#DolphinsLiveWell: “Got Sleep?”

By Maria C. Randazzo, Substance Abuse Specialist, Wellness Center for Health & Counseling

Sleep is probably the most sought after commodities among college students.  According to Dr. James Maas “college students are walking zombies.”  It seems like sleep is the one thing that most students can never get enough of!  While many of you function on limited amounts of the stuff, is sleep optional or a necessity?  Well, consider the following: sleep, especially REM sleep, is necessary for long-term replacement of neurotransmitters that can affect mood, cognition, and concentration.  In addition, getting enough sleep has been linked to general health, longevity, and overall improved feelings of well-being.  And you really need to get 7-8 hours of sleep for sufficient time in the REM stage for all of the above to occur! Consider this as well: the best predictor of GPA is length of sleep. Conversely, lack of sleep can be dangerous!  Did you know that if you go for 2 weeks with 6 hours of sleep per night, when you are awake you are functioning as if you had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.1??  With the days getting longer and warmer, and the sun finally shining we are at risk for getting even less sleep than during our winter hibernation! Below are some tips from the National Sleep Foundation that can help keep you on track:

Stick to a sleep schedule with the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends. This helps to regulate your body’s clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.

Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress, or anxiety which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep or remain asleep.

If you have trouble sleeping, avoid naps, especially in the afternoon. Power napping may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can’t fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short catnaps may help.

Exercise daily. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any  time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.

Evaluate your room. Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep. Your bedroom should be cool and ideally between 60 and 67 degrees. Your bedroom should also be free from any noise or light that can disturb your sleep.

Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows. Make your sleep space as comfy and inviting as you can.

Use bright light to help manage your circadian rhythms. Expose yourself to sunlight in the morning and avoid bright light in the evening especially the blue light of clocks, computers, and phones.

Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening. Alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine can disrupt sleep. Eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort from indigestion that can make it hard to sleep, so avoid eating large meals for two to three hours before bedtime.

Wind down. Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading. For some people, using an electronic device such as a laptop can make it hard to fall asleep, because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is activating to the brain.

Following these tips can get you some better zzzz’s and allow you to finish the semester strong…sweet dreams!!

Everything You Should Know About Sleep But Are Too Tired To Ask.

Dr. James B. Maas, 2009.

National Sleep Foundation