Sleep for Success

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Sleep for Success

By: Michelle Burtnyk | Health and Counselling Services
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Working, studying, eating, spending time with your friends, hitting the gym … face it – life can be HECTIC and one of the first things that we cut down on is usually sleep … I know I’m guilty of it! You tell yourself, “I’ll just go to bed early tomorrow”, or “I’ll catch up on the weekend”, but in actuality you can’t “catch-up” on lost sleep, or store sleep for the future, because lost sleep on any given night has immediate consequences the very next day, including your work performance, memory and learning – in fact, over 30% of SFU students report sleep as having a negative impact on their academic performance (NCHA, 2007). Studies have shown that when you get enough sleep, your concentration, memory, and attention will be improved, you’ll be better equipped to handle the stressors in your life, you’ll be better able to fight off colds and illness, you’ll have more energy to face life’s challenges, and you’ll find yourself in a better mood (which is also a benefit to your classmates, friends and colleagues!).

So what’s your Sleep IQ? Do you know how much you need? What’s the best thing to do when you just can’t fall asleep? Should you nap during the day? Read on to get a better nights sleep, and feel and perform better in your daily life.

How Much is Enough? Ever wonder how your friend can get by on 6 hours of sleep every night, when you need closer to 9? Contrary to popular belief, there is no ‘optimal’ number when it comes to how many hours of sleep you should be getting each night – this number is biologically different for everyone. So how do you know if you’re getting enough? Take the sleep-test: next time you’re sitting quietly and trying to pay attention (i.e. reading a book, in a work meeting or in a lecture), do you feel drowsy? If you do, you’re NOT getting enough sleep! When you can stay alert, this is the optimum amount of sleep for you.

To Nap or Not to Nap: If you’re feeling tired during the day and feel like taking a nap, by all means go for it – but try to limit it to 20-30 minutes, or you may have problems falling or staying asleep that night. Also try to avoid naps in the late afternoon and evening.

Aim for the Same: If you’re having trouble sleeping, try sticking to a schedule when it comes to your sleep routine –try going to bed at the same time every night, and getting out of bed at the same time each morning – even on weekends!

Sleep Skills 101: To get a better night’s sleep, try exercising regularly (but no later than 4-8 hours before your bedtime), avoiding alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine (for at least 2 hours before your bedtime), and doing something relaxing to wind down before bed. 

If All Else Fails… If you’ve been in bed for more than 30 minutes and you just can’t seem to fall asleep, get out of bed and do something relaxing. Go back to bed when you start feeling drowsy.

Sleep can have such a huge impact on your health and your ability to perform at your best, so make it a priority! Even if you feel like you need to spend that extra hour before bed cramming for your exam or preparing for your meeting the next day, you’ll be better prepared, both physically and mentally, if you take that extra time and get a good night’s sleep. 

Beyond The Article

For more resources, check out the Health and Counselling Services resource page.

Posted on March 04, 2011