Along with good nutrition and exercise, sleep provides a foundation for managing day-to-day hassles and functioning at our best. Most people need a minimum of seven hours for good functioning--and not many of us get what we need on a consistent basis.
According to an American College Health article, sleepiness is implicated in over 35% of motor vehicle fatalities. We only function at 50-70% efficiency without adequate sleep. We are more likely to waste time re-reading text or making silly mistakes when studying, taking a test, or working. At times, periods of too little sleep are probably unavoidable.
Things you can do to get better sleep
- Caffeine has its maximal effects 2 hours after ingestion. It can inhibit sleep if consumed too close to bedtime, so it's a good idea to stop caffeine intake after 7 p.m.
- Nicotine is an even stronger sleep-preventer than caffeine.
- Although alcohol can make you drowsy and is in fact a depressant, it can cause a restless sleep and actually may deprive you of needed REM sleep.
- Exercise regularly, but not within 2 hours of bedtime.
- A glass of milk before bed really will help you become sleepy. Milk contains an enzyme called tryptophan, which induces drowsiness.
- Stop studying 30 minutes before bed, and use this time to relax instead.
- Thinking about what you have just read or written can prevent you from falling asleep. Use the last hour before bed to take a warm bath, read a book for pleasure, or listen to relaxing music.
- Keep a pen and paper next to your bed so you can write down thoughts that keep running through your head, such as "things I have to do tomorrow."
- Since darkness is a sleepiness cue, sleep in a darkened room. (Or wear eyeshades if you have a roommate.)
- A quiet room or white noise (such as a fan) may help keep nightly sleep cycles more regular.
- Eating too close to bedtime can cause disrupted sleep, and you will feel less rested the next day. If you are hungry, stick to carbohydrates, such as popcorn, bread or crackers, which are easier to digest.
- Find times to nap, if you can't get enough sleep at night. If you anticipate a night with too little sleep, a nap beforehand seems to work best to reduce sleep-loss problems.
- If you have insomnia, napping may make falling asleep harder. Some people find that relaxation exercises such as yoga are a good replacement for naps.