Welcome to September, a time for transition from the dog days of summer to pumpkin spice lattes, and homework, lots of homework. At least that is the case for those who are in school, those in the working world life just continues to hum on by. To help support this transition one of the best things you can do is maintain a consistent sleep schedule.
Sleep is one of the most important foundational practices you need for long term health and well being. A lack of sleep can be costly. One study showed Sleep-deprived participants reported greater subjective stress, anxiety, and anger than rested controls following exposure to the low-stressor condition (Minkel JD), another that specifically, one night of sleep deprivation markedly impairs hippocampal function, imposing a deficit in the ability to commit new experiences to memory (Walk MP). Sleep is even associated with emotional regulation because without sleep, the ability to adequately regulate and express emotions is compromised at both a brain and behavioral level, common to both the positive and negative domains of the emotional spectrum (Goldstein).
Sleep also plays an important role in learning particularly with skilled movements. “Although repeatedly performing a new task often results in learning benefits, leading to the adage ‘‘practice makes perfect,’’ a collection of studies over the past decade has begun to change this concept. Instead, these reports suggest that after initial training, the human brain continues to learn in the absence of further practice, and that this delayed improvement develops during sleep.” (Walker MP and Stickgold R).
Thus if you are a student returning to your school routine, an athlete who is looking for that extra edge on your training, or plumber Joe just looking to live your best life, then getting a good night of sleep should be a high priority. Below are a few tips to help you sleep better.
- Keep a consistent routine, I.E. go to bed around the same time and wake up around the same time every day.
- Turn off the TV, computer, tablet/IPad, or smartphone at least 1-2 hours before your target bed time. Electronic devices emit blue light which stimulates your nervous system thus keeping you awake.
- Create a bedtime ritual, something to signify to your subconscious that it is bed time.
- Get COLD! A decrease in body temperature is associated with deeper sleep. Turn on the AC or take a cold shower.
Goldstein AN, Walker MP. The role of sleep in emotional brain function. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology. 2014: 10:679-708
Horne JA. Sleep function, with particular reference to sleep deprivation. Ann Clin Res. 1985;17:199–208.
Minkel JD, Banks S, Htaik O, Moreta MC, Jones CW, et al. Sleep deprivation and stressors: evidence for elevated negative affect in response to mild stressors when sleep deprived. Emotion. 2012;12:1015–20.
Walker MP. Cognitive consequences of sleep and sleep loss. Sleep Med, 2008: 9, S29-34.Walker MP & Stickgold R. It’s practice, with sleep, that makes perfect: Implications of sleep-dependent learning and plasticity for skill performance. Clinics in Sports Medicine 2005: 24(2):301-17.