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Expert answers to questions about sleep

In response to requests by students, we’ve compiled a written summary of questions and answers from the “Reseptejä parempaan uneen” (‘A recipe for better rest’) webinar held on the FSHS Day:

How do you know you are getting good-quality sleep?

You can tell you’re getting good-quality sleep if you wake up refreshed in the mornings and have enough energy to deal with your daily life. It’s a good idea to stop every once in a while to make an honest assessment of your energy levels and personal resources.

How can I create the right conditions for good sleep?

  • Increase your understanding of the importance of sleep to your wellbeing. Be conscious of the fact that achieving good-quality sleep requires choices and that sleeping is a skill you can improve.
  • Be honest with yourself when examining your sleeping habits and the choices you make.
  • Maintain a regular sleeping rhythm. Waking up is the most important part of good sleep – no matter what day it is and what time you went to bed the night before, always keep to the same wake-up time.
  • After you’ve woken up, start building up what’s termed “sleep pressure” for the following night. The pressure for sleep increases when you eat and exercise regularly, activate your brain and take short breaks in between studying and working.
  • Take a look at your stress load and try to maintain a balance between the stress factors and recovery. Look especially closely at things you can change yourself.
  • If you’ve put effort into achieving good-quality sleep but it hasn’t helped, start investigating the reasons behind your sleeping problems.

Is napping a bad idea?

There’s nothing wrong with taking short “power naps” lasting no more than 30 minutes provided it feels natural to you. Longer naps aren’t recommended because they’re known to reduce the amount of deep sleep at night, resulting in impaired recovery. This could create a vicious circle of needing more naps.

Does hitting the snooze button hurt?

You should think about why you’re hitting the snooze button. Instead of snoozing you should set your alarm at the latest possible time, when you absolutely must get up. This way you’ll get a longer stretch of uninterrupted sleep.

Does using smart devices in the evening affect your sleep at night?

  • Based on studies, blue light is known to have some influence on falling asleep and how you sleep at night.
  • There’s no absolute ban on smart devices, however. If watching a show on a smart device or listening to an audio book is your way of relaxing in the evenings, that’s fine.
  • It’s what you do on your smart device that has a greater impact on falling sleep and sleep quality. Anything requiring interactivity on smart devices isn’t recommended because it activates your brain, resulting in poorer-quality sleep.

Why do I have trouble falling asleep?

Falling asleep is part of the sleep-wake cycle, the mechanisms for which are both complex and sensitive. The cycle is known to be influenced by things such as stress, environmental factors and lifestyle. It’s good to remember that we all sleep poorly on occasion.

What can you do if you can’t sleep or if you have started to dread going to bed?

  • Focus on the concrete. Start preparing for the coming night during the day.
  • Always wake up at the same time – sleep is created by your circadian rhythm.
  • Increase your “sleep pressure”, or your body’s physical need to rest and desire to sleep.
  • Try not to get anxious. Tell yourself that you’ll get through the next day. Try to look at it this way: the situation is increasing your sleep pressure, and one night in the near future is going to be really good. Bad nights are nothing to worry about – when you give it the chance, your brain will make sure that you get enough sleep.
  • It’s a good idea to think of a plan B for when you can’t sleep (something like reading, listening to an audio book or watching a show).

How does stress influence sleep?

  • There’s no such thing as a stress-free life, and even positive things can cause us to feel stressed.
  • Stress stimulates the brain, and when our brain is active falling asleep becomes more difficult. When this goes on for a longer period of time, the result is sleep deficit. Having a sleep deficit in the long term eventually causes intense fatigue where you do fall asleep, but the stress causes your brain to stay active even when you’re sleeping. This in turn results in poorer sleep quality.
  • Stress regulation is key to maintaining good-quality sleep. However, although stress does influence sleep, you should remember that stress and sleep are two different things.

Can you sleep too much?

  • If you’re constantly sleeping 9 to 10 hours a night and don’t feel refreshed in the mornings, you’re probably dealing with a sleep-quality problem. If this is the case, it’s important to exclude any sleep disorders of organic origin, such as restless legs syndrome.