Wellness Wednesday – 3/3/21
The average person spends about one third of their life sleeping, or at least trying to. In fact, according to my psychology professor, humans can actually live longer without food than they can without sleep. Even so, why is falling asleep so difficult sometimes? This week, we’re diving into sleep with benefits, tips, surprising studies, and more. Just try not to yawn while reading this.
So why do we spend so much time unconscious? For many reasons. In my psychology class this week, I learned that not only does sleep restore our bodies and boost our ability to learn and remembering things, but it helps us process emotions, promotes creativity and helps you grow. In fact, your body experiences the peak in human growth hormone secretion when you’re sleeping. Moreover, there are many different types of sleep that we experience throughout the night that help us consolidate important memories. If you’re looking for more on the science of sleep and it’s stages, click here.
One of our spring interns, Julia Ashley, has done some helpful research on sleep. Ashley is an undergraduate student at UMass Lowell where she is majoring in English with a concentration in journalism and professional writing. Here’s what Ashley found:
“Falling asleep should be easy to do. You close your eyes, count the sheep jumping the fence, and you’re out like a light. If only it was that simple.
There are numerous outside factors that can negatively affect your ability to get a good night’s sleep. According to a post from the University of Minnesota website, stress, your environment, food and relationships can all have a negative impact on your sleep. Pulling an all-nighter to get ahead on an assignment may relieve stress in the moment, but could set up a drowsy, unproductive day.
To get your sleep schedule back on track, it is important to know that experts recommend that adults get 7–9 hours of quality sleep every night. To improve your sleep, the University of Minnesota recommends people engage in regular physical activity, wake up and go to bed at the same time every day, and avoid food or drinks that are going to keep you awake such as that afternoon cup of coffee calling your name.
Creating a realistic sleep routine can also help the body and mind prepare for sleep. Engaging in the same relaxing activities every night ‘can help to remind the body that it’s time to sleep and lull the mind into a restful state.’”
Ditch the Screens…
Ashley pointed out that there are numerous factors — from mental stress to your environment — that contribute to why you may not be getting a good night’s sleep. One of the most popular contributing factors is screen time.
None of us want to admit it, but we’re addicted to our devices. Whether it’s your smartphone, tablet, laptop, television or video game console, using any of these before bed is detrimental to a good night’s sleep. This article from Cleveland Clinic notes that looking at a screen before bed keeps your mind engaged, suppresses melatonin and makes it difficult to fall asleep. Try trading the screen for a book or a magazine, or use meditation to help you get to sleep.
… For New Routines
If using a screen isn’t the problem, it might be your bedtime routine — or lack of one — that hinders your ability to catch some Z’s. Check out this article by Michelle Ullman that details eight common reasons why you’re not sleeping well and suggests ways to fix them.
The article mentions the importance of what you eat before bed. If you find yourself enjoying a late-night snack, read this advice from Good News Network. Writer Andy Corbley describes the importance of timing your meals and how to avoid eating late at night.
When looking to start the day off right, your morning routine is just as important as your nighttime one. I strongly recommend this article that lists five common habits that you should try to avoid first thing in the morning. Included “bad” habits are hitting the snooze button, consuming sugar, and, unsurprisingly, checking your phone.
I wanted to share some advice from my psychology professor on sleep supplements. As a college student with two jobs, struggling with sleep is something I am all too familiar with. I have tried melatonin, Z-Quil, Benadryl, Sleepytime tea, and even lavender patches to help me get to sleep. Last week I asked Associate Professor Laura Kurdziel, who researches the neurological and behavioral functions of sleep, what her recommended sleep supplements are. Here’s her reply:
“To be honest, I don’t recommend any supplement. Supplements will often help you fall asleep, but may impact your sleep quality (like Benadryl or Tylenol PM for example). Melatonin does not help you fall asleep, but rather helps your circadian rhythm adjust if it is out of sync with sleep need. The best way to improve falling asleep is to address the reasons you are having difficulty. This could range from diagnosable issues like insomnia, anxiety, or depression, to things like not having a consistent bedtime/sleep routine, having too much caffeine before bed, not getting enough vitamin D (common in New England during the winter), not getting enough physical activity or the right nutrition, or watching too many screens with blue light prior to bed. The goal is not to just sleep ‘enough’ but to have good quality sleep.”
If you’re looking for a supplement-free way to get a good night’s sleep, change things up and try a meditation app or YouTube video. To get you started, Good Housekeeping listed the ten best sleep apps of 2021, which can be found here.
This week’s crop of Good Reads includes recent interesting studies about sleep and a breakthrough in sleep technology.
Stick to a Schedule. This study found that poor sleep schedules are linked to bad moods and depression.
Sweet Emotion. Another recent study found that sleep is “vital” to associating emotion with memory.
Sleep Talking. Scientists have discovered a way to have conversations with people while they are lucid dreaming — and there’s a smartphone app for it.