With finals and sleep deprivation looming, the CSU Health Network sponsored a sleep management workshop Monday that told students their diet and sleep schedule impact the quality and quantity of their sleep.
On average, most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep a night to be well rested. Lack of sleep can be linked to serious health consequences including heart disease, heart attacks and obesity. Jenifer Thomas, coordinator of the Stress Management Program, portrayed lacking sleep as a downward spiral.
“Most of the problems have to do with feeling tired and fatigued during the day, this leads to trouble concentrating, difficulty functioning and can result in health concerns. When we don’t have a regular sleep cycle, our immune system is weaker,” Thomas said.
Fatigue can affect reaction time, performance and memory, which is important during finals week. According to the Health Network Web site, approximately 20 percent of college students suffer from sleeping disorder, including insomnia.
At CSU, the most common sleep complaint is that of insomnia, a sleep disorder that makes it hard to initiate or maintain sleep, but the workshop offered numerous strategies to manage sleep.
The first strategy known as sleep hygiene helps fix poor sleep habits. This ranges from avoiding naps, eating light before bed, avoiding caffeine, alcohol and nicotine in the evenings and limiting your fluid intake before bed.
“Sometimes sleep is disturbed because of certain habits. That’s why we need to think about them and start to try to fix them,” Thomas said.
Another important strategy is trying to maintain a regular sleep cycle by sticking to a bedtime schedule and trying to wake up at the same time each morning. This helps regulate your sleep schedule and ensures that your body does not build up a sleep debt from several nights of lack of sleep.
Jay Hessler, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, related sleep debt to using a credit card. If you charge $5,000 to your credit card and only pay $100 monthly, it will take a while to pay off your debt. The same goes for sleep. For example, if you only sleep 3 hours each night for a week, paying off your sleep debt will take some time.
Over the counter or prescription medication is also an option to students who are experiencing problems sleeping. Herbal medication such as melatonin and chamomile can also help a person get a good night’s rest.
“(Prescription medication) is usually a two week trial basis and if it doesn’t work, there may be something else causing the problem,” Hessler said.
Relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, yoga or meditation are helpful in breaking the relation between the day’s stress and bedtime. Creating a nighttime ritual and using a bed only to sleep in can help the mind associate when bedtime is.
Most importantly, if trouble sleeping occurs, practice and patience are key to fixing the problem, Thomas said.
“It takes trial and error,” she said. “Identifying sleep habits, finding the right schedule and finding the right medication can be unfortunate and frustrating. It may take a couple weeks but what you figure out will make the difference.”
For more information on sleep go to www.health.colostate.edu/CounselingServices/Sleep.cfm
Staff writer Justyna Tomtas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.