Getting enough sleep today is challenging because life in 2015 is hectic. That is particularly true for sonography students who are trying to balance a demanding curriculum while enjoying a quality social life. Sleep deprivation can negatively impact the educational experience in a number of ways, like causing difficulties with concentration and creating emotional distress. Getting at least seven hours of sleep each night can help sonography students learn better, and maintain a healthy body and mind.
How Much Sleep is Enough?
Some people seem to do quite well on four-to-six hours of sleep each night, but for most people that is not enough. According to the National Sleep Foundation, humans sleep approximately one-third of their lives. The organization has done extensive research on sleep needs by age. During the ages of 18-64 years old, people need 7-9 hours of sleep to maintain good mental and physical health.
Unfortunately, college students are notorious for not getting enough sleep. The University of Cincinnati conducted a research study in 2011, led by doctoral student Adam Knowlden, on the sleep habits of undergraduate college students who were aged 18-24 years old. The results indicated that 54.8 percent of this group slept less than seven hours each night. Another 20.8 percent slept longer than eight hours, and 24 percent slept the right amount of hours.
Consequences of Inadequate Sleep
Sonography students have very full schedules for the duration of the program. In fact, most of the CAAHEP accredited ultrasound programs include statements on their websites addressing the intense nature of Diagnostic Medical Sonography programs. Students carry full class loads, are assigned regular homework, and must complete highly technical clinical training while working with real patients.
There are a number of potential consequences to not getting enough sleep. They include:
- Reduced ability to learn
- Difficulty remembering new information for longer than 24 hours
- Poor concentration
- Issues with alertness
- Feelings of tension and irritability
- Slowing down of the repairing of cells in the body
- Impaired ability to drive (commuter students)
- Low energy
Some people can even experience depression due to sleep debt. Being able to learn requires the large amount of REM sleep or dream sleep that occurs late in the sleep cycle. When sleep is cut short, there is not enough REM sleep. Pulling the classic college “all-nighter” or getting by on a few hours of sleep degrades the sonography student’s ability to learn and remember course material or clinical training information.
Tips for Sonography Students
There are a number of ways that ultrasound technology students can ensure they get enough sleep:
- Plan the school schedule to leave enough time to do homework early in the evening and to allow for study time for exams without having to stay up most of the night. According to the Harris Health System, optimal brain functioning occurs around 6-8 p.m. each day.
- Minimize caffeine consumption and alcohol
- Relax in the evenings (or at least a couple of hours before bedtime) to allow the mind to wind down
- Exercise regularly at any time during the day but at least six hours before it is time to go to bed
- Try a deep sleep herbal supplement, i.e. valerian, kava kava and chamomile
- Try natural sleep aids like meditation and aromatherapy bathtub soaks
- Take a melatonin supplement because melatonin regulates circadian rhythms
- Establish a regular sleep-wake pattern
- Pinpoint sources of anxiety or stress and address them, like financial problems or family concerns
- Maintain a good attitude to minimize stress
- Do not nap for longer than 15-30 minutes
- Sleep in a dark quiet room
- Do not study in bed right before it is time to fall asleep because it keeps the brain stimulated
Sleep debt cannot be paid up! Getting four hours of sleep one night, and taking a sleep aid pill the next evening to catch up on sleep is not a good plan. Lost sleep cannot be recovered. Sonography students need to be aware of the importance of sleep and take steps to ensure they get 7-9 hours of sleep each evening. Sleep should be considered one of the factors of student success.