Healthful Hints: Sleep for success: Get in bed and stay there for a healthy and triumphant finals week

Posted by Zoe Silver

Finals are just around the corner, and along with the end of the year come heavier schedules that many people let cut into their sleeping time. Sleep, however, is almost as essential to succeeding on your exams as studying. Remember that sleep is a vital human activity. Without it, we can't think clearly, our mood swings and we even occasionally hallucinate. Basically, bad things can happen if you don't catch your z's, so be sure to regulate your sleeping habits in time for finals.

Sleep is a biological necessity. It rejuvenates our bodies and minds, aides in memory retrieval and storage, repairs neural connections that allow us to do fundamental things such as breathe and releases hormones that help us grow and repair torn muscle. Given that sleep is a necessity, when our sleep debt builds, our body essentially begins to "shutdown." When you begin to experience things like weakened vision, the inability to stay awake, clumsiness, difficultly concentrating and even the onset of a cold, they could all be signs of sleep deprivation: your body trying to tell you, "go to sleep!" The average college student needs 8- 10 hours of sleep a night. This sounds unobtainable to most of us while at school, but I can assure you that if you adjust your schedule to allow for this, you will find improvements in many other areas of your life, including your school work and daily productivity.

As college students, some of us are guilty of binge drinking, binge eating…and even binge sleeping. The third is an unhealthy way to catch up on sleep as it does not effectively rejuvenate you, even though you may think that it does. By binge sleeping, I mean sleeping for two hours one night and 14 hours the next night. This is not the same as sleeping for eight hours both nights. Sometimes, oversleeping can make you groggy and just as unproductive. Instead of doing this, try adding two hours to each night of sleep until you are "caught-up" on your sleep debt.

If you have a hard time getting to sleep, as many of us do, especially when our neighbors are partying or we have a scary exam in the morning, try to be conscious of some of your habits during the day, which will affect you at night. For instance, it is a good idea to cut out caffeine after around 3 p.m., and on the weekend, keep in mind that alcohol can lead to interrupted sleep and prevent your from reaching the deepest and most rejuvenating levels of sleep. In general, try to keep a steady schedule by going to bed and waking up the same time every day, making yourself comfortable in bed and keeping your room dark. Studies have found that the use of technology right before sleep inhibits the brain from "turning-off" and therefore lengthens the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. Instead of watching TV until you doze off, try reading a book or just lying there and letting your eyes adjust to the darkness.

Until next time, I hope that these hints find you in good health and that you "zzz" yourself to an A+.  

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