For many students like me, an exam means staying up all hours of the night to ensure we take in as much information as possible. The more time spent on the material, the more we learn, right?

Not necessarily.

Research shows that getting more sleep can improve our brain’s ability to learn. Data published by the “Journal of Sleep” showed that sleep problems would predict, on their own, if a student would drop a class.

Many students have heard that sleep is necessary for health. Some have heard it could improve their grades, but it is still common to hear of students awake at 2 a.m. wrapping up a homework assignment.

Why don’t we listen to this sound advice we have likely heard before?

I contacted one of Pacific’s psychology professors, Dr. Alyson Burns-Glover to ask her what can be done to help students overcome the obstacles that interfere with sticking to a sleep schedule.

Burns-Glover recommends changing the culture of how students view sleep. We need to stop thinking of it as a luxury and begin seeing it as a necessity.

Ways students could make this change are to learn more time- management skills, how to effectively manage stress and understand that lack of sleep has seriously damaging effects on our body, brain and behaviors.

Burns-Glover thinks the biggest obstacle is a lack of information about

sleep’s role in health, wellness and college achievement, and recommends that we take sleep seriously. She suggests that we get help understanding our patterns of sleep and sleep disruption.

We need to start looking at sleep the way we look at nutrition and stick to a sleep “program” the way we would a diet if we were an athlete in training.

She provided me excellent resources on sleep deprivation. If you are interested in trying out a new sleep “diet,” Cornell University’s Dr. James Maas offers the following tips:

Develop a consistent bedtime routine. Performing the same nightly activities will signal to your body that it’s time to rest and will allow you to fall asleep faster.

Go to bed at the same time each night. People who sleep eight hours a night with varied bedtimes will not feel as rested as those who use the same bedtime.

Wake up without an alarm clock. You will feel refreshed and know your body is getting enough sleep.

Avoid caffeine after 2 p.m. It will keep you up past your bedtime and delay the onset of sleep.

Don’t drink alcohol within three hours of bedtime. It interferes with sleep and makes your sleep fractured.

Try going to bed earlier each night than you have normally been. This will ensure you are getting enough sleep.

Take a power nap of no longer than 20 minutes during the day, if needed.

If you need help, contact the Pacific University Counseling Center. Counselors can help you identify sleep problems and strategies for coping.

This student does not deem herself a health expert. This is solely her opinion. 

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