Are you getting enough sleep? It’s super important that you get a quality eight hours or more each night, especially when studying.
We spoke to Cheryl Fingleson, The Sleep Coach, on how and why sleep can help you study more efficiently and retain information better.
“Not only is sleep critical in the functioning of all body systems,” says Cheryl, “but research has proved a direct correlation between our ability to learn and process memories, and our sleeping habits. Studies show that too little sleep can contribute to the poor ability to learn or retain information, depression, high blood pressure and disease.
“For all of us, memory and learning are consolidated during sleep. This is true for both adolescents writing high school exams as well as adults undertaking ongoing education. Memory and learning are processed and integrated during REM sleep - the phase in the sleep cycle that happens after deep sleep.”
Feeling stressed? Skipping sleep in an attempt to fit everything in is the last thing you should do, says Cheryl.
“Stressful times are in fact when sleep should be our highest priority, says Cheryl. “It can be very challenging to unwind during stressful times, given our bodies in built mechanisms to produce adrenaline, cortisol and other “energy” chemicals during challenging times.
“During stressful times many of us are tempted to forgo sleep in order to achieve other competing priorities. Unfortunately, this is often counterproductive - because with fewer hours to reach the REM phase, the brain doesn’t get enough time to lay down what we’ve learnedduring the previous hours.
“Not only does sleep strengthen learning and memories - it also has the ability to prioritise memories by breaking them up and organising them according to their emotional importance.
“Essentially the more you learn, the more you need to sleep which is why a good sleep is critical in achieving success regardless of your phase of life or leaning. The good news is that with preparation, priority and practice a good night’s sleep is still totally achievable, no matter what the circumstances.”
Cheryl’s Top Tips To Better Sleep And Study
By employing just a few of the below techniques, you should notice a big change in your mental and physical health and sleep quality.
- Prioritise relaxation
In the evening hours, decrease stimulation. Dim the lights and slow things down. Do something relaxing, such as reading, practicing yoga, taking a bath or initiating happy conversations.
- Quit caffeine by noon
Caffeine can stay in your body for hours after consuming it. Caffeine’s effects vary from person to person, but in general, try completely eliminating it from midday onwards, or better yet, cut it out altogether.
- Have a sleepy meal at dinnertime
Eat foods containing nutrients that promote sleep, including tryptophan, melatonin and magnesium. At dinner, eat a combination of high-quality proteins and complex carbohydrates. The internet provides a plethora of delicious options to try!
- Have a firm bed time
Aim to go to bed around the same time every night. I recommend most adults aim for a 10pm to 6am routine.
- Practice left-nostril breathing
Block off your right nostril with your right thumb and take long slow deep breaths through your left nostril only. Left-nostril breathing has a soothing and relaxing effect on the body mind. In Kundalini Yoga, it’s suggested that you take 26 long, slow deep breaths in this manner to produce a relaxing effect on the mind and body.
- Shift your perspective
Examine any fear-based beliefs about sleep. Fearful thoughts create tension, hindering deep sleep. Cheryl recommends the affirmation, "I choose to relax and let go now."
- Play with lighting and sound
Aligning our internal rhythms with those of nature sets us up for more restful sleep. Make a point to get exposure to sunlight during the day and in the evening, sleep in a very dark room.
- Take a relaxation bath
Water, salts and essential oils can be a balm for any stressed soul.
- Try mediation, massage or another relaxation technique
You can also try a progressive muscle relaxation or a guided meditation (available for free on the internet.) Ask a partner for a massage and practise gratitude.
- Take relaxation breaks during the day
Try taking at least one short relaxation break perday so that you’re not in a state of overwhelm by evening time.