"Make sure you sleep."
Within a week of being in college, you have probably heard a professor, a staff member, or a motherly upperclassman say this to you. And while your response is probably a smile or a nod in agreement with their concern, you don’t take them up on it. But, you should… and here is why.
Sleep can, and most likely will, directly affect your...
Success in school.
Our brains are just like any muscle, and at college you get plenty of opportunities to exercise them. However, if you don’t take rest time, your brain will stop functioning at its best, and it can impair your ability to study well and retain knowledge from class.
Health—of every kind.
Studies have shown that not sleeping depletes your body’s natural resources, and its ability to fight off sickness and maintain a healthy immune system. A lack of sleep can also tamper with your ability to make decisions as your expectations of increase is heightened and your expectations of damage are decreased. While you sleep your brain continues to function and prepare itself for the next time of being awake.
Basic cleaning & repair.
Studies from the University of Rochester show that when you are sleeping your brain works as its own maid service. It goes in and cleans out the toxins the brain that build up in the day.
Other studies note that when you sleep, your brain continues to process the words you've spoken all throughout the day, storing them properly and creating new memories. All the information that you have been studying have time to solidify in your brain and actually stick much better than if you stayed up all night or got less sleep than usual.
Here are a few suggestions on how to maintain a healthy sleep pattern and why these factors directly affect your body and your studying:
Your ability to study at your desk (sleep in your bed).
Our bodies are strange things, and if you study in your bed as well as sleep in it, it confuses your mind’s ability to separate these two actions. This directly affects your ability to get deep, restful sleep. If you study in your bed your brain associates it with studying and not rest and therefore it takes a longer time to wind down and actually fall asleep.
While studies suggest keeping your bedroom as a place only for sleeping is the best course, this is hard to do when you live in a dorm. You can, however, limit where you study within your bedroom and only study at your desk.
Your addiction to (too much) coffee.
Even if the thought is detestable, you should really limit your intake of caffeine, whether that is coffee or energy drinks. Caffeine can be very helpful, but it disrupts your natural sleep cycle so being aware of when you are drinking it and how much is very important.
Also, be aware of when you are drinking caffeine as well as how much you are drinking. You need to give yourself plenty of time for the caffeine to leave your system before sleeping. Studies suggest that you need 6 hours of time between your last caffeine intake and your bedtime. Exercising is also a great alternative to caffeine as it gives you a natural rush versus the artificial one delivered by caffeine.
Routine, Routine, Routine.
Routine is very important in maintaining a healthy sleep cycle. Studies suggest that it is almost as important as sleeping. Your body has an inner biological clock, and if you aren’t consistent, you are resetting that clock every time you go to bed at a different time or wake up at a different time.
If you create a regular schedule for yourself, you will train your body into a natural sleep cycle which will encourage deeper sleep. This also, unfortunately, includes the weekends; as a college student, you are probably very tempted to sleep in, but you will feel better if you don’t and maintain a regular sleep cycle. Over time, if you are consistent, it will become second nature.
Often as a college student, you will be tempted to squeeze every last second out of your day, especially before a big midterm or final. Or, if you are done with that big midterm or exam you want to watch Netflix or scroll through Instagram before sleeping.
If you, however, take time before you go to bed to do something relaxing (that doesn’t involve a screen) your rest will be deeper and you will ultimately more rested. Studies show that taking time to off your screen before bedtime will help you the next morning. Simply reading a book or writing in a journal before sleep will help your brain relax before sleeping.
Just doing a few of these simple things will not only improve your physical health, but they might also help your mental health and give you more time to spend on others and study more effectively. So, next time your professor, a staff member, or that motherly upperclassman tells you to “get some sleep," take their advice.
Research and reporting courtesy of The Herald.
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