Sound sleep important for body and mind

Graphic by Roz Kirkelie.
Graphic by Roz Kirkelie.

Every Monday at 9:45 a.m., the Student Health and Counseling Center offers a free workshop and group session about healthy sleeping habits and how to address sleep disorders. These workshops are in cooperation with the university’s Multicultural Center and are funded by a grant. Students can attend these workshops at no cost, and no registration is required.

“Most people need 7-9 hours of good quality sleep per night,” says licensed professional counselor Lizzy Donovan at the Student Health and Counseling Center, “but because of what we learn culturally or from our families, we don’t always take good care of ourselves.”

Students are at risk for being sleep deprived because they will often stay up all night doing homework and studying for tests, but those all-night study groups are not necessarily the best for one’s grade point average. Donovan says sleep deprivation makes it harder to acquire, retain, and recall new information.

UAA student Valerie Hudson says academic responsibilities and personal health responsibilities compound and disrupt her ability to sleep.

“It (compounded responsibility) makes it hard to calm my mind to sleep — that’s if there is even time,” Hudson says. “The way I correct this is by making a schedule that includes time for sleep and natural remedies for sleep, like tea.”

“In order to do well on tests and homework assignments, students need deep and restorative sleep,” says Donovan.

There are many causes for sleep deprivation. Some students may have chronic disorders such as diabetes or depression that cause sleep disorders. Other Students may also be taking medications that affect the quality of their sleep.

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Christina Keenan has ADD, ADHD and dyslexia and has a hard time calming her mind in order to fall asleep at night. Keenan recommends sleeping next to a fan or sleep machine. These devices help her as fall asleep and stay asleep. If neither of the se things are available, Keenan also suggests turning the dishwasher on.

Alcohol and caffeine, common substances among college students, can negatively affect sleep. Alcohol disrupts deep sleep. It inhibits the part of the brain that affects restorative sleep. Studies also show varying degrees of sleep disruption cause by caffeine, depending on the subject’s sleeping schedule and use of the chemical.

There are steps that can be taken to get a better night sleep. The first step is to identify the problem. After identifying the problem, make strides to improve.

Setting a good sleep routine is one of the most basic things someone can do to help with sleep disorders or sleep deprivation.

“Going to bed and waking up at the same time is imperative,” Donovan says.

Donovan also suggests avoiding overstimulation at night, such as exercise and stressful conversations before bed.

“Watching TV or reading on a screen, such as a Nook or a Kindle, is not the best thing for students to do right before bed because the light of the screen acts as a stimulant to the brain,” Donovan says. “It’s better for students to read a book or the newspaper before bed instead of watching a movie or the evening news.”

For more information about sleep, contact the Student Health and Counseling Center at 907-786-4040.


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