Health happens 24/7. Be in control of yours! Understand the factors that impact your health and learn to make them a priority. Optimize your sleep, nutrition and exercise habits to function at your best both night and day. These components are the trifecta of health.
We eat when we’re hungry, drink when we’re thirsty, and breathe because, well, we need air! So why don’t we sleep when we’re tired? Sleep, much like these other regulated processes, plays a critical role in our health. It is incredibly restorative to the body, as it provides an extended opportunity for repair on a cellular level. Muscle growth, tissue repair and protein synthesis all occur during sleep. According to one study, just one week of getting fewer than 6 hours of sleep a night showed changes to more than 700 genes, many of which were linked to our inflammatory, immune and stress responses.
The recommended hours of sleep for college students is between 7 to 9 hours each night. While this isn’t always realistic, missing hours can quickly accumulate into what is called sleep debt. An hour here or there can quickly add up to many sleepless nights. Did you know that for every hour of lost sleep, your brain is operating as if you had that many drinks? That means an all-night cram session before a test is the equivalent of taking the exam drunk!
Sleep deficiency can lead to:
A weakened immune system
Higher levels of stress
Increased risk of depression
Loss of brain tissue
Long-term sleep deprivation is also linked to various cancers, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Try tacking on an extra hour or two each night to begin ‘paying back’ these hours. As you gradually erase your sleep debt, your body will begin to adjust to a sleep pattern that is right for you. In the meantime, try out some of the smart sleep strategies below!
Want a Better Night’s Sleep?
Shoot for a consistent bedtime and wake-up time
Practice a bedtime ritual (Ex. Hot shower, soothing music, reading)
Design a sleep environment that works for you
Eliminate non-sleep activities in bed (Ex. Homework, studying)
Exercise during the day
Eat a bedtime snack, but avoid heavy meals
Cut off alcohol, caffeine and nicotine consumption earlier in the evening
Avoid day-time napping
Power napping- the exception to the rule! Power napping is a great way to catch up on sleep debt or give your body a quick refresh. Avoid eating just before the nap, and be sure to rest in a quiet, dimly lit environment. These short, mid-day naps max out at about 20 minutes. Don’t forget to set an alarm!
Naps have been shown to:
Increase productivity and alertness
Lead to a better night’s rest
Swap Your Pop
Water-it’s two thirds of your body, so drink up! Thirst is commonly mistaken for hunger. Drinking water over soda, energy drinks and other sugary beverages is also a better alternative for your body. While these drinks are alright in moderation, they are linked to a variety of adverse effects and are really only dehydrating you. Your weight, skin and even muscle tissue will all thank you when you up your water intake.
Benefits of H2O include:
Fuel Your Body
Natural headache relief
Cramping and sprain prevention
Proper nutrition is key to keeping your body functioning at its best. While there is no one diet that will work for everyone, our bodies all require the same vitamins and minerals to feel well. How you choose to get them in is ultimately up to you. Click here for helpful websites related to mindful eating and nutrition tips geared towards college students. You can also meet with a wellness coach at Graham Health Center for free nutrition information. You can find these links under the headers Eat Well and Wellness Coaching.
Physical activity can add years to your life and greatly improve your overall health. Exercise causes our brains to release serration and dopamine, as well as other endorphins. These chemicals communicate with the nerve cells of our body and can serve as powerful mood boosters. Our muscles are also able to release tension and strain through exercise. It doesn’t take hitting the gym five days a week to reap these benefits, either- it can be as simple as a 15 minute walk around the block or a game of pickup basketball. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of daily aerobic activity. Click here for links on developing a plan and being active at any size. See the header Play Well.
Long Term Benefits of Regular Activity
Builds brain power and neuron connections
Strengthens heart and lungs
Protects from heart disease and stroke
Lowers risk of type 2 diabetes and certain cancers
Helps prevent osteoporosis
Maintain a healthy weight
Boosts energy level
Lowers levels of stress hormone cortisol
Increases life expectancy
For information about getting active on campus, visit the Oakland University Recreation Center.
Keep your body hydrated and well nourished. Get outside and do an activity you enjoy! At the end of the day, be sure to get a restful night’s sleep. The best way to live an active, healthy lifestyle is through maintaining a balance in these areas.