Sleepy students: How to manage your health and well-being this term

Written by a Phoebe Formby a current 3rd year BSc Psychology BSc student 

So, we made it! It’s finally term 2. I’m pretty sure term 1 was the longest term of my life. With the second lockdown and a Christmas in isolation, I kind of thought coronavirus would be over by now…but here we are. 

I’m determined this term will be better and a good way to ensure you feel better this term is by making sure you take care of your Zzz’s. 

As a psychology student, I learn a lot about how different things affect our sleep, and more importantly, how our sleep affects us. Some of the things I’ve learned are pretty useful, so I thought I would share them with you. 

I’m sure you’re already thinking about putting your computer / phone down to go for another nap, so I’ll only include the interesting bits! 

Cut the caffeine  

Don’t worry, I’m not about to tell you to stop drinking coffee. As a fellow student I know this is simply not possible. Those essays aren’t going to write themselves and we need the energy boost! 

However, we all should learn how to drink caffeine sensibly, as too much can have detrimental impacts on our physical & emotional well-being. 

The problem with caffeine is that too much of it affects our sleep. It keeps us awake at night, which causes us to feel sleepy the next day. This causes us to drink caffeine, which affects our sleep, which keeps us up at night… which makes us tired the next day… See where I’m going with this? It works in a bit of a vicious cycle.  

What I’m trying to say is that although caffeine might give you a boost you need to get through that hard essay, it just kick starts poor sleep, which only exasperates the need to use it again the next day. 

Dont ignore this! 

You may well be sat there thinking: “But I sleep just fine when I’ve drank coffee”. Even though you may feel like you get enough sleep, caffeine changes the kind of sleep you have. It stops you getting as much deep sleep, which is the part of sleep that restores all your energy levels and promotes muscle growth & repair.  

So, trust me when I say you really don’t want to be missing out on deep sleep, as research has found a lack of it causes fatigue, daytime sleepiness, raises the risk of heart attacks and causes weight gain.  

So, what should you do? 

Refrain from drinking caffeine for a minimum of 6 hours prior to bedtime, as this will prevent it from impairing your sleep.  

Try not to drink any more than 4 cups a day.  

Cups of coffee and sleep disruption have what’s called a dose – response relationship, which means the more coffee you have, the more disturbed your sleep will become. So, try to keep the coffee down as much as you can. 

Wind up those blinds 

Open. Those. Curtains. 

It sounds like such a simple thing but making sure you get daylight is crucial. Particularly in the morning. It would be especially beneficial if you get out the house for a quick stroll, but I understand it can be difficult, particularly under COVID restrictions. 

You may not have guessed it, but daylight is crucial for your physical and mental health. You see, keeping your blinds closed during the daytime stops you getting sunlight. This means your brain produces melatonin, which is a hormone that makes you sleepy. This can leave you feeling groggy, fatigued and un-motivated. 

However… when you open those curtains, the blast of daylight causes your brain to release a hormone called cortisol into your bloodstream. Cortisol raises your blood sugar levels which gives you energy, helping to promote alertness and arousal. It also prevents the production of melatonin, so you feel lighter on your feet! 

So, get that blast of sunlight through the windows if it’s the only thing you do! 

That’s all from me today – I hope you find these little tips helpful. 

Happy sleeping! 

Zzz 

If you liked learning about sleep and health, check out this blog site: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/ 

References 

Science Direct

JCSM

Nature.com

ASCPT

For help and advice whilst studying at NTU, take a look at the following for sources of support.


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