The role of sleep is necessary for a healthy lifestyle. Despite this, sleep is often regarded as a burden where learners struggle to balance time and energy. Sometimes it seems more appealing to lean on caffeine than prioritize sleep. This article will cover the importance of sleep and the consequences of sleep debt, while showing how to build a sleep routine as a learner.
The Importance of Sleep
Sleep takes up a central role in life. Sleep has in maintaining a strong immune system, repairing the body, metabolizing nutrients, keeping hormone levels regular (part of de-stressing) and mental processes like learning and memory. Adults generally need 7-8 hours of sleep each night, and keeping a consistent schedule will help reduce the effects of a couple late nights.
Consequences of Sleep Debt
Losing any amount of sleep for a short or lasting period can lead to the accumulation of a sleep debt. Sleep debt builds and it cannot be made up just by catching up on a lost day. The effects of sleep deprivation manifest in short-term and long-term symptoms.
Short-term sleep loss usually involves moodiness, forgetfulness and difficulty focusing. Long-term, sleep deprivation contributes to weight gain, high blood pressure, a weakened immune system and increased risk for heart disease, depression and other health problems.
Steps to a Sleep Routine
Getting into a sleep routine is important to secure a healthy body, a sharp mind and steady productivity. Organizations like the National Sleep Foundation and the Sleep Health Foundation offer resources about proper sleep hygiene, but below are some tips to building up a good routine.
Set a time to sleep every night and wake up every morning. When kept awake by assignments, restlessness or any other break from the routine, it is healthier to keep patterns consistent and keep alarms set in stone. As a rule, cut off assignments and other obligations at a certain time to wind down at night.
2. Before-bed rituals
Whatever you do, have a consistent set of rituals. Work at a good book, watch a familiar movie, go for walk, have a cup of hot tea with a light snack. These are unique habits for the sleeper, which bring a sense of relaxation before bed.
Make sure that any rituals involving food or a screen end 45 minutes before bed, since food and blue light from most screens usually keep the body from winding down. For those who need light or noise in the room to settle down, white noise machines and bedside night-lights are sleep-friendly alternatives to television.
3. Exercise regularly
Exercise is important because it helps the body shed excess energy endure a restless night or two. Meanwhile, sleep allows the body to repair itself and reduce soreness. Exercising for at least two hours a week is a great way to maintain physical, mental and emotional fitness.
4. Limit caffeine
Caffeine is a staple of the modern diet, often used to supplant lost sleep and to provide an extra burst of energy. The downside of caffeine is that it can form a swift addiction, especially when taken in excess or at irregular times.
To prevent or manage caffeine dependence, consumption should be limited to set times (the best times are from 9 am to 11:30 am and between 1 pm and 5 pm). Since coffee is one of the most popular caffeinated beverages, it is important to understand that different kinds of coffee have different amounts of caffeine. If unsure about the amount, cut it off at two cups a day.
5. Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and heavy meals in the evening
If consuming alcohol and cigarettes at all, avoid it in the evenings. Depressants like alcohol can impair the body from sleeping properly while stimulants like nicotine have a similar effect to caffeine and increase activity.
Eating large meals at night can cause indigestion or make it harder to sleep while the body is digesting. Avoid eating meals within two or three hours before bedtime, and eat a light snack about 45 minutes before bed if still hungry.
6. Manage lighting
Even screens with “night-light” settings, which use warmer colors at night, emit blue light, which the brain interprets as daylight. It is best to avoid screens at least a half-hour before bed, especially for those who have trouble falling asleep.
7. Only take short naps
Naps throughout the day can prevent a deep sleep throughout the night, though sometimes napping is the healthier option. When napping, set alarms and keep it under half an hour (when the body begins to fall into deep sleep).
8. Prep for sleep debt
It is not recommended for people to stay up late and accumulate a sleep debt, but inconvenient circumstances can make it necessary. When it can be planned, people can stockpile their sleep in a sense. A few nights of exceptional sleep can help the body cope with restless nights on the following days. This is useful when preparing for a road trip or racing against a deadline, but it is important to avoid over-sleeping (which can cause sluggishness).
The College of Doctoral Studies at Grand Canyon University takes measures to encourage the personal growth of learners, such as halting class participating during breaks. Learn more about our many programs by visiting our website or clicking on the Request More Information button on this page.
Written by Samuel Sprague, a public policy major at Grand Canyon University.