WELLNESS WEDNESDAY: The Importance of Regulating Your Sleep Schedule

We’ve all been there. You stay up all night talking to a new friend, go home for a weekend and spend the wee hours of the morning catching up with an old high school flame or you’re forced into pulling an all-nighter to study after procrastinating all week. Now you’re headed to class in the morning in a zombie-like state because you didn’t get enough sleep the night before. Your focus is hazy, you’re cranky and large cups of coffee are just barely helping you drag your feet through the day. When you find yourself taking six hour naps in the middle of the day and are up all night, every night, you can consider your sleep schedule officially destroyed.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, it is not necessary that you get a certain number of hours of sleep per night. The "right" amount of sleep varies from person to person. Scientists look at two factors when determining how much sleep someone needs. First, they look at basal sleep need – the amount of sleep our bodies need on a regular basis for optimal performance. Then, they look into sleep debt, the accumulated sleep that is lost to poor sleep habits, sickness, awakenings due to environmental factors or other causes.  Personally, I think 6-8 hours does the trick, but it really depends on the day. Now, that doesn’t justify taking those 6-hour-long mid-day naps which waste your entire day. That’s because of circadian rhythms-- or what is commonly called your “body clock.” It’s important to go out and get fresh air and sunlight in order to readjust your internal clock. 
Not getting enough sleep at the right times can have dangerous consequences, especially for the busy college student. The NSF also says that lack of sleep increases your chances of getting in a car accident and developing heart disease or diabetes. It could also significantly decrease your attention span as well as your memory. 
Now that you know what’s at stake, here are some tips to help you get back on track or keep you there.
1-Keep a planner: As a college student, you should probably have a day planner anyway, but if you don’t, you should check out your campus bookstore for different options. Write the hour that you’d like to wake up in the morning and when you’d like to go to bed. Fill the time in between with everything you have to do, but make sure there is at least an hour long gap between any kind of activity and the hour you want to go to sleep.
2- Have “me“ time: Now that you have an hour-long gap, use it as a time to unwind and relax. Take a warm bath, getting in comfortable pajamas and lay down in your bed. Maybe read a few chapters of a book (nothing too good or you’ll never get to sleep!) and just relax. Try to avoid TV or computer screens since the light keeps your brain active and awake. This will get your brain and body ready for sleep.
3- Sleep snacks: There are a few relaxation-inducing foods you can try to help relax you before you go to bed. Chamomile tea works wonders for me. Making yourself a warm mug of it during your relaxation hour will help you unwind. Don’t eat anything too heavy or sugary. Crackers with peanut butter are an excellent late-night snack.
4-Don’t get discouraged: If you find that you’re truly making an effort to get your sleep schedule back on track and it just isn’t happening, don’t lose hope! These things take time. If you find your mind racing instead of shutting off, don’t get out of bed. Just lay there and focus on your breathing. Grab that book you were reading and continue reading it to relax with low light on. Getting up and cleaning, doing homework or watching TV will throw you right back into wakefulness. Have patience and you’ll be sleeping like a baby before your know it.
Did you know? Women report more sleep disturbances than men. Check out these tips written especially with women in mind from the National Sleep Foundation
Still need help getting to sleep? Check out these interesting tips from xoJane!
Sweet dreams, collegiettes!
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