How many times has this happened to you? You’re spending an evening enjoying time with friends, surfing the Internet, or catching up on missed work. You tell yourself that you’ll watch one more episode of your favorite show or that you’ll cover one more chapter for that test on Friday, and the next thing you know, it’s 2 in the morning and you haven’t gotten into bed.
UofT doesn’t always make it easy to get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep that we require. While you’re scrambling to meet the demands of your life, cutting back on sleep often seems like the only answer. Who can afford to waste hours a day sleeping? The truth is, you can’t afford not to.
As I’m sure we’ve all heard at some point or other, sleep is essential for our health and well-being. Even minimal amounts of sleep loss affect our mood, energy, and ability to handle stress. While it’s important to meet the deadlines that loom ominously in the near future, it’s essential to realize that missing sleep to do so is often counter-productive. As exam season approaches, be sure to remind yourself that the following “facts” about sleep are actually only myths:
Myths About Sleep (According to the American Psychological Association)
Myth 1: Getting 1 hour less sleep per night won’t affect your daytime functioning.
Low levels of sleep can affect our ability to think and respond to situations effectively, can compromise our cardiovascular health and immune system, and can reduce our working memory resources. I guess those extra minutes browsing 9gag aren’t always worth it!
Myth 2: Your body will adjust quickly to different sleep schedules.
Resetting our biological clock takes work! It can take our body weeks to adjust to small deviations in our sleeping pattern. In fact, by the time our body has fully adjusted to a change in our sleep schedule, we’ll probably change our sleep schedule again!
Myth 3: Extra sleep at night will cure you of daytime fatigue.
Quality, not quantity! If you’re sleeping 8-9 hours every night but feel restless and tired during the day, there’s a good chance that the quality of sleep you’re getting is poor. It’s important to spend enough time in the different stages of sleep, particularly REM sleep, as demonstrated above. Like our professors, our bodies do not respond well to poor quality!
So, is there anything we can do to feel well-rested? Of course we can (or we can at least attempt to)! Follow these simple tips, recommended by the American National Sleep Foundation, and your body will be happier than it’s ever been before:
Tip 1: Aim for at least 7 hours per night. Although some of us need more sleep than others, 7 hours is a minimum. Consistency is key!
Tip 2: Try not to accumulate sleep debt! If you lose sleep, make it up in 1-2 hour installments over the week. The amount of sleep you need and the amount of sleep you get should balance!
Tip 3: Make sleep a priority! Schedule time for sleep! Sound silly? You schedule time for work and play because they are important to you. It’s important to put sleep at the top of your to-do list too! Improve the quality of your sleep by reading a book before bedtime, cutting back on caffeine, and exercising. You’ll be happier and healthier.
For more information on sleep, visit http://healthandwellness.utoronto.ca/pdfs/BetterHealth-A.htm
Till next week,
P.S. How ironic is it that I wrote this post at 3 AM in the morning? I promise I’ll follow my own advice from now on!