After a drawn-out day, you boot up your computer and start working on your online program.
About half an hour in, you start rubbing your eyes. You start blinking less, shifting in your seat more, and you start to zone out. Five minutes later, your mouth cracks open in a colossal yawn that shows off all your teeth. Your eyes feel heavy.
Have you been there? The good news is you’re not alone. The uphill battle to maintain the right amount of sleep is never-ending. The bad news? The role of sleep plays a crucial part in your mental health. It also affects the level of success you have in your online program. The demands of online learning can take its toll on both.
Lack of sleep can lead to decreased focus and productivity. Decreased sleep can increase stress and anxiety and cause a decline in mental health.
In this post, we’ll be taking a deep dive into the role of sleep and mental health. We’ll be talking about how both intertwine with online learning. Stay tuned in for more on the role of sleep in your life and some practical strategies to improve your sleep.
So put your feet up and take some notes while reading. Get ready to focus on your sleep and level up your online learning skills.
Online learning presents unique challenges that can affect a student’s sleep and health. The lack of structure in self-paced programs can make meeting a healthy sleep schedule difficult.
The constant presence of technology and the pressure to stay connected to others can lead to disrupted sleep patterns and decreased sleep quality. In the article by Adams and Kisler on sleep quality, they state, “students who use mobile devices and social networking sites to maintain former relationships…may be at increased risk for sleep problems due to behavioral mechanisms, such as disruptions in sleep hygiene behaviors, and biological mechanisms. Bright lights and active forms of technology increase physiological arousal and suppress melatonin production, therefore delaying sleep onset.”
The role of sleep, and its importance, is paramount for students. Sleep quality often is poor due to heavy technology use, with as many as “89 percent of students [experiencing] sleep problems ranging from occasional to chronic,” Kisler and Adams noted.
Poor sleep can result in a negative impact on your mental health. It also impacts your success rate in online learning. Online learning students need to prioritize their sleep and work towards creating healthy sleep environments and routines.
It’s time to take the role of sleep in your life seriously.
Sleep and mental health are often intertwined.
Mental health issues can disrupt your sleep. Poor sleep can contribute to developing anxiety and depression. The quality of sleep you get can also affect how you function mentally throughout the day.
Maintaining a well-balanced sleep or bedtime routine, like avoiding blue light before bed and drinking less caffeine, can have better long-lasting impacts on your sleep and mental health.
Research has shown that poor sleep quality is linked with mental health difficulties. In their article about sleep quality and mental health, Scott and Alexander et al. state, “poor sleep has…been associated with post-traumatic stress, eating disorders, and psychosis spectrum experiences such as delusions and hallucinations. Studies have also found that specific sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, circadian rhythm disruption, restless leg syndrome, excessive daytime sleepiness and narcolepsy, sleepwalking, and nightmares are all more prevalent in those experiencing mental health difficulties.”
Spreading awareness about the role of sleep in mental health is becoming more important with online learning gaining more popularity.
Sleep is crucial to regulating our emotions, mood, and cognitive functions. Our brains clear out toxins and help to regulate our emotional responses. When we don’t get enough sleep, our brains also can’t perform these tasks.
Mental health problems can interfere with sleep, and poor sleep can worsen mental health problems.
Getting enough sleep is an essential step in treating mental health.
Which do you think is more important: quantity or quality of sleep?
Quality of sleep means how well you sleep, what stages of sleep you reach, and how rested you feel upon waking up.
During a typical night’s sleep, our brains cycle through the different stages of sleep. These stages include light sleep, deep sleep, and REM. To get good quality sleep, you’ll need to achieve the right balance of the different stages of sleep.
Each stage plays a significant role in physical and mental restoration. Deep sleep is good for physical restoration, while REM sleep is vital for cognitive and emotional processing.
How long you spend asleep is also important for your sleep quality. Consistency in the times you sleep helps to regulate your body’s internal clock. Regularly waking up and going to bed at the same time on weekends and weekdays can help you achieve better sleep quality.
In a study done on sleep, Kohyama backs up that quality is more important by stating, “more attention should be paid to obtaining good quality sleep… in terms of avoiding sleep-related health problems.”
What can you do to promote better sleep quality?
Many students are now turning to online learning. Many non-traditional students have other commitments, which can contribute to uneven sleeping patterns.
It’s no real surprise that with so many commitments and responsibilities to manage, sleep can often take a backseat. Sleep can significantly impact your academic performance.
We’re diving into the importance of the role of sleep by establishing a sleep-conducive environment, the importance of a bedtime routine, the impact of technology on sleep, and some sleep-enhancing strategies.
Creating a sleep-conducive environment is essential for getting a good night’s sleep, particularly when you’re an online student.
Some general guidelines for having a comfortable sleep include:
Create a space for sleep that you are comfortable in. The points listed above are general guidelines and might not apply to every person.
If you have your studying space in your bedroom, move it elsewhere. Your bedroom should be a space used only for sleep. Used for anything else, your brain will tend to drift to those things you use the area for rather than relaxing and going to sleep.
Keep your mindset towards sleep simple. It’s a worry-free space.
You’ve heard about bedtime routines. You might’ve tried some. They might’ve worked, or perhaps they didn’t.
The key to routine is consistency.
Establishing a consistent bedtime routine can significantly improve the quality of your sleep. A bedtime routine will signal to your brain and body it’s time to wind down for the day. By creating a routine you’re creating a set of triggers that your brain associates with sleep, making it easier to fall asleep at night.
You can put many different components together to create a bedtime routine. These will be different for everyone and specific to the things you enjoy.
Incorporating techniques like deep breathing or meditation can help reduce stress or anxiety. A little as five minutes a day is enough. If you bring your phone or other electronics into bed to read before sleeping, try replacing them with a physical copy of a book. Blue light an hour before bedtime can affect your REM and other stages of sleep.
Whatever a bedtime routine looks to you, incorporating one can give your brain the triggers it needs to relax. Remember, the trick is consistency, so your brain and body understand it’s time to sleep.
The best thing for your sleep cycle is to avoid blue light-emitting devices like phones, computers, or iPads an hour before bed. The blue light these devices emit can interrupt your body’s natural production of sleep hormones.
We discussed establishing a bedtime routine, but if that fails, you can use “night mode” or blue light filter settings on your devices to help reduce blue light levels. There are several other things you can do like to help reduce your exposure to blue light:
There are many ways to fill your time without screens in the last few hours before bed. Get creative, learn a new skill, or study something new.
By including these activities in your routine, you can improve the quality and quantity of your sleep. This will lead to better well-being.
There are many common strategies for improving sleep. These options include stretching, yoga, exercise, mindfulness, journalling, audiobooks, etc. While these have their health benefits, there are other options available to you.
Some less commonly known strategies to improve your sleep include:
These are some additional strategies in your bedtime arsenal to help you relax and get the sleep you need.
Having a bedtime routine or ways to help you relax before bed have “had large and statistically significant effects on sleep quality” according to Scott and Alexander.
Try a combination of these techniques to see which will work best to improve your sleep as an online student.
The role of sleep in reducing stress and anxiety is crucial. When we are sleep-deprived, we become more anxious, and we carry more tension along with us. When we get appropriate amounts of sleep, we feel less anxious.
Sleep helps you stay alert and energized. Getting enough proper deep sleep allows your body to recover and regenerate. Proper sleep helps to contribute to a more positive mood.
The role of sleep in your life is a priority. Prioritizing sleep and taking steps towards healthier sleep habits can help you succeed in your online courses. You will be more awake, ready to take in information, retain that information more efficiently, and have a longer attention span.
According to the News in Health, the “non-REM stages of sleep seem to prime the brain for good learning the next day. If you haven’t slept, your ability to learn new things could drop by up to 40%.”
You’ve heard of the hippocampus. It’s part of your brain that’s key to making new memories, and a lack of sleep can severely reduce its capabilities. That’s not good news for a student.
Every bit of sleep you can get is essential. Don’t skip or put off your rest. If you are pushing off your sleep, you are damaging your ability to learn, and you don’t need us to tell you the long-term effects of that.
Prioritize your sleeping habits and focus on getting enough restful sleep. Sleep will contribute to better cognitive function and performance in your studies and in your life.
The role of sleep plays a crucial part in maintaining good mental health and being successful in your studies. Sleep helps you to approach your coursework with focus, clarity, and energy. It gives you a more positive outlook and reduces tension and stress.
Lack of sleep can result in forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating. If you want to be a successful online learner, get the sleep you need.
In conclusion, the role of sleep plays a vital role in mental health, academic success, and improved well-being. As an online learner, give yourself the time, space, and rest you need to tackle your studies with energy and focus.
If you’re serious about avoiding the dangers of lack of sleep, make sleep a top priority. Well-rested students make healthier, higher-achieving learners.
Try some of the uncommon strategies we shared, like aromatherapy or a weighted blanket, and adopt a bedtime routine to get your sleep back on track. Follow CanScribe on Facebook, Linkedin, or Instagram for more about the role of sleep and pointers about becoming a successful online learner!
Scott, Alexander P., et al. “Improving Sleep Quality Leads to Better Mental Health: A Meta-analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials.” Sleep Medicine Reviews, vol. 60, Elsevier BV, Sept. 2021, p. 101556. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smrv.2021.101556.
“Sleep on It.” NIH News in Health, 13 July 2017, newsinhealth.nih.gov/2013/04/sleep-it#:~:text=Memories%20seem%20to%20become%20more,memories%2C%20sometimes%20in%20unexpected%20ways.
Kohyama, Jun. “Which Is More Important for Health: Sleep Quantity or Sleep Quality?” Children (Basel), vol. 8, no. 7, MDPI, June 2021, p. 542. https://doi.org/10.3390/children8070542.
Adams, Sue K., and Tiffani S. Kisler. “Sleep Quality as a Mediator Between Technology-Related Sleep Quality, Depression, and Anxiety.” Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, vol. 16, no. 1, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., Jan. 2013, pp. 25–30. https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2012.0157