A Permission Slip to Sleep: Preparing Your Mental Health for the New School Year

Guest Blog By: Jessica Viduya, Active Minds, California State University, Sacramento Chapter*

Preparing for going back to school for most students consists of the customary checklist: 

  • Get books and supplies ✔
  • Coordinate your schedule and classes ✔
  • Try and figure out where to find those classes and parking! ✔✔

Many of us students don’t always talk about the mental preparation involved for what’s to come. Students may superficially complain and “dread” the idea of leaving their summer fun behind, but there’s more to it. I, myself, feel the few weeks prior to school can be really stressful, and it has yet to even begin. The angst and anxiety of what is to come, the anticipation of the stress that accompanies a full or even partial load of classes, the deadlines, the homework, the essays, the hours of studying, the balance of going to school while working to pay for school and also time for one’s self, are all factors that weigh into my mind.

The latter is what I feel most students, including myself, have a hard time doing:  finding time for self-care. With all the expectations students must meet, it becomes so easy to neglect one’s self. Whether it be exercising, extracurricular activities or hobbies, hanging out with family and friends, or—one of the most neglected, but most essential parts of self-care—sleep. Sleep can not only impact our mental and physical health but can decrease our GPA and impact our academics. Students often have a hard time finding a balance, but in order to succeed in school and all those other commitments we have, self-care is vital to our mental, emotional and physical health.

Furthering one’s education and knowledge all boils down to the use of one’s brain. But what else is also linked to the brain? Mental health. Without a healthy mind, how can one really focus in school? How can one manage and deal with the stress to come? I’ve found it’s easy to feel down because my grades aren’t what I want them to be or when it feels that there’s no way I can do everything I have to within the timeframe that I am given. Sometimes even just the planning and preparation for my daily/weekly schedule can take both a lot of time and energy. There are several times I find myself losing sleep due to the overwhelming amount of tasks I must complete as well as the numerous cups of caffeine I must consume to be able to even try to accomplish all these tasks.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, “Sleep is as important to our health as eating, drinking and breathing. It allows our bodies to repair themselves and our brains to consolidate our memories and process information.” So without sleep, students can’t even process information, let alone function enough to even be able to pay attention to grasp the information. As a student, what can you do to get adequate sleep?

“Time for a Nap!” class at CSUS

At Sacramento State, we have started to create a cultural around students giving themselves “permission to sleep.” Last semester we partnered with the Campus Recreation services to add “Time for a Nap!” classes to their fitness schedule. We provide a safe and inclusive space for students to rest with sleep masks, ear plugs, yoga mats, blankets, yoga blocks, and nice cool room to have at least 20 minutes to an hour of rest. We encourage students to fit a nap and time to sleep in their schedule just as much as exercise and a healthy snack. Our Active Minds Chapter has also been incorporating the importance of sleep in our discussion around mental health on campus.

Our chapter also has been providing sleep hygiene information and education to students attending the nap class or our tabling events on campus. The American Sleep Association has some easy sleep hygiene suggestions for students to follow that promote good sleep. Some notable tips include: getting daily exercise, avoiding watching TV, or looking at your phone and other bright lights before bed, decreasing caffeine intake, and if possible, trying to get into a normal sleep schedule, is another good idea. Practicing good sleep hygiene is essential for both physical and both are essential to being successful in school. So to all my fellow students out there, we can do this. First step: “catch some Z’s,” just not in class!

Jessica Viduya

Jessica is currently studying Family and Consumer Sciences with emphasis in Dietetics at California State University, Sacramento (CSUS), with career aspirations to be a Registered Dietitian in the near future. She has realized through her involvement with Active Minds at CSUS how much mental health plays a role in the root of our emotions, and this has provided her with tools to better assist her future clients. Jessica is an active member of Active Minds CSUS chapter and member of the Food and Nutrition Club at Sacramento State.

*Guest blog: Each Mind Matters provides a platform for open dialogue and varying perspectives about mental health. The opinions of the author of guest blogs don’t necessarily reflect those of Each Mind Matters. If you have questions or comments about a blog written by a guest writer we encourage you to continue the discussion with the author by contacting the organization listed in the bio.