Monday, September 10, 2012

Can't Cheat Sleep

Let’s face it: you can’t cheat sleep. We spend a majority of our lives doing it and that’s nature. But certainly you’ve heard someone say something before like, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” and maybe even the occasional shouts of a parent on a Saturday, indignantly accusing you of being a lazy bum because, “It is already TWO in the afternoon and you’ve  slept your day away!” However, what many fail to understand is that sleeping is not a luxury but a necessity. All that talk about being sneaky and tricking your body out of its natural sleeping rhythm so you can GO GO GO, is a complete myth, and not to mention, also extremely unhealthy. Sleep for you should be what water is to fish. Eventually, you’ve got to make time to sleep enough hours one way or another. But be honest, sometimes you just don’t know how to manage your time or how to make the effort to catch up on those Z’s. And being a busy college student, you’ll really want to try and fit in as many of those as you can. One of the most important factors of being successful in college and performing well is getting in the necessary hours of sleep you need (and besides, it’s never attractive to show up to class looking like an extra from Thriller).

Understandably, our bodies are probably still stuck in an entirely different time zone: “Summer Mode”. And after a few months we’re bound to get adjusted to our wacky sleeping hours. We’re creatures of habit, right? But here are several frightening effects due to lack of sleep. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, insufficient sleep is linked to a number of problematic disorders and conditions such as diabetes and even depression; it can also lead to hazardous, even fatal consequences. Motor vehicle and machinery related crashes/accidents are two of the possible outcomes due to insufficient sleep. Can you imagine a campus with its streets swarming with traffic of sleepily nodding drivers? It’s the perfect combination for a disastrous nightmare.

Also, according to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, college students represent one of the most sleep-deprived segments of the population. So the big question you should ask yourself here is this: How can I fix what’s wrong here? Well, in order to do that, you have to pinpoint first what you’re doing wrong in the first place.

Number one: If you’re hitting the gym within a 3-hour time span before going to bed, that’s one of the big no-no’s. This doesn’t mean that you can just bail out on your workout routine in total, but you can always start off your day with a good workout rather than waiting late at night to kick around with Tae bo. If you’ve seen Legally Blonde, according to the vivacious Miss Elle Woods, exercising releases endorphins, and endorphins make you happy. And happy people just don’t kill their spouses.
Number two: Any other time, responsibly, Sir Jack Daniels and Mike’s Hard Lemonade might be your usual party accompaniers. But drinking before you hit the hay disturbs your natural sleep cycle. Usually, your body goes through several phases before you fall into a deep sleep. If you’re relying on the bottle for that tipsy feeling to lull you to sleep, your body is bound to miss out on some of the most important phases while you sleep; thus, significantly hindering the quality of your sleep.
Number three: Time to siesta! Cat naps, power naps—whatever you want to call them. If at any time during the day after class or before work you’re feeling drowsy, take a nap. And no, this is not code for go ahead and pass out for 4 hours. You’ll wake up feeling just as awful as you did before that ridiculously long nap. Instead, limit your nap to 20 or 30 minutes, usually before 2 pm. Just kick back, relax, think relaxing thoughts, and enjoy your cat nap. So you see? A power nap is the perfect substitute for those energy booster drinks. Because quite frankly, Redbull and its magical wings won’t necessarily help you get a passing grade or prevent a nasty accident.

 Number four: Worrying. No. Some people say that the right time to sit alone with your thoughts to reflect is at night. Contrariwise, others might just say, “Sleep on it.” Your best bet is to go with the second piece of advice. Bedtime is sleepy-time. True, everyone’s worries aren’t the same and your worries may be, more or less, grave. Nevertheless, transform your bedroom solely into a stress-free environment. Kick those books off of the bed, turn off the lights (and yes, that does include the little glow coming from your phone for all of you chronic texting sufferers) and make it a place for relaxation and sleeping.  Keep cozy pillows around and soft blankets. Maintain your room clean and filled with soothing incenses. Add mellow, relaxing colors around your bed like tones of blue.
Do with your sleeping environment whatever you will. Make it soft, make it mellow, make it Zen, make it new, and make it you. Oh, and above all things, remember my fellow insomniacs: Fret not and have sweet dreamZzz... J

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