Why is sleep important?
Prioritizing sleep is one of the most important things you can do to improve your well-being. There are numerous benefits to getting a good night's sleep:
Sleep provides the energy you need to manage stress effectively.
Sleep consolidates memory, amplifying your ability to remember and retain information.
Sleep increases motivation, concentration and problem-solving skills.
Sleep positively impacts motor skills and athletic performance.
Sleep boosts your immune system, helping you get and stay well during cold and flu season.
Sleep affects hormones that control your appetite, making it easier to eat healthfully when you're well-rested.
How much sleep do I need?
Young adults benefit most from getting 8-9 hours of sleep each night. If this feels unrealistic, try to aim for 6-7 hours per night.
Due to the flow of the sleep cycle, every extra hour you get after the 6th hour will add an additional boost to your memory retention and recall.
How do I improve my sleep?
Our bodies function on a circadian rhythm and respond well to regular routines. Use these tips regularly to improve your sleep.
Create a routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. This will help your body get on a regular cycle, and make it easier to fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning.
Unwind mentally about 30 minutes before bed. Try a low-key activity such as reading, listening to music or meditation.
Relax your body before bed or after getting into bed with deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation.
Block out noise by silencing your computer and phone. If you can't control the noise in your room, try wearing earplugs or downloading a white-noise app to muffle sound.
Reduce light in your room by hanging opaque "blackout" curtains with a tension rod. Turn off all screens, cover blinking lights or try wearing a sleep mask to bed.
Get comfortable by making sure you aren't too warm or too cold by wearing appropriate clothing to bed, opening or closing a window, or using a fan.
Turn off all screens 30-60 minutes before bed. The light from backlit screens inhibits the release of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate your sleep cycle.
Avoid caffeine and nicotine in the afternoon, and alcohol before bed. These drugs wreak havoc on your natural sleep cycle.
Avoid eating heavy meals late at night or close to bedtime.
Regular exercise helps promote sleep, but avoid exercising in the hours before bedtime. Give yourself time to come down from the boost of alertness and wakefulness following your workout.
If you're having trouble sleeping, try these troubleshooting tips.
Ease Racing Thoughts
Keep a notepad and pen by your bed. If you can't stop thinking about something, write down your thoughts, ideas or concerns. You might make a To Do list for the next day. With your thoughts safely written down, your mind can relax and drift off to sleep.
Help Falling Asleep
Try a guided meditation or deep breathing exercise to help induce sleep. If you still cannot fall asleep within 15-20 minutes, get out of bed and engage in a relaxing activity such as listening to music, journaling or reading (no screens!). Return to bed when you feel sleepy.
Dealing with Your Roommate's Schedule
You and your roommate might have different schedules, preferences or needs when it comes to sleep. If your roommate's schedule or habits are getting in the way, talk about it! Start by letting your roommate know how you're feeling. They may have no idea that you've been struggling. Use "I" statements to avoid laying blame. Discuss your preferences and needs regarding lights, noise, and late or overnight guests. Can you come to a compromise or schedule that works for both of you? You may also want to create a roommate agreement on the subject. If you need help working through these conversations, ask your CA for assistance.
How to Use a Sleep Diary
Use a sleep diary to record the quality and quantity of your sleep. You could use a bio-feedback device (like a Fitbit) or phone app that tracks sleep, or do it the old fashioned way with pen and paper. You should also track your use of medications, alcohol, and caffeinated beverages, your exercise patterns, and how sleepy you feel during the day. Keeping track of these things can help identify patterns or practices that may be keeping you from getting a good night's sleep.
When to See a Healthcare Provider
If you consistently find it difficult to fall or stay asleep, and/or feel tired or not well-rested during the day despite spending enough time in bed at night, you may want to see a healthcare provider. It's possible that you could have a sleep disorder or other medical reason preventing you from sleeping well. It is helpful to keep a sleep diary for a week or two and bring it to your appointment to discuss with your healthcare provider. To schedule an appointment at the Health Center, call 781-736-3677 or schedule online through your secure patient portal.
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