I was about 14 the first time I looked up how much sleep I was supposed to be getting. I was shocked and kind of worried to see that it was seven or eight hours a night – I was getting about four.
I’ve been interested in sleep ever since, but I hadn’t heard about constructive worry until I started working with Dr. Nancy Digdon on a psychology research project about sleep. It’s a simple intervention, and it doesn’t cost anything. All you need is a pencil and piece of paper.
Here’s how it works: Sometime between noon and 2 p.m., write down everything you think you might worry about when you go to bed that night, and come up with an action for each problem.
Around exam time, I might find myself lying in bed worrying about a term I can’t remember from a class. If I take time to worry about it in advance and come up with a solution (making a note to look over the terms again before class the next day), at night I can remind myself that I don’t need to think about it. It clears my mind and allows me to sleep.
I was surprised that something as simple as writing down the things I worry about could make such a big difference in my sleep habits, but it did.
There are lots of other things I learned while doing sleep research that have also helped me get the sleep I need – sticking to a schedule (going to bed and waking up around the same time every day), keeping my phone as far away from my bed as possible, and not reading my textbook or studying in bed (it makes you associate that textbook or studying with the place where you sleep, and that can keep you awake).
Sleep is so important. Getting a good sleep affects every dimension of our health – physical, mental, emotional – and even an extra hour of sleep a day adds up over time. It makes it easier to get up in the morning and to have a more positive outlook on life.
– Nick, 4th year student, Bachelor of Arts, Psychology
Check out more of Dr. Nancy Digdon’s tips to help you set your worries aside and get the rest you need.
This story is part of Changing Minds: Creating a healthy campus – an initiative that makes mental health a priority. The program connects training opportunities, support services, resources and stories from real people across the MacEwan University community.