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Getting better sleep whilst at University

By FLcs 24 Feb 2021

Blog written by Milena (Feb 2021)

The true majority of students are sleep deprived. Between having lectures, seminars, essays, revision, extra curriculum activities and a social life, sleep can often be of a small priority to students.

This blog will provide the best tips to help you get a better night sleep, as well as providing the causes of sleep deprivation, to help you evaluate if there are any positive changes you can make to help you get a better night’s sleep!

What keeps students awake all night and affects their sleep?
We often hear that student’s tiredness is because of their social life, the late nights out etc. However, for so many students there are other challenges that are getting in the way of a good night’s sleep. It may be the workload, their lifestyle or screens at night.

Question: So, what could be the reason you aren’t sleeping too well?

Answer: Well, NHS guidelines say that sleep deprivation leaves people feeling tired all day, but that there are a number of causes included:

  • Psychological causes
  • Lifestyle causes

Psychological causes

Psychological causes of not getting enough sleep at night or struggling to sleep at night can include stress, anxiety or emotional shock, which are all common experiences seen in students, especially during assessment times.

If you do believe that any of the above may be impacting your sleep, it is recommended you reach out to your GP for a chat or contact the Universities Health and Wellbeing support (https://www.coventry.ac.uk/study-at-coventry/student-support/health-and-wellbeing/). They may be able to advise some relaxation techniques such as meditation or investigate further if deemed necessary.

Lifestyle causes
There has been extensive research into factors which affect sleep in students and adults of all ages. In the 21st century, with advances in technology, we are always ‘always on’. Our phones can still ring, our emails can still bleep, we can consume more than 1-2 coffees a day etc. the list goes on. The NHS propose the main lifestyle causes of sleep deprivation are caffeine consumption, alcohol before bed, lack of exercise working at night, screens at nighttime

 

a girl asleep at a desk

TOP TIPS

1. Planning your schedule!

People tend to be either owls (can work well at nighttime), larks (work well with an early morning schedule) or finches (those who work best in the middle of the day)

You have to find the correct study sleep schedule that works for you. However, bear in mind the biology of the circadian rhythms and consider trying to reduce nighttime hours and increase day- time hours to see if that could work for you. Whatever sleep pattern that does work for you, stick to it! Consistency is key when it comes to getting a good sleep schedule!

2. Consider not studying at night

The bodies circadian rhythms are guided by natural light and darkness. During the daytime, when the retinas in your eyes receive light, it signals the brain to release cortisol to make you feel alert in the day. This doesn’t happen at night. Doing those all- nighters studying can have a big impact on misaligning your bodies circadian rhythm, which can lead to longer term symptoms such as even more tiredness, loss of concentration and mood swings.

TIP: If you’re currently an owl, studying at night, then why not reduce studying each few days by one hour, going to bed an hour earlier than usual and waking up an hour earlier. Doing this gradually may help you to retrain your body into the sleep/wake cycle we have biologically, to help you get the best out of your alertness during the day.

3. Limiting caffeine

Consuming too much caffeine, despite the energy boost after consuming, can often lead to you feeling tired for the rest of the day, as well as upsetting sleep when it comes to bedtime!)

Of course, that one or two coffees are day is okay, but if you consume more, consider a decaf  alternative past 12pm!

4. Go for a morning walk

Instead of lounging in bed on social media for 30 mins each morning, why not take a walk. Let the retina in your eye receive the natural light from outside (even in winter when it cannot be as bright outside), as this will help wake your body up properly, setting you up for a productive day ahead!

In addition, moderate exercise levels can increase your sleep quality as it reduces the ‘sleep onset’ time, making it easier for you to fall asleep at night 

TIP: Exercising later in the day can actually increase your endorphin release which makes it harder to fall asleep. Consider exercising in the morning or at lunchtime!

girl yawning

5. Be more aware of your alcohol consumption

Consuming alcohol right before bed can often lead to ‘delayed sleep onset’, making it harder for you to fall asleep and therefore sleeping less if you still have that alarm on for the next morning!

Remember, alcohol is there to be enjoyed and everything in moderation, right? ;) Maybe just be more cautious of what time you are drinking alcohol as this could be affecting your ability to fall asleep!

6. Reassess your naps!

Taking a nap in the day can have so many benefits such as making you more alert when you wake, as well as increase your mood and performance. However, the duration and timing of your naps needs to be considered.

Naps beyond 20 minutes and naps after 3pm can have a significant impact on your ability to fall asleep at nighttime. Consider taking an early afternoon nap before resuming your studies and perhaps even go for another walk mid- afternoon after you have woken from your nap.

7. Limit screens at night!

As mentioned above, the blue light you see from screens makes you become more alert and awake. Instead of looking at social media or Netflix before bed, why not consider other ways to relax. You could do a 20-minute meditation session (there are lots on YT) or read a book.

TIP: You could consider putting your phone away from your bedside each evening so then you won’t have the tendency to check your phone right before bed to help limit that blue light!

8. Create a regular relaxing evening routine

Creating a relaxing sleep routine will help your body and mind to differentiate between your daytime activities and the evening, when you need to sleep. Relaxing things you could do could be having a bath, reading a book, doing a facemask, meditation, mindfulness , listening to music etc.

This can be a really hard thing for students to do, but it is essential your body relaxes and resets itself before and during sleep, to help get the most out of your academic studies.

Resources

There are lots of resources available for students or anyone struggling to sleep at night. Below is a list of University resources, apps and ideas you could do to help with your sleep:

  • Health and Wellbeing Support at Coventry University: https://www.coventry.ac.uk/study-at-coventry/student-support/health-and-wellbeing/
  • Calm App – includes sleep stories read by celebrities to help to relax the mind before sleep (free to download and access some stories, then a fee applies)
  • Pzizz App – helps to calm your mind before sleep (free to download)
  • Headspace – a meditation app, which is often used before sleep (free to download with some content included but then an annual fee applies)
  • YouTube – search for meditation videos, workout videos, mindfulness videos etc.
  • GP – if you have tried some of the above/ have been experiencing disrupted sleep for a few months, the NHS guidelines recommend reaching out to your GP

Message from Reslife team:

 So many students have sleep difficulties. If that is you, consider adopting a few of the tips above to help improve your sleep. Remember, if you get a routine first, the other tips will be easier to adopt too! - Milena

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