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Better Sleep Month for a Better You

RWC tutor Paula Rawlings gives some tips on how to get better sleep.

Have you ever woken up on the wrong side of the bed with your neck aching as you struggle to keep your eyes open enough to turn off your alarm? If this is an all-too-familiar scenario, observing Better Sleep Month (May if it was not obvious) would be to your benefit. Not only does receiving adequate sleep make it easier to get out of bed in the morning, but it also benefits one’s immune system, improves one’s memory, boosts moods, relieves stress, and increases energy and the ability to concentrate as well as many other health and wellness benefits (Wein and Hicklin). Thus, the importance of sleep is evident, but how many hours should an individual be unconscious every night? Selcho states, “Men need 7-8 hours of sleep where women need 8-10 hours which leads to different circadian rhythms.” Thus, in order to observe Better Sleep Month, it is important to identify what inhibits one’s ability to fulfill one’s individual sleeping requirements and eliminate these inhibitions.

So, what are the causes of inadequate sleep? Improper slumber originates from many differing and often compounding factors. For example, stress and anxiety, which can be caused by looming finals, are major contributors to unsatisfactory sleep. Second, temperature can affect one’s sleep: “The stereotypical effects of heat or cold exposure are increased wakefulness and decreased rapid eye movement sleep and slow wave sleep” (Okamoto-Mizuno et al.). Third, artificial light can cause a disruption in the body’s regulation of its internal clock by reducing melatonin levels, which is the hormone that manages the sleep-wake cycle (Tracy). Other sleep-quality-depreciating factors include caffeine consumption in the evening, inconsistent sleep schedules, eating at night, or simply not sleeping long enough (“10 Reasons You’re Getting Poor Sleep”).

With the elucidation of the causes of poor sleep, these inhibiting factors can be eliminated. Stress and anxiety can be reduced or extinguished through a myriad of tactics, such as eliminating its source or even just making a plan for its elimination and sticking to it, exercising, meditating, deep breathing, walking in nature, journaling, unplugging, socializing, etc. (“12 Mindful Ways to Manage Your Stress”). Although the other factors are mostly self-explanatory, there is merit in explaining the obvious, because maybe it is not all that obvious; I know some of us do not have what is called “common” sense. Temperature can be changed by turning on the fan or air conditioning (if available) and removing or adding another blanket. Artificial light can be controlled by closing curtains and unplugging devices that have lights on them or just putting tape over the light. In order to prevent food and caffeine consumption from negatively impacting sleep, it is important to determine when one should stop eating in the evening and when caffeine should no longer be consumed. Lastly, to sleep long enough and have a consistent sleep schedule, a reasonable sleep schedule that can be upheld must be set and kept.

In the end, the importance of sleep far outweighs the feelings of grogginess in the morning, and observing Better Sleep Month by defining one’s sleep inhibitions and accordingly ameliorating one’s habits is worth the effort put forth.

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