A baby sleeps with a smile on her face.

Sleep Like A Baby

School of Nursing

Student packed room 301 in Health Sciences West to lend an open ear to Dr. Felicia De La Garza Mercer of Student Health and Counseling Service. She spoke on sleep hygiene with informative tips, tricks and techniques for the betterment of student health and wellbeing.

The drive to become expert clinicians, scientists, and researchers fuel our scientific inquiry and capacity for knowledge. At times, our quest for excellence can get the best of us as we reach for the stars, sometimes landing on the moon, but most times traversing through health service systems to successfully heal the ones we care about most, our patients.

As the weeks in the quarter go on, our adrenals get a good sweat; cortisol levels increase as hours of sleep take a nosedive. While this might be the case for some, there are steps we can take as busy learners to minimize the torment of sleep deprived days that sometimes leave us with a foggy brain and rusty skill set.

The recommended amount of sleep to function at your best is about seven to nine hours. If you don’t fit in this category due to the demands of school, there are steps you can take to improve sleep hygiene and cognitive function.

Being mindful of how the cognitive and behavior cycle of insomnia plays into our lives is a great place to start; negative thoughts lead to negative emotions, which in turn leads to negative behaviors, that ultimately lead to poor sleep habits and limit cognitive functioning.

Breaking this cycle can give you a piece of mind and may usher in a more productive day. Dr. De La Garza Mercer mentioned some things we can do to improve our sleep hygiene;

  • Have positive expectations on how sleep will affect us
  • Create sleep a routine by maintaining the same wake and bedtime cycle, even on weekends
  • Stop using electronic devices with an illuminated screen 1 hr before bed
  • Spend time outside, get some sun and connect with nature
  • Associate your bed with sleep and sex only
  • Increase your heart rate with daily exercise
  • Stop studying 30min-1hr before bed to calm your mind
  • Abstain from liquids, large meals and alcohol before bed
  • Maintain a dark comfortable sleep environment
  • Avoid naps during the day

Fifteen minutes were also set aside where students were walked through a progressive muscle relaxation technique in a two-step process. Eyes were closed while students were instructed in a soft-spoken, therapeutic voice, to intentionally bring focus and clench a particular muscle group.

After several seconds, the clench was released to find that particular area of the body in a less tense state. Progressive muscle relaxation can improve sleep and decrease overall stress levels throughout the day.

“What I gained most from this talk was the guided meditation,” said Nate Wilkinson, an Adult-Gero Primary Care NP student in the School of Nursing. “It was really helpful to get an example of her walking me through the process in a systematic approach, working my way through the body to a relaxed state of mind.”

Spring outreach events such as Dr. De La Garza Mercer’s talk are held from noon to 1 p.m. every Wednesday from April 1 to May 3 in HSW 301, and on May 10 in N271. Free lunch is provided for student attendees with RSVP.