Permanent link for Are You Getting Enough Rest?: The Three Ingredients for a Good Night's Sleep on February 29, 2024

Have you ever found yourself dreaming about slipping back under the covers the moment you wake up in the morning? Do you ever watch your peacefully sleeping pets and wish you could effortlessly drift off like them?

I do, especially as someone who has struggled with insomnia for the past two years. Sometimes getting enough restful sleep can feel like a losing battle but there are tips and tricks that can make drastic changes.

So, with it being the week of Public Sleeping Day (Feb. 28th), I want to dive into the topic of sleep and our sleep habits. Why? Because most of us don't get adequate sleep, and at some point in life, everyone struggles with challenges related to sleep.

Sleep is the glue that holds our bodies and minds together. From preventing dementia and depression to mitigating high blood pressure and heart disease, there’s no lack of evidence that catching enough zzz’s is nature’s best medicine.

You know that feeling you get after a good night’s sleep? You face the day with a clear head, enthusiasm, and boundless energy. That’s the work of the brain’s glymphatic system (GS), it bathes our brain in a fluid that carries away toxins. The enzymes in this fluid are like little sanitation workers that only come out when you’re asleep. But, not just any kind of sleep, the kind that has you drooling on your pillow. This type of sleep is only reached when you are in REM sleep. There are four sleep stages in your sleep cycle: Non-rapid eye movement 1,2 and 3, and Rapid eye movement.  The first two stages are light sleep, this is when you might twitch and are easily woken up. The second stage is the start of deep sleep while REM is deep sleep, this is when dreams occur. 

The ingredients for a good night’s sleep fall into three categories: Environmental, Behavioral and  Psychological. Each is important, and getting all three elements working together is the recipe for the perfect sleep.

Environmental Factors 

A good sleep environment is dark (think: blackout curtains and shades and no glowing lights from devices etc.) It’s also quiet and cool (ideally below 65 degrees). So try turning down the heat or opening a window. Since it might be a little too chilly to open a window this time of year, consider a floor or ceiling fan, which has a bonus feature of white noise. I have found that white noise helps minimize racing thoughts at night. Sleep should be the time you relax and try not to stress about academics and other stressors. 

 If you sleep with pets, significant others or roommates it can be difficult to get your environment just right. It's important to shoo your pet out of the room or have a conversation with other sleepers near you on how to maximize your environment for the best sleep. 

Here are some tips for before bed: 

  1. Schedule a winding down time. Try grabbing a nice book, listening to a podcast/sleep playlist or meditation/yoga. 
  2. Drink some tea. Teas with chamomile, lavender or passionflower is a perfect way to relax before bed. If you see the WIT cart on campus we offer free tea to grab!
  3. Open your senses with essential oils for aromatherapy. 
  4. Earplugs, eye shades, black-out curtains, or a weighted blanket can help get you into the sleep zone. (WIT offers earplugs and eye shades for free when available)
  5. Find your ideal pillow.
  6. Try taking a hot shower or bath before bed.
  7. Use a sleep calculator to wake up between your sleep REM cycles. 

Here are some tips when when you are in bed: 

  1. Go commando. It's proven that sleeping naked can help your body maintain an ideal body temperature. You’ll want to skip this step if you live in a dorm, you wouldn't want to give your roommate a scare.
  2. Minimize distractions from electronics like using a sleep timer for example. As tempting as it is to scroll endlessly on tik tok or instagram, the blue light admitted from our devices causes your brain to not produce melatonin (the sleepy hormone).
  3. Focus on your breathing. Try this 4-7-8 technique
  4. White noise is a game changer. My suggestion is this 12 hour long video on Youtube.

Behavioral Factors 

Many sleep issues can be helped by changing pre-bedtime routines. We tend to get into bed with our minds still humming from the day, worrying about work, school, friends, everything and nothing at the same time. Some of us subconsciously run through our to-do list at the exact moment our head hits the pillow. How can we slow down our brain?

Here are some tips for use during the day that can affect your nightly routine: 

  1. Try to get some sort of physical activity every day. A run or a walk can calm anxiety, and healthfully tire the body. Try not to exercise right before bed because that can have the opposite effect. Here is a link to our last WIT blog post about the importance of physical activity.
  2. Don’t eat a large meal during the three to four hours before bedtime. Remember that this can be different for everyone, try and find a schedule that works best for you. 
  3. Nap strategically. A well-timed nap can help pay off your sleep debt, but nap too late in the day and it can impact your ability to fall asleep later. If you nap, shoot for under one hour and before 3 pm.
  4. Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages after noon.
  5. Avoid alcoholic beverages before bed.While alcohol sometimes makes us tired, it also has an energizing effect that kicks in as it metabolizes.

Psychological Factors 

Episodes of sleeplessness are a common part of life, especially as a college student, yet when persistent insomnia or hypersomnia disrupts your well-being and health, it may signal deeper emotional and mental health concerns. It's important to address and manage factors such as stress, anxiety, burnout, recurring nightmares and depression directly. Seeking guidance from your doctor and seeking support as necessary is important when disrupted sleep goes deeper than environmental or behavioral factors. 

If you are struggling  GVSU has a wide variety of mental health resources and wellness coaching

Here are some general tips and tricks you can do: 

  1. Keep a journal or sticky notes near to jot down your late night thoughts. Decluttering your brain right before sleep is a lot better than wrestling with your to-do list during the night.
  2. Reserve your bed for sleep and intimacy. Try not to study in your bed to avoid your brain confusing your bed with other activities. 
  3. Reading before bed is a great winding down activity, but avoid books with violence or too much excitement. 
  4. Try to keep a consistent sleep schedule. This can help your body's internal clock know when to start getting tired. 

Remember, it's okay to have struggled falling asleep, it's actually quite common, especially among college students. I hope these tips will help you catch some much needed sleep!

By: Lainey, WIT Peer Educator

Categories: General Wellness Rest Sleep
Posted on Permanent link for Are You Getting Enough Rest?: The Three Ingredients for a Good Night's Sleep on February 29, 2024.

View all Blog entries

Page last modified February 29, 2024