As Daylight Savings Times comes to an end this Sunday, it's a good moment to check in on your sleep habits. Everyone gains an hour of sleep when the clocks "fall back," but for people who are not practicing good sleep hygiene, it may not be enough.
Sleep is a key building block of overall wellness. It's nearly impossible to perform at your physical or mental peak if you aren't getting consistent, restful sleep. Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Patrick Finan, Ph.D. created the following infographic, detailing how sleep deprivation can affect mood, memory, health, and even your judgment.
As the end of the term approaches, finals deadlines and the unstructured time of reading days can make it easy to fall into bad habits. Review these sleep hygiene tips, created in conjunction with the Student Health and Wellness Center, to make sure you're getting the rest that you need as you adjust to earlier sunsets and longer nights.
- Prioritize sleep as an essential part of your schedule. Remember that rest does not inhibit your productivity; in fact, it improves it.
- Wake up at the same time every day.
- Don't try to force sleep. If you can't fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed, go to another room, and return to bed only when you are truly sleepy. Repeat as needed throughout the night.
- Use your bed only for sleep (and sex). Avoid watching TV, using mobile devices*, reading, or eating in bed.
- A light snack prior to bed may promote sleep, but avoid going to bed while hungry or heavy meals close to bedtime.
- Limit naps to 20 minutes total per day.
- Limit caffeinated beverages to two servings per day, and avoid them entirely after noon.
- Avoid nicotine, as it is a stimulant, especially near bedtime and if you wake up during the night.
- Avoid excessive alcohol intake, and avoiding drinking late in the evening to make yourself sleepy. Even if you do fall asleep initially, alcohol can cause awakening later in the night.
- Avoid vigorous exercise within three to four hours of bedtime.
- Minimize noise, light, and excessive temperatures during your sleep period. Move lighted alarm clocks away from bed.
- Consider using a white noise machine while sleeping.
- Lavender, in the form of lotion or essential oils, can promote sleep.
- Avoid light-emitting devices for 30 minutes prior to bed, as they can suppress melatonin and disturb Circadian rhythms.
- Sleep as long as necessary to feel rested (usually seven to eight hours for adults) and then get out of bed.
- Focus on yourself and your needs, and be confident in the effectiveness of good sleep hygiene. Avoid engaging in competitive complaining with people who have different approaches to rest and wellness.
*We'll make one exception to this rule: briefly using your device to queue up a Sleep Story or other relaxing content from the Calm app, which is free to Johns Hopkins students. Access it here. Also if it's within 30 minutes of your bedtime, turn off the device on which you are reading this sentence and start winding down, because you need and deserve a good night's sleep.