Students, the Journal of Adolescent Health has been watching you while you sleep… and they don’t like what they see.
Why? Well, according to the results of a National Sleep Foundation study published in June 20091, you have some serious problems. Researchers concluded that over 60% of you think your sleep quality stinks, and an ‘alarming’ number of you use medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) to help you fall asleep or stay awake. Not surprisingly, they found that emotional and academic stress was most predictive of sleep disturbance.
Why should you care? Well, skipping a little sleep now and then probably won’t kill you. If you’re operating heavy machinery or driving a car or flying a plane, well, you could be a danger to yourself. (Or to me… please sleep.) Chronic sleep deprivation is a major player in mood disorders, motor vehicle accidents, and occupational injuries.
The occasional use of a Tylenol PM probably will do you no harm, but consistent, regular use of any medication for sleep (or for wakefulness) can lead to problems. Some issues, like rebound insomnia, are pesky and inconvenient. Other issues, like drug dependency, are more serious. I’m not kidding! The vast majority of adolescents entering rehab programs in a 2005 University of Arizona study2 reported using psychoactive drugs to control sleep or combat fatigue.
Now for the boring, “Okay, Mom” part. What are some effective and healthy ways to improve your sleep that don’t involve taking a pill?
- Going to bed and waking up about the same time every day – even on weekends.
- A relaxing sleep routine that doesn’t involve television, the computer, the phone, or your Ipod.
- Avoiding alcohol, tobacco and caffeine for a few hours before bedtime.
- Keeping your room as quiet as you can (duh).
- Avoiding naps. If you must nap, try to limit it to 30 minutes or so.
- Exercise, but not right before bed.
Speaking of naps, I might just feel one coming on…
Victoria Rentel MD (OSU SHS)
Sleep Patterns and Predictors of Disturbed Sleep in a Large Population of College Students
Hannah G. Lund, Brian D. Reider, Annie B. Whiting, J. Roxanne Prichard
Journal of Adolescent Health – 03 August 2009
Adolescents, substance abuse, and the treatment of insomnia and daytime sleepiness
Richard R. Bootzin, Sally J. Stevens
Clinical Psychology Review, Volume 25, Issue 5, Insomnia and Behavioral Sleep Medicine, July 2005