Fighting insomnia one night at a time
College students are some of the most sleep-deprived people in the world. Getting the eight hours of sleep that doctors recommend is almost unrealistic due to the busy schedules most college students balance.
According to a study at Brown University 73 percent of college students have occasional sleep problems. Eighteen percent of males and 30 percent of females report that they suffer from insomnia.
Insomnia is a sleep disorder in which a person has trouble falling or staying asleep. People with insomnia wake up feeling tired and often awaken during the night and struggle to fall back asleep.
There are simple ways to beat insomnia and build good sleep habits:
- Avoid caffeine and nicotine later in the day. Stimulants like these can keep you from falling asleep.
- Exercise regularly, but avoid working out late at night. Endorphins are stimulating and will make it hard for your body to relax and fall asleep. It is a good rule of thumb to not work out three or four hours before the time you plan on going to bed.
- If you stay up late at night worrying, make to-do lists before bed. It can help ease your mind if you have a plan for the next day.
- Try not to take naps during the day, because that will make it harder to fall asleep at night.
- Don’t watch TV or look at you phone screen in the dark. Looking at bright screens or artificial light can suppress melatonin secretion, therefore affecting sleep patterns. Melatonin is a major hormone involved in sleep and waking cycles.
- Don’t eat heavy meals late in the day or at night.
Insomnia may or may not be related to other health conditions and can last for months. Insomnia can be caused by life stresses such as moving or a serious break up. Certain types of medications can lead to insomnia or major changes to normal sleep schedule, like pulling all-nighters.
Insomnia can be caused by more serious problems though. Chronic stress, depression and anxiety can all be causes of insomnia. If insomnia persists and interferes with day-to-day functioning, seeking medical help is recommended. The SMU Health Center is a good place to start if you are suffering from insomnia.