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World Sleep Day: tips and support for quality sleep

Written by: Daniella Marley, VP Wellbeing and Diversity

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Today is World Sleep Day (Friday 15th March).

World Sleep Day raises awareness of the importance of good sleep health for everyone. As your VP for Wellbeing  and Diversity, I want to help raise awareness of sleep health and how you can improve your sleep!

 


 

The NHS state that nearly one in three of us suffer from poor sleep and the Mental Health Foundation found that nearly (48%) of UK adults agreed that sleeping badly has a negative effect on their mental health. Quality sleep is essential to good mental health and living a happy life. It's important we take time to raise awareness of this, and World Sleep Day is a great time to do just that.

 


 

How much sleep do you really need? 

On average, adults need roughly eight hours of sleep per night. However, it’s important to listen to your body, so when you wake up feeling your best, track how many hours of sleep you had or remember your nighttime routine. This way you can recreate what works best for you.   

 

The stages of sleep 

Sleep happens in a series of recurring sleep stages. Each stage plays a part in restoring us and preparing us for the day ahead.  

Stages of sleep: 

  1. Drowsiness—we are feeling tired and ready to slip into slumber 
  2. Deep restorative sleep (non-dreaming deep sleep) 
  3. Alert stages (non-dreaming light sleep) 
  4. Dreaming stages (REM sleep) 

 Each cycle lasts about 90 minutes and repeats four to six times over the course of a night.  

For good quality sleep, these stages repeat uninterrupted. But if you find yourself stressed, anxious or not sleeping well, then you may wake and interrupt these cycles, which can leave you tired and irritated the next day. 

Our body needs all the stages of sleep to feel our best. Deep sleep renews the body and helps us feel energised the next day. It also boosts our immune system and is imperative for our growth and development. Deep sleep also secretes a growth hormone that helps the body repair itself.  

REM or dreaming sleep renews our mind. It allows our brain to process and bring together what we have learned in the day and helps strengthen our memory. REM sleep also helps boost our mood by replenishing our brain’s chemical messengers. 

Sleep isn’t just about the number of hours of shuteye we get each night, but the quality of sleep we get can have a significant impact on our overall health. 

 

A huge impact on our sleep health? Light and screens.  

Screens have a significant effect on our sleep because light is one of the most powerful regulators of our internal body clock. Our brains normally secrete more melatonin when darkness falls, making us tired and ready for sleep, but with TVs, tablets, laptops, and cell phones, we are getting more light at night, preventing melatonin production making us less drowsy and unable to fall asleep at a normal time. 

 

Other factors that can prevent quality sleep: 

  • Stressful events of the day 
  • Difficult life situations, such as losing a loved one 
  • Worrying about studies, relationships, work, etc. 
  • Anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress 
  • Poor physical health or side effects of medications 
  • Use of stimulants or lifestyle habits that work against your internal clock  

 

How to improve sleep:

We may try to combat tiredness with naps, coffee, and alcohol, but these actually disrupt our sleep even further. 

Lifestyle changes or improving your ‘sleep hygiene’ can help you get back on track after sleepless nights or waking up feeling tired.  

Try some of these tips to work on improving your sleep: 

  • Create a schedule to make sleep a priority and prevent you from staying up late. 
  • Avoid screen time while in bed. The blue light from your devices blocks melatonin, preventing us from getting tired. Try using laptops or phones at a table or desk and watching TV on the couch and not in bed.  
  • Cut down on caffeine later in the day. Ideally, cut out caffeine eight hours before bed.  
  • Nicotine and alcohol are stimulants that can prevent us from feeling tired and sleeping. Keep this in mind as you assess your sleep hygiene.  

 


 

Support if you are struggling to sleep:

Sleep is imperative to our physical and mental health. We need proper sleep to feel refreshed to take on the day. If you find yourself struggling with sleep, you can reach out to health care professionals, University services, or Togetherall.

 

Click on the links below to find out more information on how these services can support you when it comes to getting quality sleep:

  • University Student Wellbeing Services
  • Together All: has courses and resources to help you better understand your relationship with sleep so you can feel better and handle everything life throws your way. Togetherall offers a safe and anonymous community where people can connect to share their experiences and get (or give) the support they need. 

 

 

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