Did you recently notice having a reduced attention span during the day? do you feel like you study without the information sticking in? have had a morning headache? do you postpone things to another day? do you forget many of the important dates or events that you wanted to go to? do you feel fatigued and could drop asleep any minute? Skipping lectures or work? Are you feeling stuck in this cycle that you no longer notice anything wrong with that attitude towards yourself? poor sleep affects your concentration, productivity, memory and ability to stay awake.
You might be sleep deprived, but before you think, “I know I know”, maybe this is your call to take the first step to change it.
Continuous (Chronic) lack of sleep is what It takes to set yourself on fire towards failure. Staying up to finish work one or 2 times in a row might work in your favour occasionally. However, the majority of the time it will work against you as your body and brain will punish you for it, i.e., harbouring Insomnia (check the link to assess your sleeping score with the NHS).
See sleep is always underestimated. Our generation might have lost respect for the value of sleep because of our phones, distractions, busy life, and work. Sleep is not a magic potion that works directly after one night. Sleep is like all the important skills and habits; you will only notice the results when you are consistent. Sleep is the vessel for our memories, attention, and healthy body. Without it, you can’t progress forward. It needs no rebelliousness; it is a basic rule in life. You can’t waste your time testing it to be otherwise, as it will only prove itself to you with time.
A student like yourself, I have struggled with sleep, I had too many worries at the time, moved to a new city, lived in a house alone, with COVID-19 all the suppressed thoughts started to creep onto the surface. I come from a faraway land that was once beautiful and got ruined by reckless insiders and invaders. I have always suppressed my desire to check the devastating news for 6 years. Till I suddenly found myself there online catching up on all that I have missed, and the bad news became the friend of my nights. There I was in loops surfing the web when I realised it had desensitized my feelings towards even having normal laughter. I stopped but my eyes stayed always wide awake, staring at the ceiling in despair. Then I was introduced to a strategy game; I thought at least this is better than ending up in news channels fuelling more anger.
Sometimes we must watch ourselves, it might be easy to fall into bad habits when you live alone; there is no break, no one to interrupt you. Regardless, it is never too late. If you read this, then this might be your sign to be precautious.
After being addicted to the game; it was the escape for the month after, now the game is off the plate too. Now, I am in control. Yes, it took 2-3 months of good sleep. It was again another escape from what I have felt about being homesick combined with the daily bad news from back home. I have made sure to address the problem with an advisor from the university. That was the time I felt ok inside. I no longer carried the real baggage within me and bottle it up. It helps to have a listening ear that won’t judge you, but comfort you regardless of how the topic is irrelevant to them. The suppressed sadness must be dealt with as I found it can always seep into your daily things. I also made sure to tackle my problems effectively, since it was mentally damaging to watch the news, I made sure to address what made me sad; I wanted to help the people. I arrived late but I made sure I donated to a good cause; it helped me feel a relief. To tackle my sleep, I made sure to utilise a habit that build me up and started joining the gym. The point is it is better to arrive late than never and imagine if you could arrive early. That is even greater.
If you live alone: create a break. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, meet new people, and filter out who is good company and who is not. Invest your time in habits that will build and develop your personality. Exhaust your daily energy for your own good; so that when the night comes, you could sleep easily without even trying. Find a part-time job, volunteer, take part in a society, make your own or even go to the Gym.
If you live with other family members and have caring responsibilities, organisation is important. Frustration can build up easily and creep into your thoughts at night. Use relaxation techniques. If in the morning things are unresolved, speak to someone from support, book appointments even if they would take longer. At least you will release the pressure.
Let’s think deeply and honestly and identify what is it that you notice yourself doing when remaining unable to sleep. Track what thoughts keep you awake. Or is it a Console/PC/Phone game that you resort to? Chatting to friends overseas? A long-distance relationship (LDR)? Binging on amines/Netflix episodes, reading your favourite E-book, going out to Shisha places, or staying out late with friends. Note it down on a piece of paper.
None of these entertaining behaviours are wrong until we are excessively and regularly resort to them rather than a comfortable sleep. Sometimes, we can use them as an escaping mechanism, maybe as a stress reliever, however, if that’s the case, maybe you should address what you are escaping from, i.e., failed an exam? Then shift your focus to do better on the next one. Had problems in a relationship or with a friend or family, maybe try to improve your next encounter with them. Also, you could always speak to a friend that you trust or someone from the University’s Counselling services, that can listen to your concerns confidentially and help you professionally to find resolution and support. Get the support you require, don’t deprive yourself of it, due to shyness or any stigma around the topic.
Honestly, sometimes even having an ear to listen to you without judgment can sometimes make the biggest difference.
We are growing into a world that will soon require our full attention; however, we might not possess the good habits to get there. Only a few of us even think ahead, the majority are still stuck not realising what is the big picture that we are framing ourselves into. Sometimes your habits can be your enemy to success, and true tranquillity.
If you find yourself guilty of any of the above behaviours, then know that change will be on your books and it is possible with small steady steps which your future self will thank you for. I must say it can only be achieved with a pinch of “I want to make it happen”.
As said before your sleep is impacted by many factors and the good news is that most of them are under your control.
Here are few of the things I have found to work overtime:
- Limit screen time
Avoid using gadgets 2-3 hours before sleeping time, blue light is very powerful in suppressing melatonin production.
- Plan and organise your phone habits
Before going to bed, check the battery level of your device and plug it in on a side table with the highest volume and vibration for your morning alarm. The point is to sleep in your bed phone free, reducing the distraction chance. Since deep sleep is only 17% of your whole sleeping cycle, the rest is called light sleep where you could be woken up easily by any noises around you.
- Dim the lights in your room and utilise curtains
Light exposure reduces melatonin production, the important hormone for your ‘body clock’.
- Stay cool
Make sure the temperature is comfortable to your body, not too hot; that you wake up sweating and without oxygen (remove a blanket), and not too cold that you gain a chest infection (use an extra blanket). Make it nice and comfy for a better silent night’s sleep. Taking a hot bath before sleeping allows for deeper sleep with dropped body temperature as observed in this research.
- Now get enough good quality sleep to make the bed hours count
It is obvious but essential. 7-9 hours of sleep for adults depending on your lifestyle. For example, athletes require 9 hours of sleep for proper recovery.
- Have a set bedtime
A consistent routine for sleeping is an important must for everyone. When going to bed and waking up at the same time, you will reactivate your circadian rhythm, which will mean your body’s ability to sleep will be faster and easier. This is backed by research that shows that sleeping later at the weekends leads to poorer quality of sleep.
Exercising and keeping active during the day will help you sleep faster and deeper. This is backed by a study showing that athletes had better sleeping quality than participants with an inactive lifestyle.
- Reduce stress levels
Monitor your daily habits. Avoid stressful situations when you could. Relationship conflicts and work-related stressors will negatively impact sleeping patterns. Use relaxation techniques before bed to keep your mind at ease.
- Consume a balanced diet
The composition of what we eat during the day affects our sleeping quality, diet management Is essential for good sleep. Plan your mealtimes, and avoid having any meals 2-3 hours directly before sleeping. Ensure plenty of vitamins, minimal sugar, and saturated fats. Fast food is the easiest option for students. However, maybe it is time to make a recipe book of your favourite foods and save your health and pockets.
- Control caffeine intake
Caffeine and disturbed sleep are best friends. Even if the cup was 5 hours before bed. Aim to have 6 hours at least between your last caffeine cup and your bedtime.
- Keep the bed for sleeping only
Avoid working on your laptop, responding to a few emails from the comfort of your bed, no matter how tempting it could be. Make sure your bedroom is a designated space for sleeping as your brain will be conditioned that is the resting environment.
- EYES WIDE AWAKE STILL!
1. Slow Deep breathing exercises and focus on exhaling.
2. Meditate and listen to a sleeping lullaby/ soothing song/ adult sleeping stories/ guided sleep session from either YouTube (make your favourite list) or from an app. Lower the volume and close your eyes.
- Lastly, you can use the aid of apps for sleep
Lumosity Mind, you can use the starting session of the free sleeping, the lady has a soothing voice.
Sleep as android, it helps you identify any issues whilst sleeping, but has lullabies too and a smart alarm that senses the best time to wake you up.
Balance Sleep, Offers you a free 1-year trial, you could set an alarm to cancel it. However, it is free for one year. It can be student focused and tailored to your priority.