Somerset Times

Increasing Your Sleep

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Somerset Times Edition

Week 3,
Term Three, 2016

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Getting enough sleep is one of the most important factors in staying healthy. Staying up late, whether it be to complete schoolwork or because you wanted to watch a movie, can only lead to becoming sleep deprived, which can have very serious effects over a long period of time.

As you become more and more tired, you will start to experience a number of things. Firstly, your concentration levels will drop, and you will start to forget things easily. If you are not getting enough sleep, your body does not have time to process information and it does not get stored in your brain.

Kenta Arichi and Catherine Gerrard, Academic Captains, with Dr Michael Brohier, Deputy Headmaster

Being sleep deprived will also start to affect your physical wellbeing. You will feel lethargic and be unable to reach your physical peak and are more likely to injure yourself doing something you are not used to doing. You will also have a reduced immune system, so you will be prone to getting sick more often. You will become emotional and stressed more when you are tired. You are more likely to be snappy and more easily upset when you are tired and not in the right mental state. Over a long period of time, this could greatly affect your mental wellbeing.

If you are struggling to get to sleep at night, there are a few things you can do that have been scientifically proven to make you fall asleep faster, both physical and mental tricks that may help you on those nights when you just can’t slip away.

  1. Try to minimise the amount of light in your room directly before bed. This includes dimming the lights in the evenings before bed, and not looking at your bright phone screen right before trying to sleep. A study done at Harvard University showed that even eating dinner by candlelight in the evenings may even increase your chances of falling asleep quickly.
  2. Try not to have any caffeine in the evenings. Caffeine takes about six hours before it is completely out of your system, so it is best not to drink any coffee at least six hours before bedtime.
  3. Develop a bedtime routine. A study from Saint Joseph’s University and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia showed that if you do a specific thing before bed every night, your body will become accustomed to sleeping after completing that activity, and it will eventually associate it with becoming tired, and you will become tired on your own. This works particularly well in children.
  4. Have warm feet and hands but a cold room. Melatonin, the chemical that regulates your body clock, lowers your body temperature when you are asleep. So, according to the Harvard Medical School, by having a cold bedroom, it tells your body that it is time to sleep. However, a Swiss study found that by having warm hands and feet, it moves your body heat to your extremities, increasing heat loss and thereby increasing melatonin’s effect.
  5. Listen to calming music. According to a study published by the US government in 2008, people who listened to relaxing classical music for 45 minutes before bed showed significant improvement in sleep quality.
  6. Scent your room like lavender. For some reason, this particular scent decreases the time it takes people to get to sleep. A 2005 study from Wesleyan University found that this beautiful aroma relaxes your nerves, lowers your blood pressure and puts you in a calm state, and lead people to increase their amount of deep sleep.
  7. Recommended by the National Sleep Foundation, progressive muscle relaxation involves slowly tensing and then relaxing each muscle in your body. You can start either in your head or your toes, and work your way through your body by tensing for 5 seconds then relaxing for 30, and repeating.
  8. Finally, try and stay awake. Strangely, it has been scientifically tested in a study done by Cambridge in 2003 that the reverse psychology of trying to stay awake actually increases your chances of falling asleep.

Each of these things may not work for everyone, but it is important to find the thing that works for you. Sleeping is an essential part of maintaining your physical and mental health, and not being able to sleep may have serious long-term consequences.

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