Hi, my name is Mandi Mader and I work as a Counselor in USG’s Center for Counseling and Consultation (CCC) located inside of the Priddy Library. I have over 20 years of experience working with adolescents, young adults, couples and families with a variety of concerns related to ADHD management, relationship problems, parenting skills, and insomnia. But today, I would like to focus on an area that is so common to college students, and that is lack of sleep.
Sleep deficiency can cause problems with learning, focusing, and reacting. You may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, remembering things, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. You may take longer to finish tasks, have a slower reaction time, and make more mistakes. Sleep deprivation is also linked to a greater risk for anxiety and depression.
A common myth is that people can learn to get by on little sleep with no negative effects. However, research shows that getting enough quality sleep at the right times is crucial for mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.
Ok, now that I have your attention, here are some important tips for getting better sleep:
- Increase your physical exercise! Even a small increase can help.
- Do not go to bed until you are sleepy (more than tired). Ideally, you should fall asleep within 20 minutes of turning the light out. This may mean staying up later.
- Use your bed only for sleeping in.
- If you find yourself tossing and turning for more than 20 minutes, get out of bed until you are sleepy – not just tired. While you are up, do a quiet, non-electronic activity. The key is to associate your bed with relaxation and sleep, not with frustration and being awake.
- Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. Use a sleep mask or ear plugs if necessary.
- Induce the relaxation response. There are many ways to do this, including apps like Calm, or
- Go to bed within a ½ hour of the same time, and get up within ½ an hour of the same time, every day — even weekends.
- Aim for 7 to 8 Hours, no cheating.
- Thirty minutes before sleep, turn off all devices—laptop, iPad, smartphone. Escort your devices out of your bedroom. Download f.lux. This is a gradual screen dimming software. Blue light from our electronics mimics daylight and can delay the release of melatonin.
- Create a relaxing ritual.
- Change into something comfortable.
- Read something non-work related, and not on a screen.
- If you start thinking of things you need to remember, or to do, write them down on a piece of paper.
- No caffeine after 2 or 3pm. No alcohol after 7pm.
- Expose yourself to bright light, ideally sunlight, first thing in the morning and begin to dim lights in the evening.
Remember, we do not need to try to sleep. Our body is designed to sleep. If we increase exercise, keep a schedule, and learn to relax, great sleep is possible. Only YOU can prioritize your health and remember — the only thing that replaces sleep is SLEEP.
If you have trouble a) staying asleep, b) falling asleep, or c) repeatedly waking up too early, three or more times a week for more than one month, you might have insomnia. If you are not sure, and you do not get relief from the above tips, I encourage you to make an appointment at the USG Center for Counseling and Consultation for a free insomnia assessment. To set-up an appointment call 301-738-6273.
Mandi Mader, LCSW-C