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What are some ways to battle insomnia?

A good way to start assessing insomnia (the inability to initiate or maintain sleep), is to figure out the pattern and what might be causing it. Everyone will experience insomnia at some point in their lives from stress, anxiety, or environmental factors but consistent insomnia can be a problem and can affect the quality of life of individuals. There are medications that can help with insomnia but it’s important to remember that these should only be used for a short period of time because the body will build a resistance.

Tips that may help with insomnia are:

  • Avoid nicotine, alcohol, and sugar before bed.
  • Only use your bed for sleep and sex.
  • Sleep in a cool, dark, quiet room.
  • Establish an exercise routine but avoid exercising before bed.
  • Establish a bedtime routine.
  • Try to avoid using your computer or watching TV right before bed.
  • Keep a consistent sleep/wake schedule.
  • If you need to, take short power naps during the day.
  • Try not to get behind in school or work, the stress can cause sleepless nights.

If insomnia lasts more than three weeks and the quality of life is affected by sleepiness, impaired motor skills, or difficulty with memory, a visit to the doctor may be needed. To set up an appointment with the Health Center, please call (208) 426-1459.

Why do we need sleep?

There isn’t a clear reason as to why we need sleep but science proves that it is vital to both our physical and mental health. Physically, sleep allows the body to replenish energy levels. Our bodies repair muscles, tissues and replace chemical and aging cells while we sleep. During childhood and early adulthood growth hormones are released during sleep. It is thought that our brains repair the synaptic connections that have been shifted during the day. Our brain organizes information, throws out useless information, reinforces memory, and solves problems as we sleep.

What are the consequences of "all-nighters"?

Although our busy schedules may leave us feeling as though an all-nighter is the only option and in some cases it is; all nighters should be avoided. A study conducted at Lawrence University (Canton, N.Y.), showed that students who regularly pulled all-nighters had lower GPAs than those who didn’t regularly pull all-nighters. The body isn’t built to function at its best with no sleep. Sleep allows the brain to organize information and discard any useless information. Without sleep, the brain is unable to sift through information and your memory is affected. Not sleeping can also obviously cause physical discomfort like fatigue that can affect performance. The lack of sleep also effects the immune system and lowers its ability to fight illnesses.

I heard that sleeping for odd hours is better, like 7, 9, or 11 hours, is that true?

Some individuals believe that sleeping for odd hours will help to get full cycles of REM sleep, which typically last 90 minutes. But it’s important to remember that every individual is different and has different sleep patterns. Some individuals may take longer reaching REM sleep than others. Getting enough sleep is far more important than trying to get odd or even hours. Knowing how much sleep you need can allow you to get the best out of your sleep.

How many hours of sleep a night do you need?

Most adults typically require 7-8 hours of sleep each night but every individual is different and can require more or less than the recommended amount. Other factors such as pregnancy, stress, and age can affect the amount of sleep you need. If you experience drowsiness, even during boring activities, you probably aren’t getting enough sleep.

What types of things can cause sleep disturbances?

There are many factors that can contribute to sleep disturbances but the most common are:

  • Stress and anxiety about the day’s events or the future
  • The use of alcohol or nicotine before bed
  • Consuming caffeine or sugar late in the day
  • Exercising before bed
  • Working, studying, or watching TV before bed
  • Physical conditions, such as noise, light, temperature, or a tossing and turning bedmate

There are also many sleep disorders that should be considered. Common sleep disorders are; insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and narcolepsy. The underlying symptoms of these conditions are:

  • Feeling unrested and fatigued during the day
  • Gasping or snorting during sleep
  • Creepy, crawly feelings in the legs and back
  • Loss of muscle control with emotion
  • The inability to fall asleep or stay asleep
  • Hallucinations or vivid dreams while falling asleep

If you have any of these symptoms more than three times a week or your quality of life is affected, contact the Health Center at (208) 426-2459.

How much is the lowest amount of sleep a person can have in a day?

The lowest amount of sleep an individual needs to function is dependent on the individual. Some individuals have trained themselves to require less sleep and others require less sleep during the night and a long nap during the day. Studies have suggested the least amount of sleep needed to function is four hours, but this varies from individual to individual.

Do you get better sleep going to bed early and waking up early or going to bed late and waking up late?

Typically good sleep depends on the amount and quality of sleep that an individual has. Going to bed early and waking up early or going to bed late and waking up late is fine either way. It’s really up to the individual to decide what they are comfortable with and what works best for their schedule. Just remember to stay consistent.

What are some strategies that I can use to regulate my sleeping habits?

Keeping regular sleep habits in college can be tough, but you will benefit from a healthy sleep pattern. Getting out of bed each morning can be tough if you don’t have anything to get out of bed for. Arrange your schedule so that you have work or classes at the same time every day so you have a reason to get out of bed. Getting up early will help you go to bed early. Try not to get behind in your studies, staying up late for homework, or stressing about assignment can disrupt you sleeping patterns. Avoid caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol late in the day. You should also avoid exercise before bed. Doing something relaxing can help your body wind down. Developing a nightly routine can also help you get to bed.

What is the best time to go to sleep?

Ideally you should go to sleep when you’re tired but most of our schedules don’t allow us to do that. So the best time to go to sleep is when your schedule allows you to get eight hours of sleep. If you find yourself tired during the day a short 10 minute powernap might help or you can try increasing the number of hours that you sleep each night.

What are some effects of sleep deprivation?

Sleep deprivation affects both your mental and physical health. Inadequate sleep impairs our body’s ability to maintain a healthy immune system, handle stress, think, and moderate our emotions. The brain isn’t able to work effectively without sleep which causes memory to be impaired and concentration levels to drop. Problem solving and decision making abilities are also compromised with insufficient sleep.

Other sleep deprivation effects include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Depression
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • Irritability
  • Slower reaction times
  • Slurred speech
  • Tremors

Do people sleep better when it's colder in their house or warmer?

Everyone has different preferences but a majority of people will sleep most comfortably in a cool room. A temperature anywhere between 65-72 degrees Fahrenheit can provide the most comfort because it will lower the body’s core temperature. A mild drop in body temperature can induce sleep. Sleeping under covers that can be easily removed for comfort can be beneficial as well.

Should sleep hurt your bones?

Typically sleep shouldn’t hurt your bones. It may be possible to mistake bone pain for joint or muscle pain which is more common. Joint or muscle pain can be caused by stress or strenuous activity during the day and can usually be relieved by rest. If you are positive that it’s your bones that are hurting, you should consult a physician right away. Bone pain can be associated with more serious health problems.

How do you know if you are in REM sleep?

REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep usually occurs 90 minutes after the onset of sleep. REM sleep will steadily increase throughout the night during each sleep cycle with the longest lasting approximately an hour.

This is what the body goes through when you’re in REM sleep:

  • Brain wave patterns become similar to those you have when you’re awake
  • Eyes move rapidly and in different directions
  • Respiration and heart rate become erratic
  • Twitching in the legs, fingers, and face occur
  • Major voluntary muscle groups become paralyzed
  • Intense dreaming

Although brain activity increases during REM sleep, you most likely won’t know when you’re in REM sleep since you’re not exactly in a conscious state. Being able to recognize when you’re dreaming or experiencing sleep paralysis may be the best way to identify REM sleep.

If I take a nap everyday, does it count towards my nightly sleep? Or does it throw off my sleep cycles?

Naps during the day don’t count towards the 7-9 hours of sleep that you should be getting during the night. You should strive for at least 8 hours of continuous sleep each night in order to wake feeling refreshed. Naps can affect your sleep cycle if you take naps that are longer than 20 minutes or if you take naps late in the day. Naps should be taken no later than early afternoon and should only last for ten minutes. Ten minute power naps allow you to awake feeling more alert without grogginess.

If you feel you need a nap after a bad night's sleep, is it better to nap in the morning or afternoon? How long should the nap be? How can I avoid being groggy afterwards?

The morning or early afternoon is the best time to take a nap because it won’t interfere with your nightly sleeping pattern. A short power nap of no longer than 10 minutes is the most beneficial because you stay in the light stages of sleep and wake feeling less groggy.

Is there any instant solution to daytime sleepiness? Foods to eat?

The best way to avoid daytime sleepiness is to get an adequate amount of sleep during the night. Typically individuals require anywhere from 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Unfortunately there aren’t many foods that can keep you awake all day. Drinking coffee or foods high in caffeine or sugar can leave you feeling more tired after their effects wear off. Most people find that drowsiness is experienced most frequently after lunch. It has been suggested that light lunches high in protein can decrease this drowsiness. Heavier meals that are high in fat, carbohydrates, and sugar can leave you feeling drowsy. You can also take a short 10 minute power nap, which will leave you refreshed without grogginess.

What are the best ideas for getting adequate sleep?

Getting an adequate amount of sleep can be a challenge especially for college students but it is absolutely essential to your mental and physical health.

Here are the best tips for getting adequate sleep.

  • Get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. The number of hours needed to feel rested varies in individuals so it may take awhile to find the right amount of sleep for you.
  • Keep a consistent sleep/wake schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday, this will help regulate your sleep cycle.
  • Try to keep caffeine out of your diet. Caffeine can interfere with your sleep schedule so if you consume caffeine do so by 3 p.m. You should also avoid nicotine and alcohol in the evenings as well.
  • Exercise early in the day and try to avoid exercising in the evenings. Exercising within 3-4 hours of going to bed can make it harder for you the wind down from the day’s events.
  • Start a bedtime routine to wind down and relax.
  • Sleep in a room that is cool, quiet, dark and comfortable. Sleep with covers that can be easily removed or added so you can remain comfortable during the night.
  • Use the bedroom for sleep and sex only. Keep school and work out of the bedroom.
  • Try to avoid eating a large meal 2-3 hours before bed. Eating or drinking large amounts may make you uncomfortable.

If I only got 5 hours of sleep the prior night should I nap for 3 hours to get my full 8 hours in?

It is recommended that naps should only last for ten to fifteen minutes during the day. A short nap allows you to avoid grogginess and disruption of nightly sleeping patterns. So the short answer is no, typically if you were to nap for three hours during the day it will affect the time that you get to sleep during the night. This doesn’t mean that five hours of sleep and a three-hour nap wouldn’t work for someone, everyone has different sleep needs but if your body isn’t used to the schedule it may affect your regular sleeping patterns.

What sleeping pattern will give me the most energy?

Everyone is different and will require different sleeping patterns, so it’s hard to answer what sleeping pattern will give you the most energy. You may just have to experiment and see what works best for you and your body. I will suggest however, that you aim for eight hours of sleep each night to start and limit naps to ten to fifteen minutes during the day.