Lifestyles

Why is Sleep Important?

Tips for Better Sleep

By: Monica Ahuja

The book “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker PhD. Credit: https://media.gatesnotes.com

“I only slept three hours last night.” “Well, I only slept two hours last night.” Competitions of who slept less are commonplace in the United States and particularly in cities such as New York City, “The city that never sleeps.” Fine, NYC you win! But, does it truly? 

Sleep is an important human function and we all should be trying to not only sleep sufficiently, but we should be seeking sleep that is of good quality. 

Why is sleep important?

You might be wondering, why is it so important to sleep? Well, you may be surprised to learn that sleep’s importance extends beyond resting your body; it does so much more.

In his TED Talk, “Sleep is Your Superpower” Dr. Matthew Walker, (professor, researcher, scientist, speaker, and author of “Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams”), states that sleep is essential for forming and storing memories. For us learners and students, this means that our abilities to effectively learn new materials and form memories are tied to our sleep. 

In the talk, Dr. Walker also states that lesser amounts of sleep (in one continuous period) are associated with illness. In other words, two reasons sleep is essential are it is necessary for supporting your cognitive abilities and it is connected to supporting your physical health.  

If you want to watch the TED Talk in its entirety and learn more about why sleep is important, learn about the science of sleep, and know why “Sleep is Your Superpower” here is the link: 

Additional TED Videos: https://www.ted.com/talks/shai_marcu_the_benefits_of_a_good_night_s_sleep

https://www.ted.com/playlists/223/talks_to_inspire_you_to_go_to

Tips for Better Sleep: 

Here are some ways in which you can improve the quality of your sleep:

Note: These tips may not be applicable to everyone. If you are concerned about your sleep and sleeping habits, speak to a medical professional. CSI students can also access Health and Wellness Services for medical care and other resources here: https://www.csi.cuny.edu/campus-life/student-services/health-and-wellness-services

  1. Maintain a sleep schedule and a bedtime routine. Even on days off, go to sleep at the same time and wake up at the same time. As Dr. Walker states “Sleep is not like the bank.” This means that sleeping in to make up for lost sleep is not as effective as going to sleep at the same time every day. 

Additionally, find a “nighttime routine” that works. It usually takes time for your brain and body to get ready for bed and fall asleep, so give your brain and body the opportunity to do so, and if possible, maintain consistency. Consistency is key here.

  1. Prepare your sleeping environment. If possible, try to cool down the area you will sleep in and limit exposure to lights before going to bed. Your body needs to cool before you can fall asleep, lowering the temperature will aid your body in the cooling process. 

Limiting lights, according to Dr. Walker will “help trigger the release of a hormone called melatonin. And melatonin helps regulate the healthy timing of our sleep.”

  1. Exercise. Exercise during the day can help you sleep longer. However, the American Psychological Association (APA) recommends avoiding exercise close to your bedtime because “working out close to bedtime can boost energy levels and body temperature, making it harder to fall asleep.”
  1.  If it takes you longer than 20-25 minutes to fall asleep, it is recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Dr. Walker, that you don’t stay in bed. Dr. Walker explains that “our brain is an incredibly associative device. The brain has learned the association that the bed is this trigger of wakefulness, and we need to break that association.” This means that you should only go back to bed when you feel sleepy to maintain the association. This also means that if it is possible, avoid using your bed for non-sleep related activities. 

And whatever activity you choose to engage in while trying to sleep should ideally involve limited lighting. If you and your mind are engaged in extensive thinking or worries, and this is keeping you awake, it is recommended that you write your thoughts down on paper (not your phone) to ease your mind. 

References: 

https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/sleep_hygiene.html

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/sleep/art-20048379

https://www.apa.org/monitor/julaug04/tips

https://www.apa.org/topics/sleep/disorders

https://sleepeducation.org/healthy-sleep/healthy-sleep-habits/

Want to learn more? You can do some research at: https://www.library.csi.cuny.edu/home

Therefore, it appears that we all, NYC, “The city that never sleeps” included, should try our best to get enough sleep as well as good quality sleep. And the work to live better and learn better begins with us. Happy dreaming and sleep well!

Categories: Lifestyles

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