7 Tips For a Better Night’s Sleep

20160317-152626.jpgGood morning everyone!!!

Although, perhaps not as good of a morning for some of you who did not have the best sleep last night. Poor sleep can be the result of many things, such as stress as the end of term approaches, anxiety about a project or test the next day, issues of personal or family physical or mental health, or just not being able to get comfortable. 

After three years of Psychology courses during which each professor would share some groundbreaking research findings about how to improve the sleep of university students, and my own battles with insomnia, I have compiled my notes into this post of 7 tips for a better night’s sleep.

1. Take a Technology Break

 Now don’t lie: how many of you sleep with your cell phones??? I don’t just mean on the nightstand; I mean resting on your bed or something. A 2013 study found that 39% of students sleep with their cell phones just in case they get a text or call during the night. This percentage peaks at 51% in 11th grade, but even 20% of 4th graders say they do the same thing. Now, for the time being, I am going to ignore the fact that 4th graders even have cell phones because that just baffles me. The point of this is that most people sleep with their phones because they are afraid they will miss something important. But sleep is of top priority between the hours of say 10pm and 7am. Anything someone has to say can wait until the morning. With a phone in bed with you, the brain expects to be woken up, and thus you remain in sleep stages 1 and 2 so you can easily respond to the lighting up of your phone when you receive a text or call.  

2. Exercise Before Sleep, But Not Right Before

I have heard people say that if they go to the gym or run on the treadmill before they go to sleep, then they sleep better. This is true, to a degree, but exercise should be between 2-4 hours before you sleep and no sooner. Otherwise the body is left pumping adrenaline and laying in bed wondering why it can’t fall asleep. 

3. A Bed is for Sleeping

Back in high school I always used to do my homework and studying propped up in bed with my reading pillow. As comfortable as this may be, a bed is for sleeping, and thus should not be used for any other purpose. The brain forms an association between studying and laying in bed, and if you fall asleep while studying, this association is strengthened until the brain is not able to easily fall asleep. 

4. Pick a Spot, and Stick to It

This is a simple matter of classical conditioning. You have probably heard of Pavlov’s dogs. When the dogs saw food, they salivated. But after many times of the food being presented after the sound of a bell, the dogs salivated in response to only the bell, especting that food would follow. Well, the same is true for sleep. When it gets late, you get tired; a natural response. But after many times of sleeping in the same place, the body will get used to sleeping in bed, easier than if it tries to sleep elsewhere. 

5. Pick a Time, and Stick to It

This one doesn’t sound so bad, but here’s the hard part: waking up at the same time even on weekends. I love having a nice lie in as much as the next person, but this messes up the body’s circadian rhythm. I like to think of this as the most temperamental alarm clock because there is a host of things that can put it on snooze like light, jet lag or shift work, anxiety, stress, and the list goes on and on. Going to bed at the same time each night helps your internal clock regulate your sleep and wake phases, meaning you sleep better and wake up easier. 

6. Good Food, No Caffeine

Never go to bed hungry. Denying the body of a physiological need like food is bad enough, but then expecting the brain to forget about nutrients and go to sleep is just malarkey. And we’ve all heard about the repercussions of caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that most people use after waking up in the morning or to stay alert during the day through their daily cups of coffee, tea, or even some soft drinks. It is important to note that caffeine is not a replacement for the feeling of well restedness that follows a good night’s sleep, but it can make one feel more alert by inhibiting sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain and increasing adrenaline production. Caffeine can have a stimulating effect as soon as 15 minutes after consumption, and will persist for several hours, with only half of it eliminated after 6 hours. While caffeine is safe to consume in moderation (about 250mg daily), it can negatively affect nutrition by replacing nutritious liquids like water and reduce food consumption because it is an appetite suppressant. 

7. Let Things Cool Down

If you’re like me and are always cold, then this one will be a little more difficult, but definitely worth it. As much as I love cranking up the heating in my room, snuggling up in blankets, and getting all warm and cozy, this actually makes it harder to sleep. Melatonin is a hormone whose secretion plays an important role in sleep, yet melatonin production decreases with increasing temperature. Thus, sleeping with the heat turned down, and even a window open, can really help getting to sleep. 

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5 Things I Do Over Reading Break

Afternoon, everyone!!!

Yesterday was the first official day of my week-long hiatus from university, otherwise known as Reading Break, which is akin to the secondary school Spring Break. I do so love Reading Break because it offers an oh-so-delightful reprieve from the university schedule and, despite what the name implies, I do not know many people who actually read during this time. However, it is a great time to do a few little things to keep you on track at school and not end up freaking out in the last weeks. Some of you may remember my post on the 5 things I do at the start of each school term, so I wanted to follow up with a post on the 5 things I do over Reading Break.

1. Organize my notes

While some of you may still have midterms looming in the first week back to school, I was fortunate enough this term to get all mine over with before Reading Break. While this was nice in a way because now I can enjoy my week off, it also means that my notes are in a right state of disarray. I use Reading Break as a chance to sit down, sort out my notes into piles for each class, and then file them away for when I need to study them for final exams. I also like to read through them all for a quick review and to flesh out any ideas or fill in any sentences that start out like this “Two main problems with categorical perception as evidence for human specialization for language are . . . ” but have no ending. That little fact might just turn up on a test.

2. Get a head start on assignments and projects

I know no one likes to think about doing more schoolwork on their time off, but it is really advantageous to even map out an outline for an essay, a draft for a research paper, or a rough idea of an in-class presentation. This week, I have been madly at work on a journal article summary that I have to present to my class in two weeks, mini assignments for my class on psychological disorders in adulthood, and a corpus analysis project that isn’t due until the last day of classes but I never know what my wireless internet will be like. For all I know, it’ll go on strike when I need it most and I’ll have to resort to typing out my summary on my old Underwood typewriter. Not knocking typewriters, but the backspace button on a keyboard is much more convenient if I make a mistake.

3. Tidy my study space

This one is similar to 1. in that my desk is a right mess once reading break comes along. There are sticky notes everywhere, snacks stashed on every shelf, and pen caps that have mysteriously vanished. Before I get back into the groove of sleep, eat, study, repeat I want to make sure my desk and bedroom are restored to a state of organization I can live with.

4. Sit down with a good book

With all of the assigned textbook readings for classes, what little spare time I have left is not often spent reading some more, even for pleasure. Thus, I have been at the same spot in Margaret Atwood’s book The Heart Goes Last, and I am dying to know how it ends (no spoilers!!!). Well, now I can actually sit down and finish it without it hurting my head and competing with all my school stuff for space in my brain.

5. Plan out some blog posts

I have been making a list of things I want to post about throughout this week, and have drafted a few of them to get my inspiration flowing. By the time school is back in session, there may be an inspiration drought, and I do not want my posts to come to a halt because all I have on my mind is which inflectional affixes children acquire first when learning language or the difference between exogenous and endogenous orienting to space.

What are you up to over Reading Break???

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5 Things I Do at the Start of Each School Term

Hello there lovely readers!!!

I had my first day of the Spring 2016 university term on Monday, and I am already excited for the next 13 weeks of classes. I know that sounds weird, but when you’re a Psychology and Linguistics nerd, small things fascinate you and you can spend days analyzing an utterance like “I can’t even” without getting bored.

The first three weeks of university are usually pretty slow, with professors starting to delve into new material, course loads being shuffled, and no midterm in sight. It’s really tempting to pilfer away this time, which is exactly what I did in my first year, and I instantly regretted it when the first wave of midterms hit me. So, while this is a time to blog more, read more, and cherish the last weeks of social life, here is my list of five things I do at the start of each term to prepare:

1. Create a Master Syllabus

What is this, exactly??? Well, it is a page-long list, organized by month, of all of the important course dates for all classes over the course of the term. It provides an easy way to quickly glance at deadlines, cross off completed items (so satisfying), and identify gaps of days that can be used to catch up, or get ahead in, classwork. I also find it really helpful to put the weight of each assignment and test in brackets so I can keep track of grades.

2. Organize my planner

This one is huge for me because I find it both cathartic and necessary to map out my study time to ensure I’m using it well. Using a day planner, I keep track of everything I have to do, with separate columns for appointments, assignments, and the sliver of life leftover. This way I never forget to do something or be somewhere and, once again, I get the euphoric rush that comes with crossing something off my list (or, in some cases, scratching the name of the item in Sharpie repeatedly out of spite).

3. Buy my textbooks

I know a lot of people who purchase their textbooks over the Christmas holidays, and even a few people who purchase their textbooks in September for the winter and spring terms all at once. Me, I like to wait until the first week because I tend to change up my schedule a lot. In the event that I decide to drop a course it will be because of one of three reasons:

a) It was meant to be an elective and doesn’t look nearly as interesting as I thought it would be.

b) It is taught by a professor whose teaching style I know won’t work for me, or

c) After getting all the course outlines and creating my Master Syllabus, the workload looks like it will be too much, so I swap out a course for another, less demanding one.

Regardless of which of these reasons motivates me to change my schedule, I don’t want to deal with any of the issues that can arise when trying to return a textbook to the school bookstore. If you are reading this and you are in high school, and therefore don’t have to worry about this, I envy you.

4. Get my desk set up

Turn your desk into the ultimate study space, stocked with pens, pencils, index cards, sticky notes, and a few snacks hidden here and there. Make sure you have a water bottle close by, because staying hydrated is key for a productive study session. Also, since you will be spending a lot of time at that desk, make sure it is at the right height for you, and that you have a comfortable chair. There are few things that irritate me as much as the discomfort characteristic of studying in a hunched over position for too long, or realizing too late that I was sitting at a weird angle and now my back is sore.

5. Decide how I plan to take notes in each class

To me, there are two main course styles: fact-based and idea-based. You may define these differently, but to me fact-based courses are those that involve memorization, like anatomy or history, while idea-based courses are those that involve understanding and applying concepts, like math or philosophy.

For fact-based courses, I really like using a coil-bound notebook so that all of my notes stay in one place and no stray piece of paper detailing key final exam information floats away on me. Index cards work really well for these courses, too, because you can use them to study word definitions, or to test your knowledge by summarizing a concept in its limited space.

For idea-based courses, I will either use coil-bound notebooks or loose paper on a clipboard depending on the speed at which the professor goes through the material. I don’t like leaving blank spaces in my notes that I have to fill in after class because the prof blew through an entire concept in one lecture, so for more fast-paced courses, loose leaf paper is the way to go. Highlighters and sticky notes are great for these types of courses because you can have little aside memos about things mentioned in class, or flag areas you want to study more.

I have written these five things from a university student perspective, but they also work really well for anyone in middle school or high school. A lot depends on your learning style though, so I’m curious: what do you do in your first week back at school to prepare for the term ahead???

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What’s in my Backpack???

For many people the start of school is near, or has already happened. The beginning of a new school year is often a time of excitement to see friends and break out new school clothes, but it can also be a time of stress. As of tomorrow, I will be in my third year of university, so I feel like I have done enough first days of school, both high school and university, to provide a few helpful tips. So with that, I figured I would do a post on what is in my school backpack. Give it a read if you are wondering what to pack for your first day of high school or university, or if you just want to have a good snoop.

imageThe backpack: The backpack that I take to university with me is the Herschel classic backpack mid-volume in electric lilac. I do not think this colour is still available, but it comes in a plethora of colours and other styles, which you can browse here. What I really like about this backpack is the simple design. I don’t want a backpack with too many pockets that things could get lost in, but the front pouch gives me somewhere to put things where they will be easily accessible.

Image from Amazon.ca
Image from Amazon.ca

iPad Air 2: For those of you who are tech savvy or looking for an alternative to taking notes on paper, an iPad is a great tool to have. It takes over the role of a laptop, and is super light, making it a great way to keep a backpack from being too heavy to carry.

imageDay planner: I know some people are not fans of paper schedules and would rather use the calendar on their iPhone, but for me, having a hard copy of what I need to do is super useful. In my day planner, I write down all the readings, assignments, and tests that are upcoming, and when I am going to do them. I also colour-code things using different highlighters so I can see at a glance what types of work are upcoming. A day planner is also great to have to note doctors appointments, office hours of professors, or meetings with teachers. Even after school commitments like extra-curriculars or volunteer work can be noted so that nothing gets forgotten . Just find a system that works for you to keep everything on track and avoid the stress of last-minute panicking over a forgotten test or assignment.

imageNotebook: Note-taking is inevitable when it comes to school, but it is important to find a system that works for you. Maybe that means one notebook for each class, or a three-subject notebook for different days, or a binder full of loose sheets of paper. All through high school, I used the one notebook per class system, and it worked fairly well. The one problem with that though is if you start missing classes (and I say missing, not skipping). It can be hard to judge how many pages to leave blank for the missed notes, and leaving too many or not enough can be irksome. In university, I have a clipboard that I write notes on, and all my notes stay clipped to it. Then I paperclip them together at the end of each section and tuck them in the clipboard’s side pocket so I know where they are come exam time. That way, if I miss a day, it is easy to insert the missed notes. It is also easier to lend them to a classmate because I don’t need to give them my entire notebook.

*Note: For university classes, make sure to get to know at least one person in each of your classes. Many professors do not post notes made in class on any online templates, and may not post any notes online at all, so you need to find someone whose notes you can borrow if you miss a class*

imageWater bottle: It is really important to stay hydrated throughout the day, so toting a water bottle around will make sure you have quick and easy access to water. Drinking water will help keep you feeling alert during your classes if you’re feeling a little snoozy.

Image from 710keel.com
Image from 710keel.com

Snack: While high school classes do not allow snacks to be brought to class, university classes almost necessitate it. You create your own class schedule, and unless you are fortunate to have a 12-1 lunch block (which is very hard to get) you will most likely get hungry during your classes and not have a proper lunch block. I recommend packing something both easy and healthy. Apples and bananas are great, because they don’t need to be refrigerated. Sandwiches, or wraps are also good options. Smoothies are a quick way to get a bunch of nutrients on-the-go. Microwaveable foods like leftovers or heatable meals can be brought as well, but make sure there is a microwave close by, and that the smell of your food won’t waft through an entire lecture hall.

imageUmbrella: This is only a must-have if, like me, you live in a place where it rains all the time, and is not necessarily easy to predict. It is always best to be prepared for a deluge, and a little collapsible umbrella is an easy way to go.

IMG_5043Pencil case: This one may seem obvious, but there are many things you might need, and it’s good to have a checklist of things to include. Plus it’s an opportunity to show off some personal style with a classy black pencil case, or a home-made one, or, in my case, a cosmetic bag-turned-pencil-case. I used a cosmetic bag one year because I’d lost my pencil case the year before, and I’ve done it ever since. They are really easy to clean, and have plenty of space. Plus most of us have one lying around from that free gift with purchase we got that time.

Pencil case contents:

  • Pencils (remember to pack extra graphite if using mechanical pencils)
  • Pens (check that they have enough ink-most exams require blue or black ink)
  • Eraser (we all make mistakes sometimes)
  • White out tape or liquid white out (sometimes we make mistakes in pen, too)
  • Highlighters (good for noting important things to study in notes)
  • Sharpie ultra fine point permanent marker (useful for labelling things)
  • Ruler (many classes will require the drawing of diagrams on tests or in labs, and they will necessitate the use of a ruler for straight lines)
  • Calculator (there’s always a math class lurking in the schedule)
  • Sticky notes (not essential but I love making notes and putting them directly on textbook pages so I can read the text and my notes at the same time without going between textbook and notebook)

imageLip balm: Particularly in autumn and winter as the air gets dry, a lip balm is good to have tucked away to avoid dry or cracked lips. I really like using Fresh’s sugar lip balm because it is super hydrating, it smells delicious, and it comes clear or in a variety of tints if you want to hydrate your lips and have a bit of lip colour too.

imageHand cream: Once again, very good to have as the air gets dry, because your skin will dry out too. Your hands will be exposed and be busy writing and carrying books and holding up umbrellas, and they will need some TLC during the colder months.

Image from Amazon.ca
Image from Amazon.ca

Hand sanitizer: This is a really big one, because the start of school also marks the start of cold and flu season. With hundreds or even thousands of students back together, germs abound and it is important to always have clean hands before eating, after sneezing or coughing, or after touching something in the public domain that may have been touched by a sick person, like a door handle. It is always best to wash your hands regularly, but hand sanitizer is a quick, on-the-go way to help reduce the spread of germs and keep you from getting sick.

Image from Amazon.com
Image from Amazon.com

Tissues: If all the hand washing and hand sanitizing doesn’t do the trick and you get a cold or the flu, you will be grateful you have a few tissues tucked in the bottom of your backpack. Some cough lozenges also wouldn’t hurt.

Image from Amazon.ca
Image from Amazon.ca

Laptop/iPad/cell phone charger: This is one thing I usually forget to pack, and immediately regret when I turn on my laptop or iPad and find I only have 20% battery left. The phone charger is important, but less so than a charger for your laptop or iPad. You don’t want your device dying in the middle of you typing up an important essay or doing an online homework assignment.

*Note: To be safe, always plug in your laptop or iPad before starting to draft or edit an essay, or start an online homework assignment. This will help you avoid any panic if your device runs out of battery partway through, and will ensure no progress is lost*

Image from Amazon.ca
Image from Amazon.ca

USB memory stick: This one is HUGE, regardless of what level of schooling you are in. I know so many people who have lost entire essays because their computer crashed and they didn’t back up their files. Always keep a USB memory stick with the drafts of any major essays, papers, or projects on it. If you don’t have one, I strongly recommend you get one, and I would say don’t start your first day of university without one. It’s good to get in the habit of backing things up early so that you won’t lose any hard work.

*Note: I cannot emphasize this enough: BACK UP YOUR FILES!!!*

Image from Networksolutionsbd.com
Image from Networksolutionsbd.com

Student card: I am not sure how relevant this one is for high school students, since I only ever needed mine to prove what grade I was in when attending a school dance but in university, it is imperative that you have your student card with your student number on it when you when you go to write exams. They may not let you in the exam room or let you hand in your exam without this card, so it is best to always keep it on your person. Also, many student cards are a bus pass, and a reloadable food card to purchase food with if living on campus.

Image from Amazon.ca
Image from Amazon.ca

Change purse: You never know when you might need some bus money or a few dollars to buy a snack, so having some change on you is always a smart idea. Of course, you can tuck a few bills in there too since you won’t want to carry around a ton of change and be jingling across campus.

And that’s everything that’s in my school backpack!!! I hope this has been helpful for some of you starting up school again, either your first year or your last. Let me know in the comments below what your must-haves are for your school bag or backpack!!!

Thank you for stopping by, and I hope you have a lovely day 😃😃