Closer Look

Sleep Struggles

Ellen Bauch | The PHOENIX

With 50 percent of college students reporting daytime sleepiness and 70 percent reporting insufficient sleep, according to a National Center for Biotechnology Information study, students — especially the stomach-sleepers and snooze-hitters — might be in need of a few tips and tricks for getting better sleep.

SLEEPING ON YOUR STOMACH

While chiropractors say there is no perfect position for sleeping, sleeping on your stomach is commonly understood to be the worst. It can be stressful on your neck because your head has to rotate (unless you sleep with your face directly in the pillow), according to Archer Chiropractic Clinic.

“It can give you a tummy,” said Dr. Pat Kolwait, a chiropractor at The Joint in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

He says that, when you sleep on your stomach, the effects of gravity can shape your body, leading to a protruding stomach.

“Sleeping face down for eight hours, seven times a week can lead to your spine growing that way,” Kolwait said.

There is still hope for stomach-sleepers, though.

“Placing a firm pillow underneath your hips/stomach will reduce the stress on your low[er] back and neck,” wrote Dr. Daniel Zagst in a Natural News article. Natural News is a health and health science news website.

CHECKING YOUR PHONE IN BED

Beds should only be used for sleep and sex. When people associate beds only with sleep and sex, they are able to fall asleep faster and have a more restful sleep, according to an American Psychological Association (APA) study.

Catching up on emails, posting to a friend’s Facebook wall and playing Candy Crush don’t fit into the sleep-and-sex-only model. It may seem like a quick wind down before bed, but just seeing the screen can be detrimental to sleep.

“The blue light from your device’s screen has a shorter wavelength and reduces melatonin levels in our bodies, thus making it harder to relax and fall asleep,” according to a Lifehack article.

How can you fix this? There are a few options:

1. Don’t play on your phone/tablet/laptop in bed.

2. If you must check your phone, wear sunglasses. This can block out some of the blue light, according to an article by psychologist Dr. Ellen Hendriksen.

3. Download and install f.lux — an app that changes a device’s display based on time of day and reduces blue light at night.

NOT HAVING A BEDTIME

Bedtimes are for kids, right? No. Bedtimes are healthy for everyone.

Dr. Carl W. Bazil, a clinical neurology professor at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, said in a Psychology Today article his number one tip for better sleep is “to sleep at about the same time each night, and wake up at the same time each morning.”

Other doctors and psychologists agree.

The APA encourages sleep schedules but warns against trying to follow them too rigidly. You should still only go to bed when you’re tired, but aiming for about the same time every night will lead to restful sleep.

HITTING THE SNOOZE BUTTON

Perhaps the hardest part of sleep is waking up. While sleep psychologists say the best way to wake up is naturally, this isn’t a feasible option for most people. The second best option? Stop using the snooze button.

Hitting the snooze button or setting a thousand alarms each morning wakes you up multiple times only to go right back to sleep. Once you stop using it, your body becomes accustomed to an uninterrupted sleep cycle, and, eventually, it becomes easier to wake up.

“When you set your alarm, set it for the longest period of time you can sleep and still be on time for wherever you need to be,” wrote Dr. Jeff Brown in a Psychology Today article. “Don’t let your sleep be interrupted multiple times. Instead, get a solid, lengthy period of sleep.”

That’s an easy fix. Just set one alarm and stick to it.

NOT WORKING OUT

Exercising is commonly known to be a healthy habit, but it’s not always associated with better sleep.

2013 poll by the National Sleep Foundation found that people who work out get better sleep. Its results showed self-described exercisers reported better sleep than non-exercisers, even with the same amount of sleep (which was almost seven hours per night).

But if you’re not one to start a daily workout routine just to get a better snooze, don’t worry. A little can go a long way.

“If you are inactive, adding a 10-minute walk every day could improve your likelihood of a good night’s sleep,” said Dr. Max Hirshkowitz, the doctor in charge of the poll, in a press release about the results.

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