Many things often stand between us and a good night’s sleep: absurdly long to do lists, family or social obligations, and often our own brains. Some of these barriers are easier to control than others. Regardless, adequate sleep provides a vital foundation for your overall well-being. In fact, its so important that some gyms are offering nap fitness classes.
All jokes aside, lack of sleep can have serious physical and emotional ramifications. In the short term, it can make you grumpy and foggy. Long term sleep issues can have serious negative health impacts that include, but are not limited to, an increased risk for depression, heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes. Both Illinois State University students and faculty/staff report sleep as one of their top health concerns. On average, most adults need 6 to 9 hours of sleep each night. And contrary to popular belief, you cannot “make up” missed sleep another day.
Small tweaks to your daily routine can set you up for sleep success. Try these tips and you’ll be well on your way to sweet dreams.
- Stick to a schedule and routine. Having similar bed and wake times helps your body know what to expect and when. In addition, a soothing bedtime ritual can also help clue your body that its time to sleep. Some sleep-encouraging activities include reading an actual book, listening to soothing music, taking a warm bath, or sipping decaffeinated tea. Find what works for you.
- Set an electronic bedtime. The light emitted from the screens of devices such as televisions, phones, and tablets promote wakefulness. Just like our bodies, our brains need time to wind down. Set an electronic bedtime no less than one hour prior to when you want to be asleep.
- Evaluate your sleeping space. Make sure your sleep environment is snooze-worthy. Most people sleep better in a cool room, free of noises, light, and other distractions. Some people find white noise to be helpful, especially if they are sharing a room with a roommate or partner. Read more about the ideal bedroom for sleep.
- Pay attention to what you eat/drink and when. Some foods help with sleep and some foods may keep you from sleep. Large heavy meals and stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine can stand between you and sleep. Alcohol, while a depressant, prevents your body from entering the deep sleep necessary to feel rested.
- Put your concerns to bed. If you find your mind racing with worries or things you need to do tomorrow, write it out. Journal about what is troubling you and/or make a to-do list to tack tomorrow. Then, shut the book and put your mental clutter to bed.
- Don’t stare at the clock. If you really, truly can’t sleep, don’t. Staring at the clock and getting worked up about how you cannot sleep will only further complicate the issue. If something on your to do list is standing in your way, take care of it. Otherwise, do a relaxing activity such as reading a book and then try again in a little bit.
- Take care of your body in other ways. Physical activity has been shown to help people sleep better. However, try not to do it right before bedtime. If stress and/or anxiety is keeping you awake at night, find ways to address whatever is eating at you. In return, better sleeps helps boost your immune system and lowers your risk for many health conditions.
- Consult an expert. If you are experiencing prolonged or severe sleep issues, consult a medical provider. Students can seek assistance at Student Health Services. Faculty and staff should speak with their primary physician.
For additional sleep resources, both on campus and beyond, check out Health Promotion and Wellness’ comprehensive sleep resource page.
About Health Promotion and Wellness
Health Promotion and Wellness provides wellness information, services, events, and programming to students, faculty, staff, retirees, and the Illinois State community. People living, learning, and working in a healthy environment are more likely to reach their highest potential.