Creating a successful sleep routine

A guide to waking up on the right side of the bed

As the semester picks up, it’s important to maintain a healthy sleep routine.

Sleep is as essential to survival as food and water—ask anyone that’s tried to pull an all-nighter during exam season. Without it, you simply can’t function optimally.

There are two types of sleep: rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep. Every night, after your head hits your pillow, your body cycles through all stages of REM and non-REM sleep several times, with the REM period lengthening as the night progresses.

Non-REM sleep is where the body generally rests and repairs itself, whereas REM sleep is thought to help consolidate memories. The majority of dreams occur during REM because the brain is actively sorting through information throughout the stage.

While dreams are typically considered a form of meaningless entertainment or a line of communication with the unconscious mind, the presence of dreams during sleep is also an indicator the brain is cycling through its appropriate stages of sleep without disruption.

Without sufficient REM sleep, the mind is unable to fully reset and prepare for the following day. This can lead to a range of negative psychological effects, including anxiety, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. In the long term, chronic sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain and serious illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease. These negative consequences prove sleep is an important component of a healthy lifestyle.

Accessing the REM stage of sleep can be difficult for adults, who typically only spend about 20 per cent of their sleep in this stage. In the 21st century, people are getting less sleep than required because of longer work hours and widespread availability of entertainment and technology. Stress, alcohol consumption, drug use, and artificial light are all factors that can disrupt REM sleep.

While many people believe weekends can be used to catch up on sleep, this is largely a myth—restful sleep is the product of a regular sleep routine.

A sleep routine begins with the establishment of a set bedtime and morning alarm for the entire week, including weekends. The specific times should be selected so that you get the recommended seven to nine hours per night.

Throughout the day, it’s important to monitor stimulant consumption, as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol can all impact the quality of your sleep if consumed too late in the day. As well, if you want to have a restful sleep at night, it’s critical to avoid afternoon naps.

As your designated bedtime approaches, make an effort to relax. It’s recommended that technology—including Netflix—be turned off an hour before you go to sleep because the stimulation is extremely disruptive.

Finally, hit the sheets exactly when you’ve intended to.

Before getting into bed, limit the general light and sound within your sleep environment to mitigate potential disruptions. You can use earplugs and wear an eye mask if needed. Over time, your body will adjust to your sleep routine, waking up naturally at the same time every day and experiencing tiredness around the same time at night.

As the semester picks up speed, it’s important to maintain a healthy sleep routine so you can dream more and consistently wake up on the right side of the bed every morning.

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