Thriving Together Series

Thriving Together Series: How to Sleep Well for a Healthy Mind


By: Claudia Villanueva, a Mason student majoring in Business

“The way to a more productive, more inspired, more joyful life is getting enough sleep.” – Arianna Huffington

Our society is at a point where people boast about getting only a few hours of sleep due to working late nights. We know that getting enough sleep each night is important to our well-being. Yet we too often neglect doing so because we just want to check one more task off our to-do lists. We’re frequently connected online while also balancing multiple responsibilities every day. That pressure can lead us to stay awake late into the night – costing us good health. We need to make good quality sleep a non-negotiable priority so we can experience mental well-being. Lack of sleep impairs our cognitive function, but healthy sleep strengthens our minds to work well. By getting enough sleep, we can be productive and creative each day. Here’s how to sleep well for a healthy mind.

The Impact of Sleep on Cognitive Function

Staying up late to get more work done sounds like it will benefit us, simply because it gives us more time to complete our tasks. However, not getting enough sleep for prolonged time periods will actually work against us. Poor sleep results in poor judgment, errors in decision-making, and decreases in reaction time and motor performance, as this Nature article explains. If we are working in a role that requires heightened attention to detail or critical thinking, getting a good night’s sleep can increase our job performance. Similarly, important activities in our daily lives – such as driving or paying attention in class – require us to be alert and self-aware.

Sleep is necessary to enable normal healthy cognitive functioning, including decision-making, creativity, memory, and problem-solving, this Sleep Foundation article explains. If we want to be alert and have mental clarity, we need to prioritize our sleep quality. Ambition and self-care can co-exist, so we can prioritize both.

Particularly for students, sleep also benefits the subsequent acquisition of new learning material. According to this research study published by the National Library of Medicine, getting enough sleep throughout the night can enhance the capacity to encode new information. Next time we think about studying all night, it’s good to consider how much more effective it would be to get a sufficient amount of sleep instead.

Healthy Habits for Healthy Sleep

One of the best ways to begin prioritizing our sleep is by planning our days ahead of time and creating a consistent night routine. It sounds simple, yet so many people leave tasks until the last hours of the day, which cuts into valuable hours of sleep.

Here are two ways to ensure getting a good night’s rest:

  • Set ourselves up for a successful day tomorrow. By planning ahead and creating a to-do list or schedule for the following day, we can work effectively during the day and finish up in the afternoon. If we wake up and know exactly what needs to get done, we can increase the chances of going to sleep at an earlier time and ensure that we leave time to unwind in the evening. It is essential to use our time wisely during the day because if we feel that we have not done enough work by the evening, we are likely to stay awake at much later times.
  • Dedicate time each night to complete our evening routine. By consistently blocking out time each day, we can create a habit of going to sleep at the same time each night. Making our evening routine non-negotiable is a great way to get enough sleep, and we should try to be as consistent as possible. When we have a consistent sleep schedule, we will maintain a healthy circadian rhythm, so our bodies will naturally adjust and begin to feel tired at just the right time each day, according to this article by The Odd Company. Circadian rhythms are 24-hour cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock, running in the background to carry out essential functions and processes, according to this article by the Sleep Foundation.

So, to perform at our best every day, we need to prioritize sleep by dedicating time to our evening routines. Conquering goals and living lives filled with accomplishments starts with healthy sleep.

Additional Resources

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