In two large national surveys in America, 43% of teens and young adults reported sleeping less than seven hours a night. This is an increasingly worrying statistic as traditionally, our age group is recommended to need 9 hours sleep (PBS News hour). So, what is stealing this from us and how can we try to get a better night sleep in these cold winter nights? The stresses of a life filled with looming essay deadlines and the lure of our phone screens, are primarily the causes of sleep deprivation, which disrupt our carefully orchestrated rhythms. A lack of sleep can put the body into a stressed state, giving our brain the information that something is wrong; this can lead to a collapse in memory, attention, and can cause adrenalin and inflammatory markers to go up (The Stress Solution). Yet, the right amount of sleep can be healing and there are many tips that you can easily implement to start getting these important hours in:
Raise your Melatonin
A recent study showed that 71 percent of people sleep either holding their smartphone, having it in bed with them, or having it on their nightstand. The blue light that these devices emit, has a great effect on the sleep hormone Melatonin, which is released by the brain’s pineal gland as it gets dark. This helps us to sleep but also switches off processes in the body like oxidation and helps to reduce inflammation. Using a device before bed can reduce the amount of melatonin released by 50%. Therefore, in order to achieve a deep and fulfilling nights sleep, try to minimize screen exposure an hour before bed or opt for a pair of blue-light blocking glasses, even having a night filter installed on your devices can combat this Melatonin drop. Apps like F.lux can adjust laptop screens to a redder, more sleep friendly light.
Expose yourself to bright, natural light every morning
This exposure to sunlight encourages you to try to wake up at roughly the same time every day. Natural light in the morning will help you sleep by helping set up your circadian rhythm. There are also ever cheaper light alarms being developed which help wake you more naturally on a winter’s morning through increased light rather than a blaring alarm adding stress and dread to the start of your day.
Exercise in general and particularly exercise done earlier in the day
People who sleep better, tend to exercise more in the day, so try not to skip your workout! . However, if you exercise less than three hours before sleep, it can push your body clock back making to harder to sleep, so try and ensure that your physical activity occurs at a sleep-friendly time, in the morning is perfect.
Get some silicone ear plugs and an eye mask
Student accommodation or flats shared by multiple people can be noisy places to live and this certainly is not for everyone. The silicone of earplugs moulds to fit your ear in a comfortable way whilst reducing external sound effectively. If there is a bright lamp outside your window or you wake too early, lavender scented sleep masks in particular, have been shown to give a deeper sleep and a more energised morning (Uni Lifehacks).
Download sleep cycle and relax melodies
Sleep cycle wakes you only when you are at the lightest stage of your sleep within a specific window which you set your alarm for. This should mean you wake feeling much more energised. Relax melodies, waves or white noise are also great if ear plugs are not your thing but you still want something to tone down the noises around you or need to relax.
Getting a good night’s sleep is essential, especially in the winter when the dark evenings and dreary mornings mean we constantly feel like we could have a quick snooze. Following some of these simple steps can ensure that our bedtimes are calmer, more effective and we can awake feeling refreshed and ready for the day ahead.
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