One fast way to improve your GPA: sleep on it.
In honour of the upcoming Multidisciplinary Sleep Science Conference at TRU, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about what every student wants more of: sleep.
Sleep is strange. Everyone feels lousy when they don’t get enough of it, but will often brag about it, like being exhausted is a sign of how hard you work.
But if Les Matthews had his way, people would look at sleep differently: as a public health issue that they should know more about, much as they once needed to know more about smoking and healthy eating.
Matthews is an associate professor of respiratory therapy with TRU’s Faculty of Science and organizer of the Sleep Science conference. (Check out the deets and register soon; the early-bird price expires on February 15, 2001.) He became interested in sleep science 20 years ago, primarily in the area of sleep apnea and other disorders. But he points out that you don’t need to have a disorder to be affected by tiredness: a growing body of research demonstrates that insufficient sleep plays havoc on all sorts of areas: memory, concentration, even an athlete’s ability to perform. Did you know that students who get more sleep have a higher GPA? They do.
“It isn’t enough for students to study; they have to study and sleep,” Matthews says. “And it isn’t enough just to have eight hours of sleep. If you don’t get the full range of sleep, I say it is the equivalent to eating only hamburgers and French fries.”
(If you don’t know what he means, or if you think that R.E.M is just an ’80s rock band, you may want to read about this device, which tracks your sleep patterns.)
Sleep research is still in its early days; scientists can’t even definitively say why exactly we need to sleep. However, they can all agree that your mother knew what she was talking about when she told you to get a good night’s rest.
“If students take the time to think about their health, I think it will significantly improve their academic performance,” Matthews says. “Recognize that you can only achieve your potential if you take care of your health, and that sleep is a part of that.”
Convinced? Here, from the Centre for Respiratory Health and Sleep Science, a sampling of tips on improving your sleep hygiene:
- Don’t do homework in bed. Nor should you read or watch TV in your bedroom, which should only be used for two things: sleeping and that other horizontal activity.
- Exercise every day. But not within four hours of bed, and likely not at 5 a.m. either, unless you go to bed early enough to counteract the corresponding loss of sleep.
- Limit caffeine intake. Drink no more than two cups per day of your caffeine of choice, and none after 12 p.m.
- Don’t over-imbibe. You may feel like alcohol puts you into a deep, dark, sleep, but in fact it interferes with that healthy sleep diet Mathews talks about. A reasonable guideline: have no more than two drinks on any one day within three hours of bedtime.
- Avoid drugs. Over-the-counter or prescription sleep meds may seem like the best idea since pillow-top mattresses, but some of them can prevent you from getting a balanced sleep, which means you won’t feel much better the next day.
Stay tuned for more sleep tips.