When most people think about their daily routine, they tend to prioritize tasks from most important to least important and leave some things for later. Sleep is often thought of as optional or as a low priority. In reality, it is just as important a part of a healthy daily routine as eating a balanced diet and exercising.

Why is sleep so important?
Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Both students and employees can struggle with sleep. In fact, students list difficulty sleeping as one of the top impediments for to academic success—second only to stress.

Lack of sleep damages your overall wellness. Sleep is an essential ingredient for restoring the fourth largest organ in your body: the brain. Without sleep your brain will not prepare for the next day’s agenda and will lack the ability to form new pathways that help you learn, communicate effectively, and remember information. In time, lack of sleep can lead to a serious sleep conditions like insomnia, which can lead to anger, impulsiveness in your body, mood swings, depression, or lack of motivation. Sleep deprivation can also eventually lead to serious physical issues such as an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.

Even though sleep is important, it can be another challenge to change your schedule and to accommodate your body’s needs when juggling multiple responsibilities. Here are eight ways you can change your day to make time for your eight hours of sleep and lead you down a path of a healthier you!

8 Ways to get your 8

  1. Exercise regularly. Engaging in regular exercise produces a higher percentage of deep sleep as well as fewer awakenings during the night. Exercise can also reduce stress. But it is important to remember to not exercise right before bed.
  2. Take a look at your diet. Are you consuming the right nutrients and vitamins for your body? Make sure that you are consuming adequate amounts of B-complex vitamins, as several B vitamins can enhance restful sleep as well as reduce fatigue. If you are not eating a well-balanced diet, consider taking a supplement. Want more information about your diet? Schedule a nutrition consultation!
  3. Set a daily schedule. Creating a schedule can help organize your mind and your work. Instead of staying up at night thinking about what you need to do, you will have it all written down. Having a daily schedule will allow you to take advantage of breaks in your schedule to do work, instead of saving it for night and letting it deprive you of sleep.
  4. Establish a regular sleep schedule. Similar to keeping a daily schedule, commit to a sleep schedule. It is important to have consistency in your sleep patterns. Setting a bedtime will help you schedule your day more efficiently. If something unexpected comes up (and it will), try to find time somewhere else in your day to take care of it instead of letting it take away from your sleep time.
  5. Practice diaphragmatic (deep) breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing is a successful technique that often leads to restful sleep. When practiced before bed, deep breathing not only helps you to feel more relaxed and facilitate sleep, but also makes it likely you will obtain more restful sleep. Learn different techniques to diaphragmatic breathing and start feeling more relaxed!
  6. Boost melatonin at night. Melatonin is the chemical in your body that helps you sleep at night. In order to boost its production, it is important to shy away from electronics and LED light.  Many people use the television to fall asleep or relax at the end of the day. But light suppresses melatonin production, and television can actually stimulate the mind, rather than relaxing it. Instead, try listening to music or audiobooks, or consider practicing relaxation exercises.
  7. Reduce caffeine intake. For most students, caffeine is a part of their daily routine. Although it may lead to extra energy in the short term, it can also lead to insomnia. It is important to remember not to consume caffeine within four hours of bedtime because it can lead to insomnia or poor sleep.
  8. Avoid alcohol or limit consumption. Being a depressant, alcohol makes you feel tired, but it can also disrupt your sleep cycles and reduce the quality of sleep that you get. If you do drink alcohol, limit it to no more than three drinks (one drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, or 1 ounce of 100 proof distilled spirits) and stop at least two hours before bedtime.

For more information on how to take control of your sleep feel, visit the Health Promotion and Wellness website or office at 187 McCormick Hall.

Additional resources

Health Promotion and Wellness sleep resources
Sleep information from Student Counseling Services
Sleep information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
National Sleep Foundation

Ali Geary is a communication intern for Health Promotion and Wellness.