Whether it’s in between classes, on the weekend or in the library, we’ve all tried to catch up on some z’s that we missed out on the night before. Napping has always seemed like a big part of college culture where everything is fast-paced; students learn to capitalize on even the small 20-minute breaks during the day that come between commitments.
Quality sleep is an important step to maintain good health and wellness, a process that repairs your body’s blood vessels, eliminates toxins and creates connections in the brain. However, many people are constantly plagued with the problem of how to effectively put their minds and bodies to rest when they choose to nap or sleep. Bryce Farrell, owner of Organic Yoga in Vestal and an adjunct lecturer of health and wellness studies at Binghamton University, has some napping tips to help you get some quality shut-eye.
Give yourself time to “wind down” before bed
Farrell notes that many people who have trouble falling asleep or getting quality sleep don’t give themselves enough time to prepare their bodies for rest before getting into bed.
“There are a lot of reasons as to why someone might not be sleeping well,” Farrell said. “Screen time, caffeine, intense exercise later in the evening and unmanaged stress are all common causes of poor sleep hygiene.”
Incorporate yoga nidra into your routine
Yoga nidra, according to Farrell, is a form of mindfulness meditation which helps individuals focus their awareness on a single object, such as a candle or word. Students are guided through a mindfulness practice where they’re focusing on an intention, relaxing the body, deepening the breath, calming the mind and emotions and finally, visualizing images. The goal is to reach a deeply relaxed, dreamlike feeling called theta state, a feeling experienced just before we fall asleep or shortly after waking up in which “the mind is awake, but the body, breath and emotions are very calm.”
Farrell said yoga nidra “helps us to separate ourselves from the busy, anxious mind that can keep us from falling asleep at night. It uses a systematic process to relax the body and mind so that we are well prepared for a good night sleep.”
Do not over-nap!
We have all been there — you’re under the covers and you’ve finally started to enter deep, restful sleep, when your alarm jolts you awake. The snooze button is glowing on your lock screen; one tap, and the horrible sound of your timer goes away. “Ten more minutes,” you tell yourself, as you try to forget that you have plans and commitments after this. While Farrell said napping can increase one’s productivity, reduce stress, improve mood and even increase life span, this is only effective to a certain extent.
“Naps should be no more than 30 minutes,” Farrell said. “If you still haven’t fallen asleep after a half hour, get up and go back to work.” Otherwise, she warned, you’ll end up feeling groggy and waste your time trying.
Give yourself incentives to make sure you get up
The hardest part about napping is switching back from rest mode into an awake state. Farrell recommends forcing yourself to physically leave your bed when nap time is over by setting your alarm or phone far from your bed, or turning the lights on immediately after waking up and playing upbeat music for motivation. Alternatively, making plans with a friend or scheduling in a commitment shortly after your nap, such as a study session, could help with getting out of bed and out the door.
Take advantage of wellness opportunities both on and off campus
There are a multitude of avenues for students to access general wellness at BU and within the local community. On campus, Farrell notes that yoga classes taught at the West Gym could help, as well as student organizations that promote mental health and stress reduction. Binghamton is also home to a variety of locally owned yoga studios, each with their own niche offerings. For example, Farrell’s studio, Organic Yoga, offers an “Advanced Napping” class about once a month. The workshop, which is typically on a Sunday, stimulates deep rest through yoga nidra, stretching and the exploration of napping positions supported by blankets and pillows.
Find and focus on activities that make you feel relaxed
If yoga and meditation are not for you, no worries — there are other tools that can prepare you for sleep and relaxation. Farrell recommends exploring different activities and seeing if there are any that help you unwind.
“Spending time with friends, reading a book, making a cup of decaf tea, listening to a meditation on Spotify or the Headspace app,” she said. “Whatever it takes to unwind from the hyperstimulation of school and modern lifestyles.”
Take a health and wellness studies course
Farrell noted that there are many great courses at BU that can teach students to relax and encourage good sleeping habits. Health and Wellness Studies 213: Wellness Through Yoga, Health and Wellness Studies 331: Contemporary Health Issues, Health and Wellness Studies 218: Psychophysiological Awareness and Health and Wellness Studies 233: Stress Management are her personal favorites. These courses aim to teach students meditation and general wellness tools that they can later practice on their own.