Updated: Aug 26
My sleeping pattern is something that I have always struggled with. During high school, I would stay up late doing the hours of homework that had been assigned to me. Along with spending time on myself, maintaining a social life, and spending quality time with my family, I also spent a lot of time at team practices and doing extra-curricular activities before and after classes. I viewed participating in a lot of different activities as a way to discover the things that I was truly passionate about, and I thought that exploring different interests would strengthen my post-secondary applications. I genuinely enjoyed spending time doing these activities, they were a great break from my academic demands and were an outlet for me to express my creativity. My extra-curricular activities also taught me different life skills and lessons, so I valued them and chose not to give any of them up.
I spent a lot of time studying and practicing to make sure that my academic and extra-curricular performances were the best that they could be. As a result, my sleep pattern always seemed to suffer because sleep was the first thing that I would compromise to make sure that I had enough time to prepare for school and extra-curricular activities. I developed unhealthy and maladaptive sleep habits, and have developed even worse habits to maintain my awful sleeping pattern, which has become so inconsistent that it is barely a pattern. I feel tired at times during the days, and I worry because I know that not getting enough sleep is bad for my health. What are some healthy sleep habits that I can learn to help me develop and maintain a healthy sleeping pattern?
Response To Student Narrative
Hello! Thank you for sharing your experience with the EVOLVERE community. We understand and can relate to your experience. Although you should not have to stop participating in activities that you enjoy and benefit from, we encourage you to prioritize your health and well-being by following a well-balanced schedule that gives you ample time to rest.
Consistently getting little to no sleep may not seem like a big deal in the short term, but it can have serious consequences for your health in the long-run and negatively impact your performance at school and in your extra-curricular activities. It is great to hear that you are interested in changing your unhealthy and maladaptive habits in favour of healthy habits that will help you develop and maintain a healthy sleeping pattern. Being aware of your negative habits and choosing to change them can go a long way towards helping you accomplish your goal.
We would like to share some tips and strategies that we have learned from our experiences and that have helped us develop and maintain a healthy sleeping pattern. It is important to remember that we are all unique, so the tips and strategies that work for some of us may not work for others. Finding what works best for you may require testing different tips and strategies. Try not to get discouraged by tips and strategies that do not work for you, instead, try another approach and remember that you are working towards improving your overall health and well-being.
1. Do Not Let Sleeping Troubles Stress You Out
Being aware of your unhealthy and maladaptive sleep habits is a step towards adopting healthier habits, but thinking about these negative habits to the point where you become stressed out can take you a few steps backwards. Feeling stressed out about any of the different circumstances that you may be experiencing can detract from the quantity and quality of the sleep that you are able to get. As your mind starts to race with different thoughts, it becomes harder for you to fall asleep and stay asleep, which can further stress you out and create a sleepless cycle that negatively impacts your health and well-being. Before you go to bed, try to distance stressful thoughts.
2. Create a routine and stick with it
Sleep-related routines can help you develop and maintain healthy sleep habits. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day can improve the quality of your sleep, and make it easier for you to fall asleep and wake up. Creating a pre-sleep routine can also help prepare your mind and body for sleep, which can help you fall asleep faster and easier. Meditating and taking a warm bath or shower are examples of activities that can encourage a sleep-oriented mindset, and the familiarity that can develop as you continue to practice this pre-sleep routine can help you feel tired and make it easier for you to fall asleep.
Consistency is key to receiving the benefits of sleep-related routines, so try not to hit the snooze button or sleep in on the weekends. If maintaining your routine becomes difficult or if you start to stray from it, try to keep working at it, and remember that it will help improve your health and well-being in the long run and become easier to follow if you consistently practice it.
3. Limit your caffeine intake
Stimulants are substances that can make you feel alert and energetic. Consuming stimulants within a few hours before you go to bed can prevent you from falling and staying asleep. Caffeine is a common stimulant that can be found in many food and drink products, such as coffee, tea, chocolate, and sodas. Limiting your consumption of caffeine-containing foods and drinks, especially in the afternoon and evening, or avoiding these products, can help you fall and stay asleep. Remember that nicotine and excess quantities of alcohol can also interfere with your ability to fall and stay asleep.
4. Practice relaxation techniques
Get into a sleep-oriented mindset and distance stressful thoughts by practicing relaxation techniques before you go to bed. Incorporating relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, practicing mindfulness, and progressive relaxation into your pre-sleep routine, can help you fall and stay asleep.
5. Make your sleeping environment comfortable
The perfect sleeping environment varies from person to person. While some prefer to sleep on a soft mattress with a dim light in complete silence at a cool temperature, others prefer to sleep on a harder mattress while listening to music or other soothing sounds in complete darkness at a warm temperature. Generally, quiet, dark, and slightly cool rooms encourage sleep, but you should try different options to find the sleeping environment that is most comfortable for you.
6. Limit late-night snacking
The type of food that you consume within a few hours of the time that you plan to go to bed can influence the quality of your sleep. Heavy food and food that is greasy, acidic, or spicy, can disrupt your sleep by causing indigestion or upsetting your stomach. If you feel hungry within a few hours of when you are planning to go to sleep, try to limit your snacking to food that you have eaten before and were not been disruptive for you. Remember to avoid food that contains caffeine, such as chocolate or soda, while late-night snacking.
7. Be aware of late-night exercising
Exercising within a few hours before you plan to go to bed impacts sleep differently for different people. Some individuals prefer to exercise earlier in the day and find that this routine improves the quality and duration of their sleep at night, while others receive the same benefits from exercising a few hours before going to bed. Exercise generally causes physiological effects that lead to people feeling alert and energized, which can prevent them from falling and staying asleep. However, less strenuous exercises may cause less of a physiological response and have little to no effect on sleep. The type of exercise performed and an individual’s subjective experience with its effect on their sleep may vary from others’ experiences, so try different exercise options at different times of the day to see which option is best for you.
8. Limit your liquid intake
Whether you are drinking water, juice, or alcohol, consuming excess fluids within a few hours of going to bed can disrupt your sleep by causing you to have to wake and use the restroom during the night. Additionally, the contents of the drink can cause you to feel alert and energized, which can prevent you from falling asleep. If you feel thirsty before heading to bed, try limiting your liquid intake to drinks without stimulants or stimulating additives.
9. Limit daytime naps
Taking multiple or lengthy naps during the day, or within a few hours of going to bed, can interfere with your ability to fall and stay asleep. While short naps that are less than half an hour can help you feel alert and energized, longer naps do not typically allow a full sleep cycle to be completed and can cause you to feel unfocused and lethargic. Additionally, taking multiple naps can interfere with your ability to fall asleep when you ultimately decide to get a full night’s sleep, as can napping a few hours before the time that you plan to go to bed. Do not force yourself to stay awake when you feel exhausted, but do not overdo it with the naps. Try to limit the number of naps that you take and their duration to thirty minutes, and try to nap early in the day to help you fall and stay asleep when you are ready for a full night’s sleep.
10. Monitor your light exposure
Natural light and blue light can impact the quality and duration of your sleep. Exposure to natural light, or sunlight, causes physiological effects that can lead to you feeling alert and energized, while exposure to darkness causes physiological effects that can leave you feeling tired. Exposing yourself to light and darkness when you are ready to wake up or go to bed can be implemented into your daily routine to help you maintain healthy sleep habits and an adaptive sleeping pattern.
The effects of being exposed to blue light, which is emitted from many electronic devices, mirrors the effects of being exposed to natural light. Try to avoid scrolling through your social media feeds before going to bed and limit your exposure to electronics from televisions to laptops, to help you get a good night’s rest.
How is your sleeping pattern holding up?
Let us know in the comments below!