On university campuses, sporting black circles under your eyes is often seen as a badge of honour.
Lack of sleep is so normalized, according to Helena Dayal and Zac Berg, both counsellors with Wellness and Psychological Services (WPS), that phrases like ‘I pulled an all-nighter last week,’ or ‘I can get by on four hours,’ often come with bragging rights.
But giving your brain the time it needs to rest isn’t really optional when it comes to performing at your best. “Sleep plays a big role in short-term to long-term memory, cognitive function and verbal skills,” says Zac. “But it’s often the first thing to go when students are trying to balance school, work and sleep.”
Shut-eye also plays a big part in helping students manage the stressors that come with student life – whether that’s worrying about final exams or dealing with a relationship that’s in turmoil. It’s so strongly tied to mood and mental health, that MacEwan’s counsellors chose to dedicate an entire session to sleep in their series of 45-minute Bouncing Back and Moving Forward workshops.
“‘How are you sleeping?’ is among the first questions we ask the students who we see,” says Helena. “We wanted students to see the importance of sleep, to clarify misconceptions and to teach some of the strategies that we cover in therapy.”
If you weren’t able to attend, here are a few tips from Helena and Zac:
1. Make your bed a sacred space
When your bed starts to double as your dining room or becomes your binge-watching spot of choice, it’s harder for your brain to associate your pillowtop with sleep.
2. Remember that falling asleep is a process
Give your body the time it needs to wind down. Create a routine that allows you to relax and unwind so your body – and brain – are ready when it’s time to fall asleep.
3. Go offline
It’s tempting to stay online until the second you close your eyes, but putting your phone away (outside your bedroom to avoid temptation) for an hour makes it easier to fall asleep.
4. Be kind to your body
Tiring out your body physically can make it easier to rest mentally. Eating well and exercise both have a role to play in getting a good night’s sleep.
5. Be patient with yourself
Lying awake and trying to force yourself to go to sleep is frustrating – and unproductive.
6. Manage anxiety
Anxiety is at the root of what keeps a lot of us awake at night. If you need strategies to help you manage anxiety that don’t involve counting sheep, sign up for Bouncing Back and Moving Forward: Anxiety Management workshop on March 19.
For more information and to sign up for upcoming Bouncing Back and Moving Forward workshops (including one on March 20 focused on goal setting) go to MacEwan Life.
We acknowledge that the land on which we gather in Treaty Six Territory is the traditional gathering place for many Indigenous people. We honour and respect the history, languages, ceremonies and culture of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit who call this territory home.