Sleep is an integral requirement of overall health and well being. When you don't get enough sleep you are slow, vacant and lacking focus--much like a zombie. The United States is a sleep-deprived nation and the Illinois State University community is no different. Students report lack of sleep as the second biggest barrier to academic success. Faculty and staff list sleep issues as a top health concern as well. Poor sleep habits can develop in high school, follow you to college and continue into adulthood. Everyone is busy, putting school, work, family obligations and fun before sleep. But the reality is that most adults need at least seven to eight hours of interrupted sleep each night.
Benefits of Sleep
There are many benefits to getting a good night's rest on a consistent basis. These are just a few reasons why you need to make sleep a top priority in your life.
- Improves learning and memory. Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory.
- Positive impacts on metabolism and weight. Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite. Getting enough sleep can aid in weight management by also helping you to have more energy for regular physical activity.
- Increases safety and performance. A lack of sleep contributes to a greater tendency to fall asleep during the daytime and can increase your risk for injuries while driving to and from work or school, or while engaging in sports or other activities that require you to pay careful attention to detail. Being well rested not only reduces your risk for injury, but can help to increase the quality of your performance at school, work, sports, and for many other activities.
- Better mood. Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. When you are more rested, you can enjoy doing more of the things you like to do such as spending time with friends, hobbies, and other activities.
- Strengthens immune system - Getting good, quality sleep on a regular basis helps your body to repair from all the stressors it is exposed to, which also strengthens your immune system. This can help your body to fight off colds, flu and other infections, while also reducing your risk for various diseases.
- Reduces stress. A good night's sleep can help you relax by lowering your blood pressure and levels of stress hormones. It can also help you to cope better with future stressful life events.
Sleepless at ISU
Sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and not an optional part of your day. Below are some tips to help catch those elusive Zzzz's.
Create an Encouraging Sleep Environment
- Find a comfortable sleep temperature, usually around 65 to 70 degrees. Temperatures too hot or too cold are uncomfortable enough to wake the dead.
- Light tells your body it is time to be awake. Purchase dark shades or blinds to help block out light from where you sleep.
- Block out distracting noises by using earplugs or white noise from a fan.
- Reserve the bed for sleeping (and sex). Do not do homework, use the computer, play video games or do other mind-stimulating activities in your bed.
Helpful Habits to Catch Zzz's
- Have a fixed bed time and wake up time, even on the weekends. This will help your body develop a regular sleep pattern. If you do need to sleep in or stay up later than usual, try to limit it to no more than two hours later than your usual bedtime or wake up time.
- Avoid napping during the day. If you do nap, make sure it is no longer than 20 minutes and is before 3 p.m. A recent study indicates that a 10 minute nap is optimal for reducing sleepiness and improving cognitive performance.
- Daily exercise can help you fall asleep more quickly and makes your sleep more restful. Be sure to not work out for three hours prior to bedtime.
- Avoid alcohol or limit consumption. Being a depressant alcohol makes you feel tired, but can also disrupt your sleep cycles and reduce the quality of sleep. If you do drink alcohol, limit it to no more than three drinks (one drink = 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, or 1 ounce of 100 proof distilled spirits) and stop at least two hours before bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine and energy drinks at least four to six hours before going to bed. Caffeine and some of the other ingredients in energy drinks are stimulants and it can take your body several hours to flush them from your system.
- Limit the amount of time spent on computers, cellphones, watching TV, and playing video games--especially right before bed. These activities can make it harder to fall asleep.
- Try not to go to bed hungry. Eat a light, carbohydrate-rich snack such as a bowl of cereal or toast. However, eating and drinking in large amounts before bed can disrupt sleep.
- Establish pre-sleep rituals such as taking a warm bath or reading to help tell your body it is time to sleep.
- Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing to help clear your mind. Do not take your worries to bed with you.
- Find a preferred sleep position and get into it.
- Avoid looking at the clock when waking up in the middle of the night. Looking at the clock can cause anxiety.
If you try the tips listed above and are still having sleep problems, students may contact the Student Health Services at (309) 438-2778 to make an appointment with a sleep disorder specialist.
Faculty and staff should discuss sleep issues with their personal health care provider.
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