Students & Grads: Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

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Whether you’re a student or a new grad, there are just not enough hours in the day to do everything you need to do.

Your sleep is often sacrificed on the altar of ambition. It’s tempting to think that a few hours won’t make a difference, especially at a time in your life when you want to meet (and exceed) expectations of teachers, bosses, and parents. In fact, according to Statistics Canada, Canadians who report feeling pressed for time get less sleep: on average, men get 35 minutes less and women get 25 minutes less.

Why do you need a good night’s sleep?

Sleep is essential for your health: both physical and psychological. The short-term effects of sleep loss include anxiety, distractibility, drowsiness, forgetfulness – together, they translate to decreased performance and alertness.

So on the eve of an exam, getting enough sleep is far more beneficial to your grade than cramming for an extra hour. Sleep deprivation may worsen exam anxiety and compromise your ability to recall information.

If skipping out on your sleep becomes a habit, the long-term consequences can include high blood pressure, obesity, increased susceptibility to stroke, and psychiatric problems such as depression.

How much sleep do you need?

This is the million-dollar question. The average is 8 hours: adults should try to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep. There is no definitive number because how much sleep you need can only be answered by you. If you need ten hours of sleep to feel refreshed, make sure you get ten hours.

Quality of sleep is just as important as quantity. If you get eight hours of sleep but you’re waking up every hour, that is not restful sleep. The following tips will help you improve both the quantity and quality of your sleep.

How do you develop good sleeping habits?

  1. Prioritize sleep. From now on, your sleeping hours are set in stone in your schedule. Make no exceptions.
  2. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time everyday. Do you find waking up on Mondays particularly difficult? Part of the reason may be that you have become accustomed to sleeping in on the weekend. Wake up refreshed for the work week by setting your body’s internal clock to a consistent sleep schedule.
  3. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine at least four hours before bedtime. These are just three chemicals that interfere with restful sleep, so even if you are getting the same amount of sleep, the quality of that rest may be compromised.
  4. Stop using electronics at least an hour before bed. Artificial light suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone involved in the promotion of sleep.
  5. Invest in ear buds and/or a face mask, if necessary. If you are sensitive to noise or light, consider using ear buds or a face mask, respectively. They are a good idea for urbanites too. Any slight discomfort is a small price to pay for more restful sleep.

If you take away only one thing from this article, then let it be this: sleep is essential. Essential to your personal health. Essential to your academic and professional successes. At a time when you’re working to pay off student loan debts, don’t accumulate sleep debt.

What are your tips for getting enough sleep? Share your ideas in the comments!

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