Sleep: it's important. It gives your body a chance to rest and recuperate; getting 8 hours a night helps you function and concentrate properly. But it's easier said than done- around 1/3 of people in the UK have insomnia or sleep anxiety. Sleep anxiety is more than just not sleeping; it's a tornado of physical, emotional, and mental symptoms. I know students always pull all-nighters: we get zazzed on Red Bull at 3 am and zoom through homework (that probably has to be done for first lesson). But by the time the sugar rush has worn off, we're exhausted and don't pay attention in class. However, people with sleep anxiety do this every night. It's a vicious cycle. You pull an all-nighter, feel tired in college, lose concentration, don't absorb information, and worry about it the next night.
The symptoms include:
- Fear (like when I watched Insidious and couldn't sleep without the light on).
- Physical symptoms like a clenched stomach.
- Dizziness/nausea (imagine riding on a merry-go-round going 50 miles an hour).
- Worries about amount of sleep- “If I go to sleep now, I'll get 5 hours and 48 minutes before I have to get up”.
- Worries stopping your mind from 'switching off' (such as exams, relationships, body image).
- Exam stress/hormones (tiredness could be why that giant zit popped up)Top Tips:
- Wind down in the eveningsIt's no good trying to sleep if you've stayed up until 12 working. Set a specific bed time and start your bedtime routine 2 hours before.
- Ban caffeine after 7pmDrinking coffee leaves caffeine in your system for 4-6 hours. It stimulates your mind and body, so try drinking decaffeinated tea or chamomile (if you can stand the taste). Tea includes a protein called theanine, which is a natural calmer.
- Listen to Mindfulness/ASMRA great way to squash worries before sleep is to meditate. Mindfulness is designed to help people with anxiety, such as “imagine your worries are a balloon and release it”. It is a great time to reflect without low mood or anxiety controlling your mind. ASMR is familiar sounds like the splat of rain or tapping on a box. It commonly helps insomniacs, as it can lull you into sleep.
- Grounding TechniquesI'm sure you've seen the posters in the toilets, but grounding is a technique to stop you from feeling overwhelmed and spaced out. All you need to do is look around and identify 5 things you can see, 4 things you feel, 3 things you hear, 2 things you smell, and 1 thing you taste. Try to do it with your eyes closed using 5 things you can visualise.
- Don't try to force sleepIf you don't feel tired, don't get worked up. Sleep will come, even if it doesn't feel like it. It's not be-all-end-all if you don't sleep. In Mythbusters they found closing your eyes for 20 minutes improves work efficiency by 50%. Do this throughout the day when you need extra energy.
- Get up & have breakfastBreakfast is key. I know a lot of you come to college without it. Eating food with slow-releasing energy like Weetabix can stop you feeling tired and hungry. Even if you wake up too late, the canteen sells cereal and toast that you can grab before lesson.
- Stop using social media before sleepI know, I know. It's hard not to grab your phone when the group chat's lit at 3am. But put your phone on silent and mute your mates for a good night's rest.