Most, if not all people, have a routine for their day. Different portions of our days are devoted to specific tasks; running errands, going to school or work, eating, attending to other tasks, and sleeping at night. Of course, not everyone lives their life by this model, as some people have night shifts or classes at night and instead sleep at other points throughout their day. Sleep is very important and affects many aspects of our health, including our physical and mental health. Sleep disorders, however, have the opportunity to disrupt our sleep, leaving us feeling tired or not functioning to our best abilities when awake.
The amount of sleep that we need depends on our age. The younger you are, the more sleep you require for your wellbeing. Although teenagers and young adults do not need 10-13 hours of sleep as pre-schoolers do, they still need a good quality sleep. According to the American Psychiatric Association, teenagers need between 8-10 hours of sleep each night, while young adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Sometimes, sleeping for that long might seem impossible, especially as students, when we may find ourselves doing an assignment or reading at night.
By going to sleep very late, you are more likely to wake up at a later time of day, which shifts your circadian rhythm. According to the Sleep Foundation, circadian rhythm is an internal cycle in our body that includes our sleep-wake cycle. As you go to sleep later and wake up later, your sleep-wake cycle misaligns with your environment; so when it's the middle of the day, you might find yourself still asleep.
When the pandemic began, I saw my sleep-wake cycle get disrupted. I found myself going to sleep later, past midnight on most nights, resulting in me waking up at 11 a.m. or even later sometimes. This change in my sleep-cycle did not satisfy me, I knew that I had to make changes to improve my sleeping habits, and our sleep affects many aspects of our lives. Something that I had begun to indulge in during the pandemic was making and drinking coffee, and I realized that I had to pay attention to when I drank those beverages. If I had drunk them after 3 p.m. it was difficult for me to fall asleep before midnight. In addition to making sure I drank coffee before a certain time I also tried to cut down on how often I consumed coffee in general because I did not want to create a habit where I relied on this drink to feel awake and alert.
To go to sleep early I had to wake up earlier, in other words, I had to make myself get used to waking up at a certain time and then going to sleep at an acceptable time so that I can have a full night's rest of between 7-9 hours of sleep. Soon enough, I found myself going to bed earlier and waking up at a reasonable time, but the most significant change that I noticed was that I did not feel as tired as I did before.
Here are some tips to improve your sleep-wake cycle:
Sleep affects our mental and physical health. Our cognitive functioning and mood are typically better when we are completely rested. If we pay attention to our environment, we will be better equipped to make sure we get the rest that we need, and that includes knowing when to avoid certain stimulants. Sleep may not get the recognition that it deserves, but it is one of the most significant aspects of our overall health, and we should pay attention and make changes early on to our sleep-wake cycle to benefit ourselves.
Here are additional links for more information on sleep disorders:
The presence of COVID-19 has changed many aspects of our lives. This includes the way we learn, work, and even run errands. In addition to these changes in our lives, we are now spending more time at home, which means more time spent with our family than ever before.
Compare your life before the pandemic to your life now and you will realize that you previously spent a greater amount of time outside of your home, be this at school, work or with your friends. But, due to COVID-19, many people, including myself, are getting their education from home.
I live with my family and have been spending a greater amount of time with them now than ever. Before remote learning, my days consisted of waking up early, taking the train to school, and then spending the greater part of my day in classes or at the school library. I would return home late in the afternoon and then I would see my family. Now that my siblings and I are learning remotely, I see them more frequently throughout the day. This new way of life has taken some adjusting, and in some ways I still am. It’s safe to say that learning to share a space with the same people every day for prolonged periods is no easy feat.
You may begin to feel locked down in one place because you are spending so much time in the same environment with the same people. If you have the opportunity, give yourself a break and try going for a walk around your neighborhood. Another tip is to interact with your family. Now that you are spending so much time together, you all have the chance to interact in ways you may not have before. If my siblings and I have the opportunity we might play a card game or a video game. It can be fun to interact together now because people are feeling more isolated.
In addition to interacting with your family, it is essential to maintain the connections that you have with your friends. Many people are not able to meet up and see their friends due to social distancing. However, there are many alternative ways to keep in touch. The most common way is to text or call your friends, and if you want to see their face, setting up a zoom call or facetime can be a good alternative. There are interactive video chatting apps, such as Houseparty, where you can play games together.
Maintaining a connection with your family and friends during challenging times can be tough but it can be rewarding. You can take advantage of the situation that you are in and try to better yourself. Make sure that you avoid being cooped up in one place with the same people all day by going out for walks. Lastly, be sure to check up on friends and plan time to hang out with them virtually.
Below I included some links with ideas of what you can do at home with your family:
Here are additional links to fun activities to do with your friends through a video call:
Having a support system is important for almost anything that you may experience. You can be going through hardships and know that there is at least one person that can help support you during your hardest times. On the other hand, you can be going through an incredibly positive moment in your life, and having somebody to share the news with is just as rewarding. Knowing that there is someone in your life who is willing to support you unconditionally is an amazing feeling. Sometimes having a support system can make all the difference in a person's life. It is believed that having a support system can reap many health benefits.
As a current college student I can openly say that there are times when school can be tough, but having someone to talk to can motivate you to do better and even alleviate the stress that you are experiencing. If you have a close friend that you can talk to instead of bottling up your frustrations you can feel some relief, or maybe you feel more comfortable talking to a family member about your hardships. Some of us may not have an actively present support system in our lives and we may feel alone in our struggles, however, we live in a day and age where most of us have some access to the internet, and the internet, as well as our cell phones, have access to amazing resources that can help us.
When I wanted to talk to somebody anonymously I found a great online resource called the Crisis Text Line. When using the Crisis Text Line, you simply text the word ‘HOME’ to a certain number that is designated based on where you are located, such as the United States, United Kingdom, or Ireland. Within minutes you will be connected with a crisis counselor who can help with many different troubles that you may be experiencing, such as anxiety, depression, stress from school, suicidal thoughts, and more. This is a great resource for anyone experiencing a troubling moment and just talking to somebody can help you immensely.
Having a support system is not only linked to improving mental health, but it can also be responsible for bettering one's physical health, especially concerning your cardiovascular health. For example, common symptoms of anxiety include a rapid heart rate, hyperventilation, and insomnia. All of these symptoms can negatively impact your mental and physical wellbeing, especially if these symptoms are being experienced regularly. Finding a source to talk to and to receive support from can alleviate these symptoms, and even if it is only temporary it can feel like a massive improvement in one's life, and it has the potential to equip you with the ability to cope with these symptoms in the future.
Reaching out for help can be terrifying especially when you do not know how the other person will react, but it can also be a rewarding experience that opens doors for your self-improvement. Whether you find support from your family and friends or an online crisis counselor such as from the Crisis Text Line, you may find yourself feeling better and perhaps better prepared for when you are feeling the same way as you did when you first sought out help.
Here is a link to the Crisis Text Line website in case you may need it in the future: