Week 1 of Live Well Challenges: Sleeping Well

“But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.” 

Title credit: Robert Frost

It is the first week of the Live Well Challenge! This week, the Wellness Peers will be exploring the topic of sleep and how that affects their well-being, both physical and mental. To meet the peers taking part in the Live Well Challenge this week, visit our ‘Bloggers page. To learn more about the Live Well Challenge, feel free read our introduction post!

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Have you ever felt like you are living in a different time zone from your friend, even though in reality you live only 20 minutes away from each other? I know I have. A text message I send at 10:00 am in the morning can be seen several hours later, when a friend finally wakes up at 2:00 in the afternoon. Or vice versa. What I like to call ‘student zones’ only go to show the wide spectrum of sleeping habits, ranging from number of hours slept to the time of day students are active. Often, a ‘student zone’ or the number of hours slept will depend on the various commitments in a student’s life, from academics to work or other extracurricular activities.

Every year without fail I find myself slowly becoming bogged down by essays, midterms, and interpersonal commitments, especially as the term settles in and the first biting edge of autumn hits campus. Never do I feel more like Cinderella, (if Cinderella had digital technology and was worried about assignments instead of attending a ball), constantly glancing down at that little clock on the bottom of my screen, noticing suddenly how fast seconds turn into minutes, minutes into hours.

In times like these I know that I often become…somewhat neglectful of sleep. While I am less likely to pull all-nighters now than I was in first year (did I ever take advantage of IKBLC’s 24/7 opening hours during exam seasons), I do occasionally find myself blinking bleary at a computer screen at 3:00am while trying to finish up citations, half aware of my 7:00am alarm for class. I will be the first to admit that I do not feel my best the following day – more irritable, less focused, less productive.

A lack of sleep can have a significant impact on my health, brain function, and ability to learn and process of information during the day. Yet, it can be so easy to ignore this small but vital action we can take to improve our personal wellbeing.

Therefore this year for the Live Well to Learn Well Challenge, I am going  to listen to my body and take the time to reduce fatigue and irritability in one simple way, by sleeping. My challenge for myself and for everyone on campus this week is to take one day of the week and let your body and not your calendar dictate your sleep.

In the evening, I will head to bed when I feel myself getting sleepy and wake up only when my body is ready to. No alarms, no wake up calls, (no asking my brother to throw something heavy at my sleeping form), just letting my internal clock take over. While experts say we cannot ‘catch up’ on lost sleep, it will certainly be interesting to see how my mind and body respond the following day. It can be a great chance for everyone to learn more about their unique sleeping needs and how it can positively (or negatively) impact their mental and physical wellbeing.

Throughout the week, we encourage everyone to join us in the challenge by posting your progress on social media using the #ubcpeerperspective hashtag. On Friday, the Wellness Peers will be reflecting and posting their experiences with the challenge, so feel free to revisit Healthy Minds later this week to see what fellow UBC students had to say on this challenge.

Good luck everyone and happy sleeping!

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To learn more about the benefits of sleep and get tips on how to improve your sleep quality, visit the Live Well to Learn Well webpage on sleep or read about other students’ sleeping experiences on the Healthy Minds Blog.

If you feel like you are constantly feeling fatigued or having sleep difficulties, consider speaking with a health professional such as a counsellor or a doctor. Getting help earlier before letting your difficulties overwhelm you can help you feel better sooner and avoid long term stress.

Post Written by Kleo Fang

All-nighters: The Least Unhealthy Way

Get 8 hours of sleep every night. That’s what our mothers and doctors have been telling us since we were young. It’s one of the most important things we can do if we want to ace every course we take. It’s part and parcel of the life of an ideal student. But of course, none of us can be the ideal student 100% of the time, not without sacrificing some other important aspect of our lives. Continue reading “All-nighters: The Least Unhealthy Way”

How to Become A Morning Person

Maldita la hora, Flickr

We’ve all been there before. You’ve tried leaving that party a couple hours earlier, you’ve set an alarm to tell yourself to go to sleep, but somehow SOMETHING always gets in the way. For example, some nights (most nights in my case), checking a few notifications on Facebook becomes a 5 hour long episode of watching every Vine video on my news feed, liking photos, and clicking the link on the sidebar for $39.95 shoes when the last thing I need is more shoes. The next thing I know, it’s 3 o’clock in the morning. During the summer break, it’s so easy to get into the habit of sleeping later and waking up even later. But as the saying goes, if you hoot with the owls at night, you can’t soar with the eagles in the morning. If you’re tired of being nocturnal and you want to seize the daylight hours while summer lasts, try changing what you do before and after you sleep to become a morning person. Here’s to learning to love that alarm clock!
Continue reading “How to Become A Morning Person”

Dealing with Insomnia

Insomnia is something everyone deals with at some point in their life. From trying to regain your school sleep schedule to dealing with the stresses of midterms and finals, insomnia is not something people want to be dealing with. For some people, it’s a day but for others, it can be a lifetime struggle.

Insomnia is the chronic inability to fall asleep or remain asleep for an adequate length of time. 

You may be experiencing insomnia for a number of reasons:

  • Stress
  • Feelings of anxiety or worry
  • Depression
  • Sleep Environment
  • Recent Traumatic Event

I have developed a few techniques to aid in getting a good night’s sleep.

Shutting off electronics at least 30 minutes before bed. This may seem inconvenient, especially for a busy student, but to help your brain and body to calm down, you should remove yourself from any screens and try reading for 30 minutes before bed instead of catching up on your TV.

Avoid naps! Although this might be something that is nearly impossible for some people, if you are able to avoid napping during the day, falling asleep at night will be less of a hassle. If you do need to nap, do so for only 20 minutes.

Melatonin. This is somewhat of a quick fix, but you can pick up melatonin at your drug store. Melatonin is produced naturally in your body, and helps induce sleep. Taking it as a supplement can help if you have suddenly altered your sleep schedule and need to balance it again. However, melatonin should not be taken every night and if your insomnia continues, see a doctor.

A few more quick tips

  • Create a comfortable sleeping environment
  • Limit caffeine intake
  • Maintain a consistent sleep schedule: Sleep and wake up at the same time everyday.

However, some of your reasons for having insomnia might not be so easily cured (e.g. depression or anxiety), and if your insomnia persists it may be beneficial to speak to a doctor.

Feel free to comment with your tips on how to fight insomnia!

Sleep and Academics!

WHY IS SLEEP IMPORTANT?

Did you know that sleep difficulties are among the top health issues impacting UBC students’ academic performance?  Perhaps this isn’t too surprising, as students often skimp on sleep to meet deadlines, cram for exams and pursue other facets of the “student life”.

However, getting enough sleep and quality sleep are crucial in helping you perform your best. Without a good night’s rest, you run the risk of performing poorly on exams, feeling anxious or sad or worried, and lowering your immune response which leaves you prone to illness. On the other hand, getting enough quality sleep will improve your ability to remember and retain new information. Sleeping the whole night improves your ability to learn; reason enough for students to prioritize quality sleep!

HOW CAN YOU SLEEP BETTER?

Here are some proven ways to improve your sleep habits:

  • Get up at the same time each morning. This includes weekends whenever possible. This practice will ensure your “internal clock” keeps you on schedule for sleep and wake times. Do not oversleep.
  • Avoid naps. You sleep better at night if you avoid napping during the day.
  • Avoid caffeine, tobacco, marijuana, and alcohol before bed. These drugs will keep you from falling asleep and staying asleep. Avoid these at least three hours before bedtime.
  • Go to sleep when you feel sleepy. If you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes of hitting the pillow, get up and do something until you feel sleepy. If you force yourself to sleep you’ll inevitably feel frustrated making sleep more difficult.
  • Keep your bedroom a sleep (and/or sex) sanctuary. Put your computer, TV, phone in another room and keep your bedroom quiet, cool, and dark. Do your homework elsewhere and save your bedroom space for only the most relaxing activities.
  • Exercise. Doing physical activity of some kind three hours before bed can promote better sleep. Try to fit in a good workout after school or work and use the rest of the evening to unwind.

For more articles on sleep visit Live Well Learn Well:

Is lack of sleep affecting your GPA?

Fatigued? How to get more energy

 

Thinking Positively Before Bed

Written By: Leslie Whittaker

We all know that sleep is important and has a significant impact on our waking lives.  Without it we have trouble concentrating, and can suffer impaired memory and mood swings.  Sometimes, it’s difficult to get to sleep because of anxiety about school, work, or emotional stress.  So, bring on the positive thinking!  Each night before you go to sleep, take a moment to think of and write down five positive things that happened to you or that you did over the day.  Positive thinking before bedtime is doubly advantageous: it decreases cortisol and increases serotonin which relieves stress and anxiety, making it easier to fall asleep AND it improves your outlook in the morning, which, among a handful of other benefits, improves cognitive functioning.1  Furthermore, writing things down is more effective and clarifying than simply thinking of them.2 |

While goal-setting and critical self-reflection are important, we should have gratitude for the present as well as a drive towards a successful future.  A warm smile from a stranger, those two very productive hours of studying, those delicious blueberry muffins you made, that swim you went for, a insightful discussion over coffee, or that new song you learned on the ukulele are all worth noting.  If it had a positive effect on you, write it down.

And the nights you don’t feel like doing it?  They are the most important.  You’ll be surprised how much better you feel after you list five positive things that happened to you – and believe me, there are always at least five.

The final benefit of this exercise?  On a down day, you can look back on your ‘Positive Journal’ and be reminded of all the wonderful things that happen to you.  Start tonight!

 

1“Happy Brain, Happy Life”

2“The Health Benefits of Journaling

“Sleep Inspires Insight” (accessible through UBC Library)