Sleep On It
Recent studies have shown that sleep is even more important to performance than was previously thought. Research into the ideal length of nighttime sleep for adults strongly suggests 8 hours per night for optimal performance. Even if you can’t sleep 8 hours consistently a night, there are many things you can do to make sure your body gets the most out of sleep.
- Make sleep a priority. Build your schedule around sleep.
- Use electronics wisely. Add blue light filters like Flux or Nightshift to all your electronic devices.
- Power down 30 minutes before going to bed and set your phone to “do not disturb” function to limit nighttime disturbances.
- Limit caffeine intake. Caffeine impairs sleep quality and reduces slow wave sleep. Stop consuming caffeine 6 hours before bedtime.
- Nap wisely. An ideal nap is 20 – 30 minutes long, and no later than 6 hours before bedtime.
- Make your room sleep friendly. The ideal sleep environment is cool, dark, and quiet. Try fans, earplugs, white noise machines, and eye masks to improve your sleep.
There are four stages of sleep followed by a period of sleep known as Rapid Eye Movement (REM). The sleep cycles goes through the stages as follows: 1-2-3-4-3-2-REM, and then repeats throughout the night.
Stages 3 and 4, also known as deep sleep provide restorative and growth-inducing properties, and play a major role in maintaining our general health.
REM sleep plays a major role in promoting memory retention, organization, as well as new learning and performance. This sounds like a perfect stage of sleep needed by college students. As you sleep longer and longer, the length of REM in the overall cycle increases. This is why getting two 4-hour naps in a 24-period is not the same as getting one continuous rest of 8-hours.
REM sleep takes up approximately only 25% of the night, but it has the most restorative processes that occur. It supports daytime performance and provide energy to the brain and body. It is the time when our brains can process the information that we’ve learned throughout the day and file it away to be remembered and used again.
The Importance of Napping
While REM sleep is crucial to overall performance, so is napping. In her mathematics capstone paper in 2011, Macalester student Mei Sun, ‘11 found that “daytime sleepiness” was correlated to lower GPAs. The data she used was taken from the National College Health Assessment administered to Macalester students in the spring of 2009. A great way to reduce daytime sleepiness is by napping.
The ideal nap lasts between 20-30 minutes and occurs between 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm during the day, specifically after you’ve eaten lunch.