While it’s something that affects everybody from time to time, it seems that sleep problems are particularly common among students.
Research carried out as part of Campus Living Villages’ Mental Health Report shows that around three-quarters (74%) of academics in the UK have had some sort of trouble sleeping during their studies.
Sleep and mental health issues are intrinsically linked. Having a mental health problem can restrict your sleep, while a lack of rest can have a negative impact on your mental wellbeing. It’s a vicious cycle.
There’s a lot of conflicting information about how much sleep you need. Legend has it that Margaret Thatcher ran the country on just four hours’ sleep a night in the 1980s, which is simply unthinkable for most of us.
According to researchers at the University of California (cited here by The Sleep Council), we need a minimum of six hours’ sleep a night in order to be in a condition to learn new things the following day.
Fairly important for students, then!
Getting a solid seven-to-eight hours of shuteye every single night can be easier said than done, but we’re here to share a few quick-fire tips to make sure you have a decent night’s sleep more often than not.
1. Replace coffee with nap time!
Many people worry that having a nap during the day will negatively influence their main sleep at night. This, however, is not necessarily true.
Studies undertaken by the Sleep Disorders Center at the University of Massachusetts Medical School found that a 20-minute nap can have the same awakening effect as two strong cups of coffee.
Be careful not to overdo it, though.
Napping beyond the 30-minute mark could see you enter a deep sleep, which will knock your regular sleep pattern out of sync
2. Exercise and diet DO affect your sleep
The link between diet and sleep continues to cause debate.
For example, the long-held view that you should never eat carbohydrates before bed has recently been brought into question.
This is not the place to discuss the intricate differences between complex, simple and refined carbs, but it’s important to remember that leading a healthy lifestyle will generally boost your sleep.
If you’re in the habit of eating greasy junk food late at night, there’s a good chance that this is doing you no favours.
3. Ditch the smartphone
A study conducted by Dreams found that 89% of 18 to 24-year-olds take their smartphone to bed with them. On the flipside, only 35% said they kept a book by their bedside.
This is a big problem.
Smartphones emit “blue light”, which is said to suppress the secretion of melatonin and ultimately trigger sleeplessness.
Do you really need to scroll through Instagram in bed?
4. Create a serene environment
The same Dreams survey also tracked how often the average person changes their mattress (almost one in five people keep their mattress beyond the recommended eight-year lifespan).
You shouldn’t underestimate how vital it is to create and maintain a comfortable sleeping environment. A multitude of factors – such as how much light creeps in through the windows, the temperature and the type of bedding you use – can all significantly affect the quality of your sleep.
Remember! Comfort is key.
5. Keep track of everything (and make improvements)
We live in an increasingly data-centric world, where it seems like everything about our lives is tracked. As far as your sleep pattern is concerned, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
More people are using devices like Fitbits to track how much sleep they’re getting. Last year, the team at Fitbit revealed that the average user slept for six hours and 38 minutes a night.
While some may find it a little daunting to see exactly how much light, deep and REM sleep they’re getting, having this information to hand does allow us to take stock and start to think about where lifestyle improvements can be made.
Do you have trouble sleeping? You’re certainly not alone! Got any tips to share with your fellow students? We’d love to hear about them over on our Facebook page!