Getting Enough Sleep
You’re Doing It Wrong
By Danielle Nadin (Contributor)
If your summer was anything like mine, chances are it involved a lot of going to bed at 3AM and not rising until noon. From Game of Thrones marathons to nights spent watching super moons and meteor showers, there were plenty of reasons to stay up late. Now that we’re back at school, it is important to prioritise sleep as much as study and social time.
It has been proven that we actually learn while we sleep. According to research done by Ken Paller, a psychology professor at Northwestern University, the brain’s senses are still alert during slumber. Candidates for his study were asked to play a card matching game while inhaling the scent of roses through a mask. They then took a nap, some of them continuously exposed to this smell as they were sleeping. It was shown that the sleepers who had been exposed to the scent were much better at remembering the matches. It is believed by the majority of neuroscientists that, during deep sleep, facts are consolidated, and memories are revisited and strengthened, stimulated by smells and sounds. It is therefore suggested to study within twelve hours before going to bed.
You can try and squeeze in those recommended eight hours, but, as some of you may already know, this is near impossible for most cegep students. This is where sleep cycles come in. If you don’t have time to sleep more, the secret lies in sleeping better. During the night, your brain cycles between deep and rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep. Do you always feel sluggish in the morning? This might be because you’re waking up in the middle of REM sleep. You will feel more refreshed if you wake up at the end of a ninety minute cycle, when your body is already preparing to wake. Try to wake up at a multiple of ninety.
If your sleep cycle is out of whack, it helps to get up earlier. It may sound crazy, but according to Brown University sleep researcher, Mary Carskadon, this might be the key to resetting your biological clock. The circadian rhythm, which helps regulate when you feel awake, hungry or tired, is influenced by sunlight. During and after puberty, the time at which we feel tired is pushed back, making us want to stay up later. This is made worse by constant exposure to blue light (one of the components of sunlight) emanating from TVs, cellphones and laptops. Light is absorbed by the eye’s retina, and is analyzed by cells called photoreceptors. One of these types of cells, melanopsin ganglion, is responsible for telling your body what time of day it is.
Many students wake up before the sun rises, and spend their days inside dark classrooms. This completely throws off their circadian rhythm, causing their bodies to release melatonin, a sleep hormone, much earlier than they should, leaving them drained by lunchtime. To counter this, Carskadon suggests waking up a few minutes earlier each day, and trying to get at least ten minutes of sunlight in the morning. Try sitting by the window during class or spending your break outside. Avoid using electronics right before bed. And if you really must finish that essay at two in the morning, dim your screen and do it with the lights off.