospect of stepping out of bed in the morning won’t be so daunting anymore. I know what you’re thinking; ‘my timetable changes by the day, so how can I possibly stick to set sleeping times?’ This may well be the case – personally I aim to have set a set bed time and wake-up time for each day of the week, rather than the whole week, although how well I stick to it is a whole different story, but it’s definitely worth a try.
Naps probably seem like the obvious solution to sleep deprivation, however in the long run they can cause long term disruptions to your sleep patterns. It is recommended that people take small naps, for no more than half an hour, and before 3pm. As someone who’s indulged in longer naps, I admit that I usually wake up feeling even more tired than I was before, so try your best to get the right amount of sleep at night and if you do need a nap, keep it short, and make it a regular part of your routine.
Having spoken to friends about sleep issues, I’ve found that we students tend to be tired throughout the day, and by the time we’ve done all of our student-y stuff, and finally get into bed, we can’t get to sleep. We lay there, wide awake stressed out that the alarm will soon be ringing. To combat this, you could establish a bedtime routine – leave yourself an hour or two to get your body relaxed and read a book or listen to music (preferably relaxation music), make yourself a hot drink (one without caffeine, so probably a good old hot chocolate!) or do all three. There are so many ways to de-stress so find the one that works for you to maximise your chances of a comfortable night’s sleep.
Alongside a bed time routine, you need to make your room nice and cosy. Invest in comfortable pillows and a mattress topper, as well as any other little things that will help to ensure your body is at ease while you’re in bed. The temperature of your room is also important. For me personally, fear of the cold in a morning deters me from getting up more than tiredness itself. Now though, I’ve got a fan heater that I can switch on and let the room warm up for a few minutes – it can still be a chore to get up but it does make me feel more comfortable when I finally do get out of bed!
Another suggestion is not to work too late. Unfortunately for me, I’ve found that my most effective time for writing is during the evening/night, but I am trying not to work so close to bed time. Going to bed after completing a piece of work can put your mind at ease, however, there is always the danger of the ‘what if factor’, when you suddenly realise all the things you could’ve and should’ve done today, and all that you want or have to do tomorrow. All this thinking will stop you from sleeping and when you finally do drift off, I can guarantee that you won’t wake up feeling very refreshed. I usually pack my bag for the next day as soon as I get home so there’s one less thing to worry about in the morning, which further helps me to be relaxed when I go to bed.
We students may be famous for working until late but we are even more famous for our all-nighters, which should be avoided at all costs! All-nighters drain our brain power, making it harder for us to carry out cognitive tasks the next day. Neglecting sleep will catch up with us all eventually, so it’s better to space things out and work during the day and early evening, before giving yourself that well-earned rest, and continuing to work the next day.
Maybe you’ve been reading through this article, thinking, ‘I don’t have the time to sort out a routine, uni life is just too chaotic, I’ll just catch up on sleep at the weekend’. This is fine as long as you don’t have too much extra sleep. It feels great to have a lie in after a long week but oversleeping can be just as damaging as a lack of sleep – your body needs to be prepared for the grey cloud of Monday that’s always near, along with those early starts and tempting late nights. Give yourself some extra rest at the weekend if you need it, but also be prepared for Monday.
Routine is difficult to stick to as a student but for the sake of shaking off that sleep deprivation it’s probably worth it, so hopefully some of these ideas will work for you. The internet is full of helpful suggestions so take a look, experiment, and you’ll soon find out what works best for you.