Student life is about playing hard and enjoying life – early nights are certainly not a priority! But good sleep is vital for students just as at other points in our lives. Teenagers and young adults need enough good quality sleep to function and perform well, otherwise they will quickly notice symptoms from sleep deprivation. It is worth aiming for eight hours, although of course there is a spectrum – some need a bit more, and some can do well with less.
Lack of sleep causes a variety of symptoms and it is worth analysing your sleep if you are feeling below par. Often, too little sleep causes low mood, anxiety, muscle aches, headaches and poor concentration; when this happens it could be time for a rebalance.
Sleep patterns change when you start university – late night parties and early mornings rushing to lectures – but good quality sleep must still be a priority. In order to create good quality sleep you need to look at what we call sleep hygiene: this has nothing to do with cleanliness, and everything to do with creating the perfect environment for peaceful sleep.
Sleep hygiene is about setting up a good routine and atmosphere for sleep. So even if you only grab a few hours, your body can make the most of them. The first thing to consider for good sleep is what you do during the day; you need to get moving.
People who exercise during the day will sleep better at night. They are physically tired from exertion and they are relaxed and calmed from the exercise, creating the state of mind needed for a good night’s sleep.
At university, people will work, play and party in the room they sleep in. But a sleeping environment needs to be relaxed and calm. Make your bed as comfortable as you can with all work paraphernalia as far from the bed as possible. Many people need darkness to fall asleep and stay asleep – all screens and devices in the room should be turned off so you don’t see little LED lights twinkling all night. If your curtains are a bit flimsy, using a night mask can help create the darkness your body craves. It can also been worth investing in a pair of earplugs for the nights you want to sleep but your housemates don’t!
What we do in the last hour before bed can really help us unwind. You need to prepare your mind for sleep with leisurely reading, relaxing music or a bath. The worst thing you can do before bed is stare at your phone. The lights from the screen and the messages stimulate and encourage your brain to wake up, not wind down! Ideally, your phone should not be by your bed overnight as that is not conducive to relaxing: it should be off and left away from you. If you use it as an alarm clock, turn it screen-down with the ringer off so it can’t disturb you.
Some great sleep tips for students there from Dr Ellie – leave your thoughts in the comments below!