On Friday Nov. 12, the Scot Wellness Peer Health Educators provided a safe and comfortable environment for students on campus to learn about the importance and impact of sleep through the program Sleep 101. Here, students had the opportunity to identify the importance of sleep, connect sleep to academic performance, learn how sleeping and waking habits lead to unrestful sleep and create a sleep plan that will allow them to have better quality sleep.
During the program, students also had the opportunity to self-reflect and analyze the activities they participate in and the substances they consume that may lead to unrestful sleep and negatively impact their overall wellbeing. When looking at caffeine, one of the most addictive substances, it was obvious to many students that their caffeine intake was destructive to their sleep. Melatonin, a substance produced by the body as it gets darker outside, was another substance highlighted in the program. Students learned that although melatonin is a natural chemical,it can have a negative effect on one’s sleep when consumed as a supplement. At the end of the program, students had the opportunity to create their own sleep kit containing drawing sheets, coloring pages, small journals, writing prompts and eye masks. Most importantly, the sleep kit included a worksheet that addressed some common and recognizable factors that may be causing sleep disruptions and provided tips that may help students fall asleep.
EB Fluharty ’24 led the discussion and event in Sleep 101. When reflecting back on the event and why it was important to her, she said, “I enjoy getting the chance to talk about sleep and sleep hygiene with peers because it continues to give me a new reflection of myself and my habits. Being able to have a conversation with others and inform them of things they can do to improve their sleep hygiene and wellbeing gives me my own reflection of what I need to continue doing in order to improve my own sleep hygiene.”
If you could not make it to Sleep 101, do not panic! Fluharty shared a few sleep facts and tips that will allow you to have more restful and beneficial sleep. First, think of sleeping the same way you think of eating. Without food, your body goes into survival mode where it can only think about the food it needs to survive. Likewise, without sleep, all your body thinks about is how tired it is and how badly it needs to rest. Next, remember that the lack of a normal night’s sleep will lead to uncontrollable microsleeps. This is where your body “zones out” during class lectures or forgets where you are when you’re driving. Microsleeps have a large negative impact on both physical and mental function, so should be avoided by allowing yourself to get adequate sleep at night.
It was also noted that 80% of people who take prescription sleep medications experienced negative effects including oversleeping, feeling groggy and having trouble concentrating. While they may help you fall asleep, the chemicals can stay in your body for longer than you may need, having a prolonged effect on the body. Continuous use of these prescriptions can cause a chemical imbalance in the brain and create a tolerance, making it harder to sleep without them.
Insufficient sleep can also cause you to develop long-term mood disorders. While it is normal for someone to be in a “bad” mood after not getting enough sleep, continuous amounts of insufficient sleep can cause more serious mood changes such as anxiety, depression or mental distress. Getting an adequate amount of sleep each night also protects your immune system by allowing your body to have a chance to regain energy and heal itself. Without giving your body enough time to heal and rest, your immune system becomes weaker, making you more susceptible to illnesses.
Fluharty leaves you with an important reminder about sleep: “Always remember, if you have found yourself in bed and cannot fall asleep within about 30 minutes, your body is most likely not ready to sleep. The first thing you should do is get out of bed. Your mind connects emotions and experiences with objects. If you are lying in bed worrying about the sleep you are not getting, over a period of time with this continued behavior your mind will begin to associate feelings of worry and anxiety with your bed, making it hard to fall asleep in the long run.”
Sleep is a complicated topic affected by many different habits and variables; however, when you think about how important sleep truly is, you will find that it is crucial to take the time to stop and fix mistakes that may be limiting your rest. Fluharty ends with the comment, “Being college students, it is very easy to get into the ‘sleep when you’re dead’ attitude when trying to maintain a social schedule while also trying to maintain academics and other extracurriculars such as clubs, jobs or sports. This program allowed me to help inform people of the purpose of sleep, how it affects all of the social, academic and physical aspects of someone’s days and why sleep should be valued.”
Another Sleep 101 session will be held Dec. 3. Sign-ups for the event will be sent out via email.