Losing sleep over school, assignments and tests? We’ve totally been there. A lack of quality sleep can often make us feel like a bit like zombie with the attention span of a goldfish, so we enlisted the help of stress expert Dr. Chris Seton from Woolcock Institute of Medical Research to figure out how to get you a good night’s sleep ASAP!
FIGHT OR FLIGHT
First of all, why can’t your brain just power down? Turns out there’s a good reason and it’s called the fight or flight response. You know that feeling you get when you know there’s danger around and your body’s just like, ‘Oh helllll no’? That’s your fight or flight response kicking in.
“When you’re stressed, there’s an outpouring of neurochemicals including cortisol (a steroid), and adrenalin, and these hormones wake you up,” Dr Chris says.
“They’re the same chemicals that would occur if you were walking through the jungle and a tiger jumped out in front of you so you can run fast.”
So basically, stress causes these chemicals to keep you alert and therefore unable to sleep properly.
GET SOME Z’S ASAP
OK, turns out that stressy chemical cocktail is keeping you out of the land of nod and back in the land of ‘arrrgh!’. Dr Chris says there are a couple of things that can help. One is CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) the other is mindfulness (yep, it’s everywhere rn). Another thing that can help is solid pre-bedtime routine. While this won’t solve it instantly, repeating this method over 3-4 weeks can get the
brain to sleep within 15 minutes of going to bed, according to Dr Chris.
He recommends these routines:
ONE HOUR BEFORE BED: we encourage people to think about what exactly is stressing them at least an hour before they go to bed, to ‘get it out of the way’. Write it down, observe and think, then put it out of mind.
45 MINS BEFORE BED: This is when relaxing activities should begin to induce sleep. This can include meditation to take your mind of negative moods (there are several apps that take only a few minutes), yoga, gentle stretching, reading or chilled music. Pick three things and stick to them each and every night.
What to avoid:
- Thinking of stressful thoughts during the hour before bed. One way of doing this is to create a ~chill~ playlist on Spotify of your fave relaxing and listen to it each night.
- Electronic screens as the brightness suppress your sleep hormone (called melatonin). If that’s totally not going to happen, then download an app like ‘FlexBright’, which changes your phone’s brightness to suit the time of day.
- Any caffeinated drinks in the hours before bed; that means skipping that arvo latte!
- When you’re tired, you have much more trouble soaking up info. So, anything you learn in that geography lesson won’t even make it in to your short-term memory - eek!
- You guys actually need MORE sleep than adults (so you totally have an excuse to sleep in on weekends). Docs recommend around 9 hours a night for people aged 13-18.
- Studies show you guys actually have a ‘late’ body clock – so inthe US some schools will start later to accommodate this (that extra hour of sleep would be awesome, right?)
For more info on how you can say ‘see ya’ to stress and sleep better, check out sleepshack.com.au.