As we embark on a new year, we have an opportunity to consider new ways of living and new commitments to improving daily life. Today, consider the benefits of sleep.
Long ago, before electricity, our bodies were in tune with the solar cycle, sleeping when the sun set and waking when the sun rose. The sun synchronicity allowed us to sleep a full 10 hours a night, much more than we are typically accustomed to today. We have pushed our sleep clocks later at night and earlier in the morning, which has limited our ability to achieve restful, routine sleep. Consistent sleep and wake times allow our bodies to follow natural, biological rhythms that lead us to feel rested, alert and productive the following day.
As parents, you may have already learned and relearned much of this. However, many of your sons and daughters are still learning and relearning this — especially as the new (and not-so-new) demands of college life compete for their time and attention. Students are inundated with activities, classes and social responsibilities throughout the day and may choose to sacrifice their sleep in order to meet these demands. Unfortunately, these sacrifices come with costs. Physical, mental and emotional consequences related to lack of sleep include irritability, exhaustion, appetite changes, loss of mental acuity, distractibility, loss of concentration and sluggishness (to name but a few). These consequences may only be short-lived, but for chronic under-sleepers, they are long-term problems.
Many students often believe that they can "bank" or catch up on sleep when they have missed sleep the previous night(s). Students who sleep very few hours during the week may think, if they sleep a lot during the weekend, they will balance out the total number of hours they need. This is simply untrue. Our bodies do not catch up. In fact, this approach to sleep may promote more problems because of the disruption in the body's natural rhythms. Students may sleep through meals trying to make up for lost sleep, causing additional stress on the body for lack of nutrition, and so on.
Students should aim to consistently sleep at least eight hours a night, because they are still developing physically, mentally and emotionally. Establishing a positive sleep hygiene routine now can and will promote positive health in the future. We encourage you to ask your son or daughter how sleep plays a role in their lives and how they are promoting their own positive sleep habits.
If you desire more information on improving sleep habits please review our online resources available to your sons and daughters. Specifically, check out the "Types of Sleep Problems" and "General Sleep Info" links for descriptions of sleep problems and solutions for healthier sleep habits.
Visit the Counseling & Health Promotion website for additional information.
Visit the CSB Health Services website as well.