With midterms approaching, it’s important that you’re getting enough sleep. When a proper sleeping pattern is maintained, there are many positive outcomes, such as an increase in productivity, or an improvement in learning and memory. When sleep isn’t maintained, focus and attention can drift, causing it to be harder to receive information.1 Short-term health consequences of lack of sleep are an increase in stress, reduced quality of life, performance deficits, and even headaches and abdominal pain.2 Long-term health consequences due to lack of sleep can include high blood pressure (hypertension), weight-related issues, and metabolic syndrome.2 As outlined by the Mayo Clinic, here are six steps that you can follow to get better sleep and to help maintain a good sleeping pattern.3
1. Keep the Same Sleep Schedule
Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time throughout the week, including weekends. By sticking to a schedule, your body can follow a consistent sleep-wake cycle. If you have a hard time falling asleep, think about cutting off screen time on your phone, TV, or tablet 30 minutes prior to bedtime, and read a book or magazine, or listen to some calming music instead.
Also, as much as you want to press snooze when your alarm rings, you shouldn’t. An article posted by AMERISLEEP stated, “Wake up and get yourself out of bed, and the REM cycle ends. Hit the snooze button and go back to sleep, though, and you throw yourself right back into the REM cycle. When your alarm goes off a second time, it wakes you up in the middle of REM instead of at the end of REM. As a result, you end up feeling foggy and disoriented.”4 Lastly, with Daylight Saving Time coming to an end on Sunday, November 7, moving the clocks back one hour can affect your sleep schedule for up to a week.
2. Food and Liquids
Be careful about what you consume before bed. Avoid going to bed hungry as well as eating heavy meals a few hours before bedtime.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine concluded that “400 mg of caffeine taken 0, 3, or even 6 hours prior to bedtime significantly disrupts sleep. Even at 6 hours, caffeine reduced sleep by more than 1 hour.”5 Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages and look at other alternatives such as chamomile tea, which has mild properties as a sleep-inducer6 and contains no caffeine.
3. Create a Calm, Dark Space
Your sleeping space should be dark and quiet. As mentioned previously, try to avoid looking at your phone or any light-emitting device for 30 minutes before you plan to sleep. One study published in Sleep Medicine found that sleeping with the light on causes shallow sleep with frequent interruption, which can last 3-15 seconds. The results also found that it was easier for individuals to sleep in a room that was dark than in a room that had light.7
Why is darkness so important? Our bodies produce a hormone called melatonin, also known as the “sleep hormone,” which signals the body to prepare for sleep by relaxing the muscles and increasing drowsiness. Once light starts to shine, the level of melatonin decreases. Constant light can delay the onset of sleep.
4. Be Cautious Taking Naps
A daytime nap may have some benefits, such as long-term memory improvement, enhanced cognitive function, and increased creativity, but there are also a few downsides, such as grogginess. Try to limit your naps to 30 minutes or less to prevent grogginess after you wake up, and try not to nap after 3 pm as you might have trouble falling asleep at night, which will interfere with your bedtime schedule.
While staying active can help you sleep, research suggests that the time spent doing physical activities can hinder your sleep schedule.8 This varies based on a person’s chronotype (a chronotype is a person’s natural tendency to be awake [more active] or to be asleep [less active] at certain times of the day).
The three categories of chronotypes are evening-types (E-types), morning-types (M-types), and neither-types (N-types). E-types generally wake up and go to bed late, have lower sleep quality, and perform best during the second half of the day, whereas M-types sleep and wake up early, and perform best in the morning.9
To determine your sleep chronotype you can search up the following questionnaires (though there are many others available):
- Automated Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire (Auto-MEQ)
- Circadian Type Questionnaire (CTQ)
6. Stress Management
If you have a massive list of things to do tomorrow, write it down instead of having it play at the back of your mind while you try to sleep. If you’re stressed, try some deep breathing exercises to help reduce it. Many pointers mentioned above (reducing caffeine intake before bed, establishing a bedtime routine, and not using your phone for 30 minutes before bed) can also help with stress management.
While there are many ways to establish and maintain a good sleeping pattern, what works for one person may not work for another. It is important to test what techniques work best for you to ensure you get enough sleep!
1. “Sleep, Learning, and Memory.” Sleep, Learning, and Memory | Healthy Sleep, 18 Dec. 2017, healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep/learning-memory.
2. “Short- and long-term health consequences of sleep disruption.” N.p, n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2021 <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28579842>.
3. “6 Steps to Better Sleep.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 17 Apr. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/sleep/art-20048379.
4. “The Negative Impact of Hitting the Snooze Button.” Amerisleep, 28 Apr. 2021, amerisleep.com/blog/negative-impact-snooze-button/.
5. Drake, Christopher, et al. “Caffeine Effects on Sleep Taken 0, 3, or 6 Hours before Going to Bed.” Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, vol. 09, no. 11, 2013, pp. 1195–1200., doi:10.5664/jcsm.3170.
6. Srivastava, Janmejai K, et al. “Chamomile: A Herbal Medicine of the Past with Bright Future.” Molecular Medicine Reports, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Nov. 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2995283/.
7. Cho, JR; Joo, EY; Koo, DL; Hong, SB. “Let There Be No Light: The Effect of Bedside Light on Sleep Quality and Background Electroencephalographic Rhythms.” Sleep Medicine, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24210607/.
8. Yamanaka, Yujiro, et al. “Morning and Evening Physical Exercise DIFFERENTIALLY Regulate the Autonomic Nervous System during Nocturnal Sleep in Humans.” American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 1 Nov. 2015, journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/ajpregu.00127.2015?rfr_dat=cr_pub%2B%2B0pubmed&url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org.
9. Jacopo A. Vitale, Matteo Bonato, Letizia Galasso, Antonio La Torre, Giampiero Merati, Angela Montaruli, Eliana Roveda & Franca Carandente (2016): Sleep quality and high intensity interval training at two different times of day: A crossover study on the influence of the chronotype in male collegiate soccer players, Chronobiology International, DOI: 10.1080/07420528.2016.1256301