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Health Is Wealth: Sleep Is Never For The Weak

Image by Hernan Sanchez, unsplash.com

It is never too late to make use of your bed because sleep has always been one of our necessities to maintain a healthy and wholesome lifestyle. Getting enough quality sleep at all times is vital. There are many health benefits you can get from having an adequate amount of sleep.

Your mood and feeling for the day depend on the number of hours of sleep you get at night. During sleep, our body is working to maintain our mental and physical health. Moreover, our body is repairing itself. Take note that a good sleep can also increase your brain function.

Experiencing repetitive sleep deficiency can harm you over time. It can increase your risk of developing health problems, and can also affect how well you react, work, learn, and think. Lastly, sleep deficiency can significantly affect your productivity.

Performance Maximization

Sleep affects not just your health but also your performance. Having the right amount of sleep can enhance your performance not just in work, but also in your day to day activities.

Sleep deficiency leads to functional limitation and reduced exercise performance. It may also affect your safety and security. For example, drivers who are drowsy have a higher risk of getting into car accidents.

Improves Immune Function

Our immune system is vital because it is the key to human health. It protects our bodies from substances that can cause sickness and diseases. Moreover, the immune system is sensitive to strenuous activities, a stressful lifestyle, change in diet and inadequacy of sleep.

A study found that people who slept less than 7 hours were more likely to develop a flu or cold than others who slept for a full 8 hours. Sleeping at least 8 hours may help lessen the risk of getting sick.

Increase In Productivity and Concentration

Sleep is important for reducing stress levels. It is also useful for increasing brain activity, thus, helping you finish your tasks quickly, effectively and efficiently. Without sleep, you tend to be unfocused and make more mistakes. It can also cause headaches at work and increase your stress level.

Takeaway

Most of us don’t put much importance on sleep because we don’t exactly understand the result of not having enough. Once you learn what happens to your body during sleep, you’ll understand its importance. Sleep is crucial to your physical, emotional and psychological health. At least 8 hours of sleep is critical!

This article was contributed by guest author Rachel Minahan.

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Simple yet highly effective tips to boost your sleep quality and productivity

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An average person sleeps for one-third of his or her life. Alas, some of us have to do with less than that. There are many factors that impede quality sleep, including stress, poor habits, shabby lifestyle, late night activities, etc. You could say that nowadays, wakening up bustling with energy is a rare commodity. Still, it is within our power to change this and rise and shine every morning. Here are some good habits and smart tricks that make a real difference.

Feel the rhythm
Sleep is the bedrock of a healthy lifestyle. It is also the requirement for peak productivity and academic performance. You often hear that the only thing you need to do is to go to bed earlier. Yet, things are bit more complicated than that. Some people are morning larks who greet the sun with a smile, and then there are night owls who like to study when the darkness falls.

Our energy levels go up and down during the day, and we all have different circadian rhythms. So, whatever others tell you, it is important to stay in tune with your own natural sleep-wake cycle. Sleeping the same number of hours at different times does make a difference – you need to achieve a consistent schedule, set your biological clock, and optimize your sleep quality.

On a tight schedule
For instance, sleeping in is not a good idea, even on weekends. Anything that deviates from the weekday schedule could cause jetlag-like symptoms. Whenever you want to make up for a late night, you should take a daytime nap. However, be careful with this because a nap can do more harm than good. In general, experts argue that 15-20 minutes does the trick just fine.

Naturally, you should go to bed when you feel tired. Tossing and turning never did anyone good, and a great way to sleep like a hog is to engage in physical activity during the day. On the other hand, sometimes the drowsiness needs to be kept at bay. This usually happens after dinner, when you have the urge to retreat to your bedroom, way before your regular bedtime.

Dreams and realities

As for the optimal time to wake up, it is usually eight hours after you drift away to the dreamland. Ideally, you should wake up without an alarm. If that rarely ever happens, you are probably not doing something right. Also, note that daily obligations and goings-on may prove to be a hurdle on the road to getting a good day’s sleep, like when you have loud roommates.

Furthermore, I hate to break it to you, but your drinking and eating habits also have an important role to play. Caffeine is often a culprit behind these problems, but many people do not know that it can cause trouble even twelve hours after consumption. Avoid alcohol and big meals before bed, as they may bring an upset stomach, heartburn, etc. Likewise, a lot of liquid is a disruptive influence because of frequent bathroom trips.

Finally, apart from habits and bedtime rituals, you can also take advantage of various tricks. First off, control your exposure to light. Our brain produces more of the melatonin hormone when it is light, making us more alert. This also implies that bright sunlight is a welcome guest in the morning. Purchasing a new bed or visiting an online mattress store can also be beneficial. The list of solutions does not end here, so do not despair in case the first steps do not prove to be fruitful.

A positive change
There is no other way to enhance your productivity and sleep quality than to build good habits. The chief task is to align sleeping habits with your circadian rhythm and figure out your natural sleep-wake dynamics. Assign a schedule and stick to it, which is the harder part. Only after making this effort, can you hope to feel refreshed and energized. Lifestyle adjustments are necessary to improve the quality and length of sleep, but also to climb up the academic and career ladder.

This article was contributed by guest author Lana Hawkins.

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Tips for Restorative Sleep

We know how complicated student life can be. With term papers, exams, essays and all that work you need to turn in before the semester ends, getting a good night’s sleep can be easily overlooked. Obesity, heart disease, stress and poor judgment are only a few of the many negative effects of sleep deprivation, which can affect your overall academic performance. However, with the right habits and by making a few tweaks to your daily routine, you can get the restorative sleep you need to become the top student in your class!

Follow these tips for restorative sleep by the Virginia Spine Institute, and get your academics back on track:

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Sleep Deprivation in College Students

Image by Penn State, Flickr

Image by Penn State, Flickr

The college lifestyle entails a lot going on and not a lot of time to do it in, which is why so many students are staying up late to finish their work, then falling asleep in class. A study by Hershner and Chervin published in 2014 stated that:

50% [of students] report daytime sleepiness and 70% attain insufficient sleep.

Adults are supposed to sleep at least eight hours a night, and most students are getting less than 6 measly hours! I know it seems like it’s worth it to stay up and do your homework or go out with friends, but what are the real implications of staying up late?

Sleep is a crucial process that repairs the body’s systems from the damage and stress it faced during the day. When we don’t get enough sleep, the body can’t fully repair and rejuvenate, so you can actually end up weakening your immune system and lowering your state of consciousness. You are much more likely to forget things and be irritable when tired, which negatively impacts mood and performance. The study states that those who get the right amount of sleep and don’t study versus those who stay up all night to study actually do better.

Subjects tested at 10 am and then retested at 10 pm without sleep showed no significant change in performance. After a night of sleep, subjects’ performance improved by 18%. Subjects tested at 10 pm initially, then retested after sleep, also had a significant improvement in performance. This supports the concept that sleep, and not just time, is required for learning and memory consolidation.

– Hershner and Chervin, 2014

Now that you know the importance of sleep and your academic career, here are a few tips that will help you get more sleep.

  1. Plan! – If you plan out your entire day and stick to your schedule, you will be more likely to get to bed at a reasonable time while also getting all your activities for the day finished.
  2. Keep your partying to a few days a week. – We all like to go out and party, but drinking and going out every night is not only harmful to your health but also to your grades. Maybe keep your partying to once or twice a week to make sure you are balancing your time correctly.
  3. Turn off electronics – electronics’ blue light can interfere with sleep patterns, so make sure to turn of your gadgets and keep them out of your room to resist temptations to check them while you sleep.
  4. Exercise – Exercising for 30 minutes before bed will tire you out and help you reach a deeper sleep faster, as well as keeping your body healthy and active.
  5. Limit your stimulants – Keeping your alcohol, coffee and cigarette intake to a minimum will minimize the frequent awakenings during the night and stops disruptive sleep.

Hope these tips will keep you guys well rested!

Here are some other articles you might be interested in…

Citations

Sleep is for the Weak: A Practical Student’s Guide to the Dreaded All-Nighter

Image by Veronica Stewart

Image by Veronica Stewart

The first thing you need to know about pulling an all-nighter is that you shouldn’t. Honestly, if you have any other options, don’t do it. An all-night cram session is never a substitute for a good study strategy. Whether you have had past success with this last minute method or not, it is always risky, both for your grades and your health. However, as a university student myself, I know there times when this technique, though frowned upon and often ineffective, is unavoidable. Midterms and exams tend to cluster and no matter how accommodating your professors may be, there just aren’t enough hours in the day (or week. Or semester for that matter). Fear not – I am not here to shame you for procrastinating or criticize your FOMO (fear of missing out)-induced overscheduling. I’m here to help you survive the night. Everyone has their own style, but these are some of the tips and tricks students swear by to stay awake.

  1. Caffeinate: If you are currently attending a post-secondary institution, this should come as no surprise. Caffeine is like oxygen to the academic. So if it works, why mess with a good thing? Coffee, soda, or chocolate – get it any way you like, but remember to pace yourself. Too much of this stimulant will start to wear away at your ability to concentrate.
     
    Tip: Try tea. Its health benefits may be able to offset the bodily strain of a sleepless night.
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  3. Drink: Water, of course. What were you thinking? Staying hydrated is essential to fighting off the detrimental “I’ll just close my eyes for a few seconds” urge. It is also said to increase alertness and improve your focus.
     
    Tip: Protect the environment. Always use a reusable water bottle.
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  5. Move: Do jumping jacks. Run on the spot or attempt some push-ups. A few exercises can be just the kick start you need after hours of minimal movement. Get your blood pumping and give yourself a much deserved mental break.
     
    Tip: Keep it quiet. Your sleeping roommates will thank you.
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  7. Keep it light: Sleep is your body’s biological response to the dark of night. The darker your workspace, the harder it will be to fight this impulse. The solution? Turn on the lights and keep them on. Brightening your room will trick your body, and thus you, into thinking you need to stay awake.
     
    Tip: To maximize light output, remove the shades from your lamps if possible.
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  9. Set an alarm: It’s time to face the facts. No matter what you do, you may still fall asleep, and that’s okay, as long as you get up in time to write your exam, hand in your essay or fulfill whatever other obligation got you into this bind in the first place. Setting at least one alarm for the next morning is not negotiable.
     
    Tip: Set your alarm for an hour or so earlier than you need to be up. That way you still have a chance to finish what dosing off may have prevented you from doing the previous night.

Tips for Fellow Sleep-Lovers and Anti-Morning Folk

Image by Alan Cleaver, Flickr

Image by Alan Cleaver, Flickr

Sleep – whether you love it and can’t ever seem to get enough (like most people) or dislike it and see it as a waste of time that can be spent doing other activities (the very idea!), it is irrefutable that we need it in order to function well on a day to day basis.

As some of you will come to realize, or may even know already, once you enter university/college, sleep becomes the Golden Snitch of the Quidditch Game of Life. And unless you have some Potter lineage in your family tree, it will be a concept incredibly elusive and infuriatingly out of reach for most of your nights.

When, miracle of miracles, you are able to squeeze in a few precious hours of shuteye, waking up is understandably the very last thing you will want to do. Unfortunately, due to unavoidable commitments such as 9am classes and early job shifts, you are left with little to no choice in the matter.

So if you don’t majestically leap out of bed at the first glimpse of sunlight, here are some tips that will make dragging yourself out of dreamland a little less painful.

  • First things first: the alarm clock. The majority of us students use the alarm functions programmed into our cell phones, or you can kick it old school and buy one from your local Walmart. Set multiple alarms, and change the intervals between them regularly, even if it’s only by a minute or two. Also, place your alarm device as far away from your bed as possible. This way, you’ll be forced to get up to turn it off. Yes, you’ll probably hate yourself for this, but narcissism is overrated anyways. Oh, and a strategic alarm tone can be helpful as well. Choose the most annoying option offered on your device, or customize it with a personal song that you know will get you moving (such as “Circle of Life” from The Lion King Soundtrack, a personal favourite).
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  • Water is your best friend. Besides the fact that you should be drinking water consistently throughout the day, chugging some down after waking up has positive benefits for the body. According to an article from LiveStrong, water intake in the morning will help replenish and refuel the organs within your body that have become a little more than parched overnight, providing a refreshed and alert effect on your body and mind. Some even say that a glass of salt water in the morning has health benefits as well. Showering in the morning is another way to achieve similar energizing sensations, and the promise of cleanliness and good hygiene will appeal to the germaphobe in all of us.
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  • Simply sitting up in bed or forcing your eyes to stay open is one baby step closer to actually waking up. Take a few deep breaths and stretch out that diaphragm. Do some simple, languid stretches – reach your hands up to the ceiling, then bend down and touch your toes. Stand up. Take a couple more deep breaths. Give yourself a little wiggle, shake it out. Rub some sleep goop out of your eyes. Feeling more awake now? Good. Go start your day.
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  • And finally, probably the mother of all sleep advice: go to bed earlier. Bad sleep regiments are usually a result of procrastination and poor time-management skills. Understandably and unavoidably, sometimes a few hours of sleep are sacrificed for final exams and assignments weighted at 40% of your grade. But if do you get the chance to sleep before the crack of dawn, take it. We all know that one more YouTube video actually means four more, and that Tumblr is the danger-zone-level-six-mega-black-hole-death-trap of the Web. Do your best to avoid sites like these just before bedtime; your future self with thank you profusely for it. Though it may be tough at first, once you establish a (even semi) stable routine of sleeping earlier, getting up earlier will subsequently be a bit easier because you’ve clocked in those essential hours that your body needs to operate daily. Be strict with yourself on this front – discipline is key!

 

So until the blessed day that Professional Sleeper becomes a credible job position or we find a way to add more hours into a day, these tips will hopefully aid in making mornings less detestable. Stay strong, fellow sleepers.

5 Ways to Stay Healthy at University

Image by epSos.de, Flickr

Image by epSos.de, Flickr

Do you know what really causes the “freshman fifteen?” Hint: it’s not just about what you eat! What you drink has a lot to do with unhealthy weight gain, and being sedentary and sleep-deprived just pack on the extra pounds. Due to the myriad of social and academic obligations of university life, the variable schedule of the average student can wreak havoc on one’s diet, sleep pattern, and exercise regimen. Staying healthy, however, will boost your mood and energy levels, which will bolster your academic performance and help you to maintain a positive mindset. Here are some basic ways to stay healthy at university:

1. Sleep well

Good sleep is essential for your physical and mental wellbeing – it will help maintain your metabolism, improve your memory, and heighten mental clarity. Poor sleep, on the other hand, reduces your energy level and ability to concentrate, and results in higher levels of irritability, anxiety, and depression. Moreover, sleep deprivation causes an increase in appetite, which may result in weight gain. Try to establish a regular sleeping pattern of eight hours each night, going to bed and getting up at the same time.

2. Exercise frequently … and sneakily
It’s easy to lead a sedentary lifestyle at school. What do you do in a lecture hall? You sit. What do you do in the library? You sit. What do you do in the cafeteria? You sit. While university seems to require a lot of sitting, it is important to be active in order to stay healthy. Establish a routine of regular exercise – treat your gym time like an extra class in your schedule, or split your workouts into shorter and more frequent increments that will fit into a busy schedule. If you don’t think you can muster the self-discipline to make it to the gym alone, sign up for an exercise class with a friend. Try something interesting and new – kickboxing, squash, yoga, tennis, or Pilates are all great ways to get moving. Don’t forget the little things that you can do in between workouts to maximize your level of activity – walk to class, take the stairs, and stand up to stretch your legs for every hour you find yourself sitting in the library.

3. Watch your beverages
There are four types of beverages that can have an impact on your health: alcohol, soda and soft drinks, caffeinated drinks, and water.

Alcoholic drinks contain empty calories and no nutritional value whatsoever. The excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages can have serious physical effects – if it isn’t enough that a single shot of vodka contains a whopping 100 calories, studies show that regular consumption of alcohol impairs your ability to absorb nutrients and burn fat over time.

Soft drinks, sodas, and sweetened fruit juices also cause unhealthy weight gain and slow your digestion. They contain high levels of sugar, and their diet equivalents simply substitute the sugar content with chemicals that are just as toxic for your system. Soda should be a treat, not a habit. Substitute your sugary fix with a refreshing cup of tea (chamomile and mint tea promote relaxation and digestion, and sweeter flavours such as strawberry, peach, ginseng, or lemon keep it interesting). You can also switch your soda for a sparkling water.

Keep an eye on your caffeine consumption, too. Caffeinated drinks are often dehydrating – remember to drink two glasses of water for every coffee or energy drink you consume. Also, drinking coffee too late in the day might disturb your quality of sleep at night. Most importantly, watch out for the unhealthy additives in calorie-laden lattes or specialty drinks at your favourite coffee shop – one chai tea latte from Starbucks sounds innocent enough, but even its smallest size packs an incredible 240 calories (not to mention 41 grams of sugar).

Make sure you drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated is essential to maintaining general health and energy levels, and helps to control your weight and appetite, improve your skin, flush your system, and improve your quality of sleep. Try to drink a glass of water every hour and before each meal.

4. Everything in moderation
Don’t be afraid of bread, pasta, and cereals – in moderation, they can be part of a healthy diet. Avoiding them completely can have a negative impact on your metabolism, which is essential to fighting that freshman fifteen. Just keep in mind that dessert should be a treat, not a habit. Make sure you fuel up on nutrient-rich foods with plenty of fibre – whole grains, lentils, spinach, broccoli, beans, and zucchini, among others. Add avocado, lettuce, and tomato to your sandwiches. In the cafeteria, avoid fried or breaded items, and choose the grilled option instead. Add chicken to your salad for a protein boost. Substitute brown rice for white rice, mustard for mayonnaise, whole grain for white bread, and olive oil and vinegar for creamy salad dressing. For motivation and inspiration, look to food blogs and Pinterest recipes to get you excited about eating healthy.

5. What you eat is just as important as when you eat it.
Between classes, assignment deadlines, exams, parties, and going out with friends, it can be difficult to plan a regular meal schedule. Remember to eat breakfast (it starts your metabolism and gives you a boost of energy, which will help control your appetite and prevent overeating throughout the day) and pack healthy snacks to bring to campus (baby carrots, pretzels, apples, and almonds are all great ideas) to tide you over until lunch (a sandwich with a soup or salad is always a healthy option). Avoid midnight snacking, ordering pizza at two in the morning, or grabbing a greasy bite after a night out with your friends – studies show that eating late at night can cause unhealthy weight gain. Stress can also have an effect on how you eat, so try to avoid unhealthy and excessive snacking when you are bored or worried about something, and do not skip meals – a diet of regular meals and nutritious snacks is important to the maintenance of your overall health.