Busy students: This is how you improve the quality of your sleep
|Date:||10 June 2022|
Balancing your study load, committee work, social life and your health can be difficult as a student. Often, your sleep and quality of sleep suffers as a result. A continuous lack of sleep can have serious health implications. In this blog you will read all about ways in which you, a busy student, can improve the quality of your sleep. Happy sleeping!
Sleep affects my health?
Yes! The absence of sleep can lead to severe health issues, with those who sleep less than 6 hours a night at a 13% higher mortality risk. Sleep deprivation can lead to physiological issues such as hypertension, arrhythmias and type 2 diabetes. Additionally, the lack of sleep also has immense impacts on mood and cognitive functions. Sleep influences emotional regulation and thus is correlated with depression and anxiety, with 90% of depressed individuals experiencing sleep deprivation. Furthermore, the lack of sleep can decrease the functionality of cognitive processes and is prone to error. However, the good news is, that with a few simple adjustments to your daytime and night time routine you can improve the quality of your sleep!
How daytime habits can improve your sleep
Daytime habits can hugely affect your quality of sleep. Below are five different methods in improving your sleep, some of which may be obvious and others surprising.
#1: Make your bed in the morning
Making your bed in the morning does not directly correlate with getting better sleep, but rather this action of making the bed is often linked to being more productive, eating healthier and feeling more accomplished about your achievements and day. This will improve your quality of sleep.
This may be self-explanatory, however exercise can help you sleep better. A study found that 30 minutes of running, 5 days a week increases your slow wave sleep - your deep sleep - and decreases the time it takes for you to fall asleep. Not only does it improve the quality of your sleep, but also your mood and concentration. Besides that, you are less likely to be tired during the day.
#3: Eat dinner the same time everyday
This habit does not only apply to eating dinner at the same time everyday, but rather this notion of a routine and having a rhythm. Eating dinner is an example of something you can do at the same time everyday. It can also be starting work at the same time everyday or going to the gym at the same time everyday. This improves your sleep quality because a daytime routine mirrors the circadian rhythm, and thus physiological rhythms that your body experiences are in more stable condition.
#4: Take hot showers 90 minutes before you sleep
Everybody loves a hot shower but showering right before bed does not help your sleep. This is because in order to sleep, your body temperature needs to drop and because of the nature of a hot shower, as you can imagine, your body temperature increases. Therefore, if you take a hot shower at least 90 minutes before you go to bed, you avoid this problem whilst still enjoying a nice shower.
#5: Write to-do lists before sleeping
A study found that writing to-do lists helps to improve sleep because it allows you to stop or minimize worrying about incomplete future tasks. The study compared writing to-do lists with journaling about past events and found that participants that wrote to-do lists had far better quality and quantity of sleep. With these five easy daytime activities, you can improve your quality of sleep!
Limit alcohol and Caffeine consumption
Everything that we consume has an effect on our wellbeing. With sleep it is no different. Something many of us consume on a daily basis is caffeine and on a weekly basis maybe alcohol. These two things also have a significant effect on the quality of our sleep. Alcohol consumption negatively affects the Rem sleep phase and our adenosine levels which are crucial for memory consolidation and our homeostatic drive (the mechanism that makes sure our body is well rested) Furthermore alcohol creates sleep related breathing difficulties (snoring).
Caffeine intake as much as six hours before going to bed reduces the amount of sleep you will get by an hour and also disrupts your deep sleep, which your brain needs for restoration. Therefore it is highly invised to take these facts seriously and overthink your caffeine and alcohol consumption. You do not have to ditch them from your diet completely (although that would be the most healthy solution…) but you can try to reduce it and see how positively your body will react!
Limit exposure to blue light
Blue light in itself isn’t unhealthy, in fact, it’s everywhere even in the sun! The problem comes in when we get exposure to too much artificial blue light later in the day and at night. The brain doesn’t distinguish between blue light from the sun and blue light from our cellphones and laptops, so any blue light can signal to the brain that it’s time to be awake. The hormone Melatonin naturally starts to rise in our bodies about two hours before we fall asleep, and remains high while we’re sleeping. But exposure to light, especially blue light, during this time interrupts the natural production of melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep. Hence, it is important to try to reduce smartphone use before going to sleep or at least trying to control the brightness to the absolute lowest to enjoy a healthy sleep.
How your sleeping environment impacts your sleep
The ideal room temperature for sleeping is between 15 and 19 degrees celsius, you should find out what works best for you personally. When the temperature is too low or too high you might find yourself waking up during the night, and this prevents you from having a deeper, more restorative sleep.
Having an organized room helps you sleep better. Having clutter laying around and on your bed can disrupt sleep. Clutter can cause stress and anxiety when going to sleep and when waking up in the morning. Try to only have necessary stuff in your sleeping environment.
Having good air quality makes you sleep better. When the air quality is bad it could prevent you from sleeping at all, you might have difficulty breathing which could result in headaches, nausea, coughing and sleeping. The two factors that play a role are the quality of outside air and the cleanliness of your bedroom. To improve you can thus ventilate your room (unless the outside air is not fresh, for example when there is dust or smoke) and regularly clean/vacuum your room.
It is best to have as little noise as possible when you are trying to sleep. If the overall noise in your room is too loud this can prevent you from falling and staying asleep. Try to thus reduce the noise that prevents you from having quality sleep and otherwise use earplugs.
Making your room as dark as possible helps increase the quality of your sleep. Light, both natural and artificial, influences sleep in two ways. First, light impairs sleep cycles, for optimal emotional, physical, and cognitive health it is important to complete each phase. Second, light exposure influences the melatonin levels, which is a sleep-promoting hormone. So, try to make sure you sleep in a dark environment so that your body releases extra melatonin to help you prepare for restful sleep.
Improve your bed, improve your quality of sleep
Some of the most obvious and concrete improvements for your sleep comes from your bed. If you experience muscle pain or soreness in the morning, you can try some of these changes to increase your sleep quality. Choose a good mattress which supports your body and keeps your spine in a neutral position. Try out different sleeping positions and choose a thin pillow for sleeping on stomach or back and a fuller pillow for sleeping on side. Your blanket should keep you as warm as you need and finally, use sheets that feel comfortable on your skin. You can find a variation of different materials with different qualities. If you want to consider the environment of your choice, look for organic cotton, linen, or hemp.
Getting between seven and nine hours of quality sleep each night isn’t possible for most students. Nevertheless, you can improve the quality of your sleep with a few simple adjustments to your day and night routine. By implementing some daytime activities such as exercise, reducing your alcohol and caffeine consumption, less blue light exposure and adjusting your bed you can drastically improve the quality of your sleep and hence your concentration, energy levels and productivity during the day.
*This blog post is composed by a group of first year students of the Bachelor Global Responsibility and Leadership, as part of the course Global Health.