As the lazy days of post-semester break come to an end, the painful reality of predawn alarms and endless assignments strike UNIST students. Let us take a look inside a lecture room on one of those days. You will most likely encounter a professor vigorously speaking to students sitting at their desks. If you take a closer look, you will see that students are either nodding off or completely asleep. It is quite natural of you to think that students are not getting enough sleep, especially when they are doing more than ever with their time. However, sleep is not just a quantity, but it is rather about the quality. Have you ever heard one claiming that adults need 8 hours while children need 10 in order to get enough sleep? You better forget that, as the science already accepted it as a myth.
Those who sleep two times less are neither zombies nor supermen - they simply enjoy a much more organized sleep routine. To understand this better, let us break the sleep into phases:
First phase is light sleep phase. It is like when you snooze in a lecture and find out that 5 minutes have passed already when you wake up. Next is deep sleep, usually described as when your brain tries to switch itself off. The third phase will be delta sleep, which is the most crucial phase where your body and brain relaxes, heart rate slows down and the body temperature decreases. Then the REM sleep phase kicks in; your eyes move rapidly from side to side behind closed eyelids. That is why this phase is called REM (Rapid Eye Movement). You breathe faster and irregularly, while your heart rate and blood pressure move back to their normal state. A complete sleep cycle lasts for about 90 minutes and usually repeated several times every night.
Before we start discussing organizing the routine, there is one more thing you should definitely consider – your body temperature. During the day, our body temperature doesn’t stay exactly at 36.6 Celsius degrees but rather it varies plus or minus two degrees. Just like you keep your body temperature high when you are active, accordingly you should keep it low while asleep.
Now that you are aware of how sleep works, let us consider some general rules for an ideal everyday sleep routine. Waking up exactly at the REM phase is crucial. You can find this phase by adding (or subtracting) ten to thirty minutes to (or from) your usual alarm time. Hence, plan your night so you wake up at the end of a sleep cycle - even on weekends. This is for your body to get used to the routine. For instance, if you have to get out of your bed at 6 AM on weekdays, you should do the same on weekends to have your body disciplined. After you succeed leaving your place of rest, it is better to perform around twenty minutes of workout. This way your body temperature will rise and eventually, it will keep you away from falling asleep. During the daytime, drink plenty of water and limit the usage of energizers, alcohol and caffeine alike substances. If you feel sleepy and need to relax, take a power nap for about ten to twenty minutes at noon, keeping in mind that it is vital to wake up before entering the delta phase. And stay cool! You might get a good night’s rest if you sleep in a cool room.
Indeed, everything mentioned above matters a lot, but maybe the most principal factor in having a good sleep is to limit the use of smartphones and social media at least one hour prior to sleeping, as the blue-and-white light given off by your phones can prevent you from falling asleep for a long time.
These tips are so simple, yet they require some conscious effort. All in all, we are all very different people and respond in various ways as to how we can fall asleep better. By following these simple tips every day, not only can UNIST students feel more productive in everything they do, but also feel ready to take on the world!
Originally written for UNIST Journal, 21st volume