Sleep is a precious commodity that students, faculty, and staff continue to struggle with cashing in on, despite the helpful sleep information dissemination from our own campus, and likely a multitude of other sleep advice communication channels you’ve been exposed to. By now, we probably get the picture, the tips, and the importance of sleep. Yet, many of us are still in a constant state of sleep deprivation. Is it realistic to think we can create a shift to being well-rested?

What’s getting in the way?

Lack of sleep issues due to a medical condition, such as sleep apnea, or having a partner or child that interrupts our sleep is not unusual. Beyond these, a common theme arising is too much to do and simply not enough hours in the day to do them without compromising sleep and the activities that support sleep. There are some logical suggestions in managing time in the hope of gaining sleep hours, such as the following:

  • To do lists
  • Daily schedule calendar
  • Implementing ways to be more efficient with time
  • Limiting the “down the rabbit hole” effect with social media

However, many people have become time management masters only to take on more, but often at the cost of quality. Additionally, at the end of the day if something isn’t done many of us feel tense due to expectations of ourselves and of others, so we push on, often resulting in at least one to two hours of sleep loss and more time at the blue light emitting computer. As a result, we can become sleep deprived walking zombies with varying degrees of functionality, compromising creativity, productivity, clarity, mood, health, and overall well-being.

How do we tackle this?

We’re in academia, we can be smart about supporting our sleep, right? The reality is, sleep deprivation has no organizational borders, whether it’s part of academia or any other type of organization. Ultimately, a constant doing and going has become a cornerstone of our culture with an orientation of do more, be more. Unless our culture chooses to change on its own, it’s still up to us to make a change for ourselves. Maybe these changes can’t be monumental. Maybe they need to be small pieces we can seam together over time, starting with one change toward reclaiming some sleep. But, this requires us to create boundaries for ourselves with the hopeful understanding and support of others.

What do the experts say?

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) notes people ages 18–64 need seven to nine hours of sleep. Some people can go about an hour less, or an hour or two more. According to researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, one of us in the crowd might be of the fortunate few (about 5 percent) who possess a gene enabling some people to do well on six hours a night. Essentially, we are all bio-individuals with different sleep needs. Our bodies will let us know when they are feeling energetic, alert, so-so, or tired based on the hours we sleep, as well as our quality of sleep.

Final takeaway

The simplest solution to our sleep dilemma is be the change. Honestly, that may equate to a serious re-evaluation and rebalancing of other aspects of life. This is especially true if sleep deprivation seems to look like a lifelong sentence.

It is said, “Repetition is the mother of skill.” Even if the following sleep tips seem familiar, maybe seeing and practicing them one more time will finally turn into a mastered skill. One needs to have hope! Remember, just pick one, and start. When ready, add another.

  • Consume foods rich in minerals. These help our adrenals do their job in regulating our sleep cycle.
  • Keep sugar at bay, as it depletes the body of minerals.
  • Limit your alcohol consumption. Alcohol can impact a restorative night of sleep, due to its impact on our sleep cycle. If you choose to have a glass of wine with dinner or are out having a drink, limiting alcohol consumption to know more than two drinks typically has minimal impact on restorative sleep.
  • Exercise regularly, but not close to bedtime. If bedtime is at 9:30 p.m., better to get the exercise in by 3:30–4:30 p.m.
  • Go to bed no later than 10 p.m. for optimal restoration, unless you are biologically wired nocturnally. Then, figure out the optimal sleeping hours for you.
  • Avoid the blue light and stimulation. Put the TV, phone, and computer to sleep two hours before you go to sleep.
  • Prime yourself for sleep and turn the lights low and do yoga stretches, meditation, take a warm bath, have a cup of noncaffeinated tea, listen to calming music, write in a journal, have some gratitude time, go out and stargaze, or do any activity that provides a winding down time for the body.
  • Explore essential oils that can help in promoting a restful sleep.
  • Fill the bedroom with calming colors creating a sanctuary to retreat and restore in.
  • Keep the bedroom cool and dark for sleep and free of light emitting electronic devices if possible. Clocks that play calming music or sounds and provide a wake-up call by emulating the natural stages of sunrise light in your bedroom are great time-keeper alternatives.

Sleep well!

Additional resources