As students we’re used to working with minimal amounts of sleep, but it’s actually vital for productivity, and for your mental health… here’s how to get some.
Picture the scene: it’s the day before a big exam. You’ve been in the library for seven hours straight and you’ve consumed twice as many cups of terrible vending machine coffee. You emerge, triumphant, only to realise the sun is already up and the birds have started singing. Sounds familiar, right? Is it really worth going to sleep when you could get in an extra bit of cramming before 9am?
Yes! We’ve all been there, and pulling an all-nighter always seems like a brilliant idea at the time, but not getting enough rest will guarantee you don’t perform as well in your work (no matter how much last minute textbook scanning you think you did) and it’s probably going to make you pretty miserable too.
Why sleep is so important
People who don’t get enough sleep experience low energy levels and poor concentration- it’s not rocket science, you know that if you go to sleep at 3 and have to be up for a 9am, you’re going to be paying absolutely zero attention to what’s going on- and that’s totally normal, to an extent. But eventually such a poor sleep schedule is going to start affecting your work effort, your grades and, more importantly, your mental health.
Lack of sleep can contribute to depression, anxiety and other mental health illnesses, but the effects of a good night’s sleep are immeasurable: it helps you process what you’ve been learning, balances your emotions and is proven to actually make you happier. With that in mind, here’s how to make sure you get one:
• Get some exercise
Regular exercise like going to the gym or for a run (or even just a walk) is a good way of using up energy in the daytime, so that you’re actually tired by the time you go to bed.
• Make a routine
Whether it’s a hot shower, a cup of tea or reading a book, train your brain to recognise these things as meaning ‘time for bed,’ and you’ll be much more likely to feel sleepy. Just try to avoid laptops or your phone at least half an hour before bed- blue lights from screens just disrupt sleep rhythms.
(Don’t worry, it’s free)
• Establish a bed time
Going to sleep and getting up at about the same time every day establishes a sleep pattern, and sticking to it means you’ll get a better night’s sleep in the long term. And if you’ve had a bad night, try not to sleep in the morning after, it just makes things worse
• Only use your bed for sleeping
It’s all too tempting to do some extra reading from the comfort of cushions and duvets, but working, watching television or eating (because apparently some people actually do that) in bed gets confusing. Keep your bed for sleeping, and your brain will start to associate it with rest.
• Don’t force it
If you really can’t sleep, get up and do something relaxing. Lying awake worrying about not being able to sleep only makes it harder.
• Consider what you’re consuming
Try to avoid any (caffeinated) tea or coffee after around lunch time, as this lingers in your system, and (where possible) avoid drinking too much alcohol- it may help you sleep to begin with, but it’s almost certain you’ll wake up in the middle of the night.
• Set the scene
If you’re living with other students the chances are it gets pretty noisy at odd times throughout the day and night. Try investing in some ear plugs, noise cancelling headphones or a white noise machine, and make sure your room is as dark as possible.
If something is troubling you and there’s nothing you can do to solve it straight away, try writing it down. You’ll have gotten out your frustration and will hopefully get a better night’s sleep- and problems never seem as bad in the morning, after a good night’s rest.