Sleep

A necessity, not a luxury

At Rice, everyone may seem so busy that sleep often gets put on the backburner. However, sleep is a necessity, not a luxury. In fact, you’re damaging your own mental and physical health if you don’t prioritize healthy sleeping habits.

Even so, at Rice a majority of students reported not getting enough sleep to feel rested for the entire week* 
*Based on results from the spring 2011 National College Health assessment II from American College Health Association – undergraduates (448) and graduates (282)

What is sleep?

Sleep is a natural recurring state of rest characterized by the suspension of voluntary bodily functions and consciousness. It’s a complex process that’s crucial to the restoration and renewal of your body’s physiological functions.

Tips for sleeping better

  • Set a schedule – go to bed at a consistent time each night, and get up at the same time each morning. Disrupting this schedule may lead to insomnia.
  •  Exercise – Daily exercise for at least 20 to 30 minutes a day often helps people sleep. However, try not to exercise too close to your bedtime, as that may interfere with your sleep.
  •  Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol use late in the day – avoid these stimulants late in the day (early evening, like 5pm) in order to avoid their potentially disruptive effects on your sleep. Alcohol may interfere with your sleep cycle by depriving you of deep and REM sleep.  
  • Relax before bed – wind down before bed by taking a warm bath, reading, or doing some other ritual that calms you down before bed. Try to avoid spending lengthy periods of time on your computer around your bedtime, as the bright artificial light may interfere with your ability to go to sleep.
  • Sync with the sunlight – if possible, try to wake up with the sun or mimic its effects by using bright lights in the morning. Exposure to sunlight in the morning helps regulate your body’s internal clock.
  • If you can’t fall asleep, do something else until you’re tired –such as reading, watching a tv show, or listening to music. Just waiting for yourself to fall asleep can actually worsen/lessen your ability to, and may contribute to insomnia.
  • Create a restful room atmosphere – try to reduce or limit possible disruptions to sleeping well. Maintain a comfortable temperature in your room, make sure light sources are out (including stuffing something in the crack under your door), and turn on a source of “white noise” to smooth over potential small noise disturbances.
  • Consider taking a natural sleep aid – consult with your doctor or a Wellness Center staff member about taking a natural, nonaddictive, non prescription sleep aid to help occasionally regulate your sleep patterns, such as melatonin or magnesium. 

Reasons for not sleeping well

Anything that disrupts your body’s sleep cycle may cause you to sleep poorly. Some of the common reasons for not sleeping well include:

  • Jet Lag
  • Environmental
  • Stress/Anxiety
  • Overstimulation (from caffeine, exercise, alcohol, etc., too close to your bedtime)
  • Schedule Shift
  • Sleep Disorder (insomnia, narcolepsy, etc.) 

Effects of not sleeping well

 Effects of not sleeping well include: 

  • Drowsiness
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Impaired memory
  • Impaired physical performance
  • Decreased energy
  • Potentially impaired driving ability 
  • Negative moods
  • Unable to control behavior  

How do I know if I'm getting enough sleep?

Although people vary on the amount of sleep they need, studies consistently show that most people need at least 8 hours of sleep a night to perform optimally, both physically and mentally.

If you don’t get enough hours of sleep, your body goes into “sleep deficit” mode, and there’s no way to make up for it short of sleeping more to recapture those hours.

Signs that you are probably not getting enough sleep include: 

  • Can’t stop yawning
  • Can’t remember driving the last few miles
  • Have trouble keeping your eyes open
  • Find yourself falling asleep/taking “mini naps” during class or studies 

When should I be concerned?

If your sleeping problems persist, and/or you always feel tired the next day, you may have a sleep disorder. Contact theCounseling Center, Health Services, or your primary care physician to receive proper, effective medical direction and treatment. You may need to be referred to a sleep specialist for effective care.

References

“Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep.” National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/brain_basics/understanding_sleep.htm#Tips