Getting a good night’s sleep

It’s essay season and that means late nights spent in the library frantically writing and stumbling sleep deprived into lectures and seminars. But sleep is vital to achieving and performing at your best this time of year. There are several things that can impact negatively upon your sleep. Obviously there are emotional factors such as anxiety and stress brought about by looming deadlines. Pain, colds and headaches can all affect sleep. But something as simple as a change in your daily routine or environmental factors such as too much light, noise or a change in temperature can have an effect, not to mention drugs and alcohol.sleep

The NHS says one in three people in Britain suffer from poor sleep. Regularly missing out on sleep can put you at increased risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes whilst also shortening your life expectancy. We’re all familiar with the common symptoms of sleep deprivation including fatigue, short temper and a lack of focus. You feel irritable, suffer from headaches, can’t focus on your work and feel like your brain is cotton wool. Continued lack of sleep results in decreased concentration, impacts negatively on your mental well-being and can lead to you nodding off during seminars and lectures.

Getting enough sleep makes you feel more rested and better prepared for tackling those deadlines. Sleep also boosts your immunity, can help you lose weight and improve your mental health, reduces risk of diabetes and heart disease and also increases your sex drive.

It’s all about having a regular sleeping routine; going to bed and waking up at the same time every day and avoiding napping. You should start getting ready for bed about hour before you plan on going to sleep. Use this time to relax. Try not to take your problems to bed with you, as hard as that is sometimes. Regular exercise during the day can help you sleep but it’s important to avoid exercise within three hours of going to bed unless it’s something relaxing like yoga. Go outside on a regular basis; exposure to natural light helps maintain a healthy and natural sleep rhythm. On the subject of light, try turning off your laptop and phone an hour before you go to sleep as the lights negatively affect your circadian rhythm.

You should only really use your bed for sleeping and sex. Train your brain to see bed is a place for these activities and not for work, going on Facebook or watching Netflix. It seems obvious but avoid or limit caffeine, alcohol and nicotine before going to bed. Nicotine and caffeine are stimulants and alcohol can disrupt sleep later in the night. Similarly avoid going to bed hungry or too full.

Finally don’t force yourself to go to sleep. If you know you struggle, remove clocks from your bedroom so you’re not watching the time. Get up after half an hour of tossing and turning and do something relaxing in a separate room. Go back to bed when you feel sleepy. And try not to worry too much about those deadlines.


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January 2022
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