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5 ways to improve your sleep

Feeling tired? These strategies will help you get enough rest.
October 20, 2016
By Gabriella Szabo, Health Services

Do you find it difficult to make it to your early morning classes? You may not be getting enough sleep, or enough quality sleep.

People regularly sacrifice sleep in order to work, study, attend to family responsibilities or even just surf the internet.

Getting plenty of restful sleep has many real benefits that include more energy, better mental functioning, improved mood, a lower risk of some diseases including cancer, obesity and diabetes, and a longer life expectancy.

Russell Foster, a neuroscientist at the University of Oxford, says that we are “supremely arrogant” to think that we can abandon four billion years of evolution and try to get by on less sleep.

Not getting the rest you need can get in the way of achieving your goals. Here are five tips to help you get to sleep when you want to, and wake up refreshed.

1. Make sleep a priority

Whether something is a priority is determined by your attitude toward it. If you consider sleep a “waste of time,” better spent on socializing or studying, you are less likely to make time for it.

Adopt the attitude: “My sleep is vital to achieving my goals, and I will make it a priority.”

2. Practice good sleep habits

Behavioural strategies like establishing a regular sleep routine and taking time to wind down will help you have quality sleep and feel fresh and alert during the day.

Another critical strategy is to avoid screens at bedtime, since the light from devices tricks the brain into thinking it is time to be awake.

3. Change the way you think about sleep

It may be useful to explore unhelpful thoughts you have about your sleep like, “My sleep problems are caused by a chemical imbalance, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Learn how to replace unhelpful thoughts with ideas that support good sleep. An approach called cognitive behaviour therapy for insomnia can help, even if you’re not struggling with insomnia.

4.  Avoid sleeping pills and excess caffeine

Some people use stimulants like caffeine to try to reduce sleepiness during the day. Others turn to medication to try to fall, and remain, asleep.

Unfortunately, these have limited usefulness; they cannot improve your performance at work and school, and can have side effects and cause harm.

You will perform better by getting a good night’s sleep than by pulling an “all-nighter.” Building your time management skills can help. Concordia’s Student Success Centre can help students through workshops, handouts containing useful information and even one-on-one appointments with learning specialists

5.  Talk with a health professional if your sleep is not improving

If you have tried the behavioural and cognitive strategies described above and things have not improved, visit Health Services. There are many medical conditions that can lead to trouble sleeping, as well as fatigue. Treating them can help you feel better.

Register now for workshops offered by the Student Success Centre.

Check out the Health Services’ Sleep section for reliable, in-depth, evidence-based information.

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