Catching up on sleep: How to do it the right way

This summer, make it a priority to work on developing a healthy sleep habit.  In spring 2018 the health promotion staff conducted a survey with undergrads at University Park about their health behaviors. You might be surprised to read that 41.7% of the respondents reported feeling tired or dragged out on most days of the week (1). Some students believe that pulling an all-nighter will be more helpful than getting a full night of sleep.  Other students are worried that they’ll miss out on something exciting (FOMO). However, plenty of research shows that we typically need between 7-9 hours of shut-eye a night to function at our best, both academically and socially (2). Sleep plays a vital role in the consolidation of memory, which is essential for learning new information. Sleeping before studying refreshes your brain and makes it easier to form new memories, while sleeping after studying helps you retain new information (3). Additionally, sleep is essential to a strong immune system. Both sleep quality and quantity have a direct relationship to the strength of your immune system (4).

Below are some tips to help you make up for lost sleep.  First and foremost, you should try to stick to a regular sleep-wake schedule each day, including weekends. Sleeping in on Saturday and Sunday will actually make it harder to fall asleep on Sunday evening. You can also try calculating your sleep debt and commit to an earlier bedtime. Calculate sleep debt by deducting the number of hours you slept from 8 (the average recommended number of hours of sleep per night). So if you slept 6 hours last night, you have 2 hours of sleep dept.  Sleep debt is cumulative. If you slept 6 hours last night and 5 hours the night before, you have 5 hours of sleep debt. If your sleep debt is 5 hours, try going to bed 1 hour early for 5 consecutive nights.

Here are additional tips:

  • Limit caffeine intake to three cups or 300mg daily before 2pm (5).
  • Avoid alcohol three hours before bed (5).
  • Exercise between 5-7pm – this enhances the depth of your sleep. Be sure to avoid strenuous activity 3 hours before bedtime (5).
  • Limit television, laptop use and other electronics while you’re lying in bed. Avoid using screens 1-hour before bed (5).
  • Take a hot shower or read a book to calm your mind without the stimulating effects of electronics (2).

Take the Three Week Sleep Camp challenge (6) with the help of one our staff. Adopting some of these habits can help you catch up on sleep and develop a healthy, consistent sleep pattern. If you struggle with getting enough sleep, call 814-863-0461 to schedule a free wellness session with one of our health educators.

References:

  1. Penn State University’s ACHA National College Health Assessment, Spring 2018
  2. Russo, Lucy. “Sleep Debt: Tips for Catching Up on Sleep.” Org, National Sleep Foundation, 28 Oct. 2014, sleep.org/articles/get-rid-of-sleep-debt/.
  3. Harvard University Medical School, Division of Sleep Medicine – http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep/learning-memory
  4. Walker, Matthew P. Why We Sleep unlocking the power of sleep and dreams. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2017. Print.
  5. Maas, James and Robbins, Rebecca. Sleep for Success! Indiana: AuthorHouse, 2011. Print.
  6. Dement, William. The Promise of Sleep. New York: Random House, 1999. Print.

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