‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead’.
My friends coined me the girl who ‘never stops’ because that was my motto. I would get severe cases of FOMO when I wasn’t present for things and felt I could do everything possible if I just sacrificed a few hours of sleep here and there. While studying abroad last semester in the most amazing city in the world—Florence—getting a sufficient night’s sleep was the least of my worries, as I was trying to jam pack as much traveling and exploring as I possibly could in the few short months that I was there. Although it was a great way to live at the time, eventually my body became so sleep deprived I almost forgot what it was like to get a good night’s sleep. I am still getting back into the groove of things and constantly find myself having trouble getting a good night’s rest.
I am currently taking a health psychology course focused on wellness and the mind-body connection. One requirement is to read health-related articles once a week to learn new ways of living a healthy lifestyle. The article I read last week was on the topic of ‘sleep debt’ which is the accumulation of lack of sleep one gets which leads to mental and physical fatigue. I always thought that if I had a horrible night’s sleep, those hours were gone forever and that my body would ‘regenerate itself’—but this article said otherwise and so I began to research more. One finding: sleep debt effects over 70% of college students and 40% of Americans.
The key to repaying your sleep debt is to recognize sleep as a necessity—not as a luxury. We should all be more proactive about getting a sufficient amount of sleep each night. I always thought sleeping in late on weekends would help me gain a few more hours of sleep per week, but I now know that this is actually doing more harm than good. For instance, let’s say you sleep in on a Sunday afternoon until 1 PM, there is no way your body will be tired enough to go to bed early that night to get another good night’s sleep, making your sleep schedule off for the coming week. If you are trying to regulate our sleeping schedule for the long-term sleeping more on the weekends won’t work.
The most practical way of regaining sleep is to go to bed 20 minutes earlier and wake up 20 minutes later each day—this small change in your sleep schedule is already accumulating 40 more minutes of sleep per night! The way to truly see if you are getting enough sleep is if you are waking up before your alarm clock; this means your body is fully rested and ready to tackle the day!
Sleep is one of the many components to self-care and loving yourself. When you get a sufficient amount of sleep, there are so many benefits! Sleep leads to stress reduction, increases energy, improves your memory and mood (hello better grades!), and helps your body repair itself much faster. The list of health benefits goes on, so do yourself a favor and prioritize sleep—you deserve it!
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