You’ve had a long day at school and can’t wait to head home to sleep. But when it’s time for bed…YOU JUST CAN’T FALL ASLEEP!
We discovered this term recently and everything just clicked:
We’re sure you can relate to having jam-packed schedules during the day: classes, socialising, work. Since we have no “autonomy” over our day, we choose to sacrifice sleep for leisure. Students also lack sleep because we feel guilty upon seeing our peers staying up to study or sleeping less as a supposed “badge of honour”.
To find out more, we did a little research to find out how the sleep quality affects us.
Why is sleep so important?
Sleep’s for the weak? Think again. We’ve gathered research findings on how it’s paramount!
Relationship between sleep quality and stress levels
A study (Herawati & Gayatri, 2019) on Indonesian university students found a relationship between sleep quality and stress. Poor sleep quality (higher sleep disturbances, shorter sleep durations), contributes to higher stress levels. This alludes to the importance of having good sleep quality and stress management.
Another research (Li et al., 2019) looked at the same relationship, but studied stress in terms of stressful life events and included two factors: Rumination and Resilience. They found that high scores of stressful life events, together with ruminating on these stressors, predicted worse sleep quality. Interestingly, this negative effect that stressful life events and rumination have on sleep quality declines when one becomes more resilient! Yes, overthinkers losing sleep over embarrassing things you did years ago, rejoice!
But how do we do that? Well, mindfulness might just be the missing puzzle piece.
Relationship between sleep quality and mindfulness
Research shows that by practicing mindfulness and having good sleep quality, one engages in more health-promoting behaviours (Lentz & Brown, 2019). This implies that having good sleep facilitates mindfulness processes and provides a ripple effect on health and wellbeing.
If you’re still on the fence, here is a summary of a TED talk by Matt Walker on how sleep is our superpower. He highlighted that sleep is like a save button for memory whereby a lack of sleep impairs memory and hinders learning capabilities. This is especially relevant for us students fighting for more brainpower and trying our hardest to make it in school.
If you’re one of those people who is proud of “surviving-on-low-sleep”, beware. Having low sleep predicts mortality. Mr Walker said it, not us.
Implications and importance of sleep has major effects in life
With our high academic workload, we are at high risk of sleep-associated problems and health risks, lowering our overall quality of life. Overtime, exposure to constant sleep disturbances can translate into a state of chronic sleep deprivation (Abu‐Snieneh et al., 2020).
Additionally, we tend to become more sensitive when we’re sleep-deprived (Worley, 2018). Perhaps you’ve gotten unreasonably upset over a tiny stressor like running out of milk for your coffee or a baby crying loudly on the train. You can’t help but to be in a “bad mood” in your sleep-deprived state.
To avoid the terrifying side effects, we’ll now share with you useful mindfulness practices that we’ve picked up to help with our crippling bedtime habits. Your journey to better sleep awaits..
How can we have better sleep quality?
Introducing our Bedtime Reflection Practices - reserving 5 minutes each night before bedtime to wind-down.
Pen down what happened and how you felt about your day. Forget about trying to impress anyone with your “fluff” - this journal is for you only. Journaling has no rules, so don’t be afraid to express what you’re thinking. Allow yourself to write (or draw) anything you want for 5 minutes and leave your worries in your journal. Journaling before bed decreases overthinking and worrying, allowing you to fall asleep faster, increasing your sleep time and improving overall sleep quality!
Before you start, decide on how you want to journal:
You can also try jotting down the negative thoughts you have onto a slip of paper. Once you’re done, crush and throw it away. Through this, you are (literally) throwing your bad thoughts away before bed.
If you’re not into journaling, how about meditating?
Meditating before bed prepares the mind and body to rest, helping us fall asleep. Just a few minutes of deep, mindful breaths will allow yourself to be present in the moment. You can include a body scan to notice the different sensations in your body. So if we feel anxious, we will notice our heartbeats, and we can affirm ourselves saying, “we are in our safe space now, it is time to rest”.
3. “Overthinking” space
Improve your association of bed with sleep by using your bed ONLY for sleep. No Netflix, studying, or working on the bed. No overthinking either. Find a time and space in your home to overthink. If you’re stressed, this allocated space is for you to ruminate before getting into bed.
Our Tips: Kickstarting and creating a sustainable bedtime reflection practice!
1. Set Intentions at the Start
Ever get the exhilarating feeling of starting something new and can’t wait to dive straight in? Well, pause! Before starting, reflect on why you would like to practice. Ask questions like ‘how would I like to feel afterwards?’ and envision the feelings it will bring you. This will help you to find a purpose for doing these practices and create an inner desire to continue them. You can come back to this purpose whenever you feel detached from the practice or need a gentle reminder on why you started.
2. Start Small
Don’t rush into things. You might be excited to get things going and have high expectations. However, for this practice to be sustainable in the long run, starting small will be beneficial. Start by trying the different practices for a short 5-minute period. Once you get the hang of it, challenge yourself and increase the time spent or even combine them. Of course, it’s up to your personal preference, your journey with mindfulness isn’t a race!
3. Give Yourself a Break
Everyone has bad days, so cut yourself some slack! On days when you have absolutely no mood to journal, take a break and enjoy some ‘me’ time. Understand that days like these are normal and your feelings are valid. Don’t feel pressured to do a session or feel guilty missing one. You can always revisit this and reflect on your previous mood to become more grounded!
Life is so fast paced, we always give up sleep over our endless responsibilities… Know that you’re not alone in this struggle.
We can break out of autopilot. Fret not, our practice helps us break out of this cycle - to regain control of ourselves and be present in our current situation. Not worrying about what has happened in our day or stress about the things we have to do tomorrow.
Remember, this is not a sprint! With patience, we can slowly cultivate our mindfulness practice, and reap the benefits in the long run. With time, we will grow more aware of our thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations. Eventually, we will learn how to surrender in our present moment, let go (of our worries) and fall….aslee…….
By Ezzah Zafeerah Bte Mohammad, Lee Li Ying, Ginnette Mok Yung Yung, Cheryl Pang Jia Yan, Yee Zia Zia, and Sheena Yong Xin Yi
Abu‐Snieneh, H., Aroury, A., Alsharari, A., Al‐Ghabeesh, S., & Esaileh, A. (2020). Relationship between sleep quality, using social media platforms, and academic performance among university students. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, 56(2), 415–423. https://doi.org/10.1111/ppc.12450
Herawati, K., & Gayatri, D. (2019). The correlation between sleep quality and levels of stress among students in UNIVERSITAS INDONESIA. Enfermería Clínica, 29, 357-361. doi:10.1016/j.enfcli.2019.04.044
Li, Y., Gu, S., Wang, Z., Li, H., Xu, X., Zhu, H., . . . Huang, J. H. (2019). Relationship between stressful life events and sleep quality: Rumination as a mediator and resilience as a moderator. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 10. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00348
Lentz, T. A., & Brown, C. (2018). Mindfulness and health behaviors in college students: The moderating role of sleep. Journal of American College Health, 67(6), 505-514. doi:10.1080/07448481.2018.1497638
Walker, M. (Director). (2019, June 3). Sleep is your superpower [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MuIMqhT8DM
Worley, S. (2018). The Extraordinary Importance of Sleep: The Detrimental Effects of Inadequate Sleep on Health and Public Safety Drive an Explosion of Sleep Research. P&T (Lawrenceville, N.J.), 43(12), 758–763.