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Sleep

Sleep is something we often take for granted as assignments pile up and tests approach. Though it is easy to forget about the benefits of consistent good sleep, it is important to remember that is crucial component for maintaining physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

In addition to making you feel better overall, consistently getting enough sleep improves your memory and ability to retain information (especially important for students), and reduces your risk of many health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, depression, and cardiovascular disease. As students with busy schedules, it is not only important to make time for sleep but to also take a second to monitor your sleep habits and quality/

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Though this varies from person-to-person, it is recommended that adults get at least 7 hours of sleep per night. The amount of sleep you actually get can be hard to determine because of factors such as sleep latency (the time it takes for us to fall asleep) and mid-sleep disturbances (waking up in the middle of the night). We often overestimate the amount of sleep we truly get due to these factors.

Are you getting enough sleep?
  • To get an idea of how much sleep you’re getting, you can do quick calculations using the general times that you go to sleep and wake up at.
  • Devices such as the Apple Watch, FitBit, and other activity trackers, can help you track your stages of sleep
  • You can also use your phone as a tracker as many apps on iOS and Android can roughly track your sleep cycles and sleep duration, such as Runtastic Sleep Better.
  • Tracking sleep latency and mid-sleep disturbances may be a bit more difficult
    • Take notice of how hard it may be to fall asleep and how often you wake up in the middle of the night; both can be good indicators of the quality of your sleep

Naps – some people love them, some people can’t take them, and some people don’t think they help.

Pros and Cons of Napping

Taking a nap can be beneficial! Napping can help improve your mood, restore alertness, enhance performance, and provide relaxation.

However, naps can leave you with sleep inertia, a the feeling of grogginess or disorientation that sometimes follows deep sleep. Sleep inertia usually only lasts for a few minutes, but can last longer in individuals who are sleep deprived or who nap for longer periods of time. Also, a long nap or a nap taken late in the day may negatively affect the length and quality of your nighttime sleep.

How long should you nap for?

Napping for short periods (10-30 minutes) is recommended. 10-minute naps provide the most benefit in terms of reduced sleepiness and improved cognitive performance, while naps lasting longer than 30 minutes are more likely to be accompanied by sleep inertia or REM sleep that may lead to feeling more groggy after waking up.

Looking for somewhere to nap on campus?

The “Take a Nap” layer on the Marauder’s Map will show you the best spots!

Although naps can be useful, they do not necessarily make up for inadequate or poor quality nighttime sleep. Getting enough sleep on a regular basis is the best way to stay alert and feel your best!

(Adapted from The National Sleep Foundation and The Snoring Center)

Exposure to artificial light, excessive or late caffeine consumption, and stress, can all be factors that lead to insufficient sleep. Lack of sleep may then be associated with a range of adverse health outcomes, such as obesity and depression.

So, how can you improve your sleep quality?
  • Avoid artificial light (computer screens, phones, TVs) 1-2 hours before your bedtime
    • Blue light glasses or turning on the night shift function on your devices can block light if you need to be looking at screens before bed
  • Limit your caffeine consumption to 1-2 drinks a day and consume early in the day as its effects may last from 10-12 hours.
  • Relax and clear your mind; anxiety and worrying can combat your efforts to fall asleep. Some strategies you can try are listening to relaxing music, reading a book, taking a hot bath, and deep breathing.
  • Establish a schedule of sleep and wake; your body is in constant homeostatic control and going to bed and waking up at the same time each day can be vital to being able to fall asleep each night.
  • Regular physical activity can promote better sleep but avoid exercising close to your bedtime as it increases alertness and releases hormones such as adrenaline

(Adapted from Statistics Canada and Healthline)

Bedtime procrastination is failing to go to bed at the intended time while no external circumstances prevent you from doing so. It is commonly associated with a lack of self-regulation. Bedtime procrastinators put off going to sleep because they don’t want to stop what they are doing, not because they want to stay up later.

Some things you can do to try to break this habit are:
  • Define the reasons for your bedtime procrastination.
  • Create a bedtime window and choose the most suitable time within that window.
  • Limit your technology use and avoid being wrapped up in the depths of the internet
  • Get into a bedtime routine

(Adapted from Time and Life Hacks).

The following are some examples of common sleep disorders. If you have not slept well for more than 3 weeks, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss possible conditions.

Insomnia

Insomnia is difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Symptoms of insomnia include difficulty falling asleep, unrefreshing sleep, waking up too early in the morning, fatigue, low energy, difficulty concentrating, mood disturbances such as irritability, and difficulty at work or school.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea means that your breathing is often blocked or partly blocked during sleep. The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea, which is caused by blocked or narrowed airways in your nose, mouth, or throat. Some symptoms that you may notice include not feeling rested after a night’s sleep, feeling sleepy during the day, and waking up with a headache. Some symptoms that others may notice are episodes of not breathing, loud snoring, gasping or choking, and restless tossing and turning.

Narcolepsy

Most people who have narcolepsy have trouble sleeping at night, and some people may involuntarily fall asleep suddenly (even if they are in the middle of an activity). The four major symptoms of narcolepsy are extreme daytime sleepiness, cataplexy (muscle weakness) while awake, hallucinations/vivid dreams while falling asleep, waking up or dozing, and sleep paralysis while falling asleep or waking up.

Check out this online Sleep Assessment that includes questions for various sleep disorders.

 

(Adapted from Health.comThe National Sleep FoundationHealthLink BC, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)

Studies suggest that both the quantity and quality of sleep you get have an incredible impact on your memory and learning. Chronic tiredness to the point of fatigue has an increasingly negative impact on your ability to perform. This is due to neurons not firing optimally, muscles not being rested, and your bodily organs not being synchronized.