Staff Post: How to Avoid Sleep Deprivation and Get the Ultimate Night’s Rest

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Category: Setting Goals, Technology, Wellness

This post was written by Harsh, a popular Green Ivy tutor and neuroscience major.

One of the most important facets of our work here at Green Ivy is helping students improve not only their academic and organizational skills, but also their life habits. Students often don’t realize that their well-bring is composed of many things, including nutrition, stress management and sleep. When asked, most students will say sleep is the number one thing they’d like more of, yet they are usually chronically and habitually sleep deprived. We discuss good “sleep hygiene” with students, and we stress that the sleep is the foundation for everything else, including academic and sports performance, and mental and physical growth.

However, while sleep deprivation is a well-known problem, many students and parents don’t understand what is behind mechanics of a good night’s rest. Our bodies need sleep to maintain our bodies’ essential functions, which are necessary to keep us healthy. According to Harvard Medical School, sleep can be broadly broken down into two types: Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and Non Rapid Eye Movement (NREM). During any given snooze, your brain is cycling through these two stages in a very specific way—in fact, your brain generally starts in NREM, and as time goes by, you become less aware of outside stimuli, entering what is known as “deep sleep.”As NREM concludes, the brain shifts to the infamous REM sleep, which accounts for about 20% of our total sleep, and is thought by experts to be the period in which we dream. These two periods of sleep alternate through the night, with a full “sleep cycle” lasting averaging around 90 minutes.

Interrupting these 90-minute sleep cycles forces our bodies to start over, never allowing them to reach the truly restorative period of sleep that we all need. When this happens, we wake up groggy and unrested. Sleeping for a full number of sleep cycles can rid mornings of this problem, and by tracking your sleep with apps like Sleep Time, individuals can program their alarm to wake them during their lightest sleep cycle, which is ideal. While the exact time that’s best to wake up varies by the person, for most teens, the magic number of total sleep lies right around 9 hours, or 6 full sleep cycles.

Along with helping your children better understand how sleep works, we suggest implementing a “no electronics” rule at an assigned time each night, so that your child’s various screens don’t interfere with getting to (or staying) asleep. Our hope is that once your children experience how good the ultimate night’s rest feels, they will wake up refreshed, happy and relaxed on a much more regular basis.

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