Sleep is one of the most powerful indicators of student success, and with good reason. Sleep not only refreshes our organs and physical bodies, but it helps us consolidate and synthesize the information we take in everyday. Many college students (and adults in general) find that they have trouble getting enough quality sleep at night.
Not only is sleep important for success in the classroom or the workplace, but getting enough sleep is critical for your safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year. This results in an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses. These figures may be the tip of the iceberg, since currently it is difficult to attribute crashes to sleepiness.
I found some great tips for improving the quality and quantity of your sleep, from Middlebury College in Vermont:
Develop a routine. Routines signal to our body that something is about to happen—in this case, sleep! Starting a bedtime routine 30 minutes before going to sleep can help unwind the mind and body and release melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep. Starting the routine at the same time and trying to wake up and the same time everyday can improve sleep quality and quantity.
Reduce caffeine. Caffeine has been shown to cause people to take longer to get to sleep, cause more awakenings, and lower the quality of sleep. Many types of soda contain caffeine as does chocolate, coffee and many types of teas.
Limit alcohol. Consuming alcohol, even as little as one to two drinks can produce fragmented sleep, causing a decrease in deep and REM sleep.
Go screen-free. The light emitted from cell phones, computer screens, tablets, and televisions trick our bodies and brains into thinking that it is light outside and we should be awake. Adding screen-free time into your routine can help you fall asleep faster.
Make time for physical activity. Often at the end of the day our brains are exhausted but our bodies are restless after sitting in class all day. Making time for physical activity, even just a walk around campus or your neighborhood, can help the brain and body get on the same page at the end of the day.
[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]