Sleeping Soundly

With so many media articles desperately trying to tell us that if we have a minute either side of eight hours sleep a night we […]

With so many media articles desperately trying to tell us that if we have a minute either side of eight hours sleep a night we will be exhausted, look horrific and completely fail to reach our natural potential, it is not a great surprise that a lot of us worry about sleep. The heavy workload, as well as a plethora of other activities to get involved in, result in most of the Oxford student body dragging themselves through to eighth week with a can of energy drink permanently in hand. But with so many articles focussing on the negatives about sleep, and often using unreliable information, here at Bang! we thought we would get your term started with some slightly cheerier advice about how to get the most out of your sleep.

So without further ado here are five top tips to keep you perky:

1)     If you can’t sleep then stay in bed; you are still doing good things for your body!

With such a busy lifestyle in Oxford, when you are lying in bed awake at night it is common to want to get up and do ‘something useful’ with this time, but actually you should just stay in bed. There are two reasons for this; firstly research has shown that your cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems simply require rest, rather than cognitive sleep. Lying down in bed, your heart and your muscles get a chance to recover, keeping your body fit and healthy even when you are sleep deprived. Secondly whilst most people can recognise that they have been asleep if they are awoken after about 30seconds, people with insomnia can be awoken after as long as 20minutes and not recognise that they have been sleeping. This could be happening to you if you are in bed, but not if you have wandered off to do something ‘more productive’! So if you can’t sleep, try not to worry too much about it, just relax and remember that you are doing your body a whole lot of good!

2)     Naps are fabulous

If you are struggling to concentrate, but bedtime is hours off, a little nap can do you the world of good. The ‘power-nap’ should generally be kept to less than 20 minutes though, as much longer than this and your body will start to produce hormones that can alter your body clock, effectively giving yourself jetlag without the perk of a holiday! Luckily caffeine takes about 20 minutes to be absorbed by your body, so if you drink a cup of coffee and then rest your head on the desk for 20 minutes, you will have given yourself a built in alarm clock.

3)     Think in pictures before you sleep

It is very common to find it difficult to sleep because of repetitive thought patterns, essentially because you are replaying your day in your head. However it has been shown that an incredibly effective way of reducing this problem is to do an activity that forces you to think in pictures before you go to bed. For instance whilst you are doing a jigsaw your brain is focussed on the picture and shape that you are looking for, and so repetitive thoughts are drowned out. This can be achieved by lots of activities that require concentration and co-ordination, such as jigsaw puzzles, playing an instrument, or personally, I find a couple of games of Tetris unbeatable for clearing my mind!

4)     Waking up at night

Many people wake up in the night with a groan, thinking that their night’s sleep has somehow been voided by this brief voyage into consciousness. However, many scientists actually believe that deep sleep (the first stage of sleep) is more important than REM sleep (the last stage of sleep) and this is because evolutionarily it does not make sense for the body to prioritise the less important stage. This means that if you wake up in the night, when you fall back to sleep you are falling back into the most important stage of sleep, in some ways cheating the system and getting bonus deep sleep! So instead of groaning, next time you wake up in the night, just smile to yourself and be pleased that you have outwitted the night.

5)     Try not to stress about sleep

Finally, stress induces many of the symptoms that we wrongly associate with sleep deprivation through the production of the hormone Cortisol; puffy eyes and a weakened immune system to name but two. However, the less we worry about sleep the fewer of these symptoms we will display. So instead of panicking that we are ten minutes the wrong side of the golden eight-hour rule; just remember that there are no golden rules, just handy hints that you can take or leave depending on what works for you!

Sweet Dreams Oxford.


About Jessica Smith