It is ironical that healthcare professionals’ advise the public to eat right, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep, yet they themselves lack in these fundamental aspects of health, especially sleep. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that adequate sleep, between 7 and 9 hours within a 24 hour period, is important for the body to rest and restore itself, lack of which increases the risk of becoming sleep deprived.
Many nursing students struggle with sleep deprivation, which is characterized by physical, mental, and emotional fatigue. In severe cases, it can lead to difficulty focusing on tasks, cognitive impaired judgment, memory lapses, irritability, reduced reaction time, decreased vigilance and observational skills, and muscle aches and tremors. To avoid such, student nurses should try these 3 tips for quality sleep:
1. Consume foods that favor good sleep
Certain foods are known to improve the likelihood of quality sleep, including:
- Healthy fats, such as eggs, coconut oil, butter, avocado, and organic and pasture raised meats, which facilitate the body’s ability to manufacture sleep hormones.
- Foods rich in antioxidants such as fruits, vegetables, and green or herbal teas that help to remove toxins that can impede sleep.
It is also recommended that you maintain a healthy diet comprising proteins, healthy fats, and vegetables, and eat a minimum of 4 hours before going to bed. Protein foods are particularly important to help prepare your body for the sleep cycle.
In addition, you should avoid taking sugars and carbohydrates, including grains and vegetable oils, before sleep, because they can stress your body and alter the hormone cycle, impeding quality sleep.
2. Appropriate daily routine
When relieved from your shift, day or night, don’t hang around your work place or visit people. Instead, head home and prepare for sleep. Don’t do any exercise or workout before sleep, since this will delay sleep. Also, don’t consume any snacks or drinks containing stimulants like caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol at least 6 – 8 hours before bedtime. While alcohol is a sedative, it can lead to sweats, arousals and awakenings, and even nightmares after its metabolism.
3. Adjust the sleeping environment
Things such as warm temperatures, noise, artificial light, and electronics affect your sleep quality. So, if you have to sleep during daylight (or if there are artificial lights outside your bedroom), install blackout curtains to darken the room. This will help to prepare your brain for sleep. Other tips to help prepare you for sleep include:
- Take a warm bath and try to relax, at least one hour before you go to bed
- Brush your teeth and put on your pajamas
- Keep the house cool and quiet or play soothing music
Sleep deprivation can affect the performance of nursing students. These three tips can help you get quality sleep and be in your best state of mind and body when awake.
Read about how to manage stress as a nursing student.