12 Weeks to Fitness: Increasing my energy by sleeping

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Welcome to 12 Weeks of Fitness, a weekly blog series by Kris Mitchell, a sophomore at the University of St. Thomas and alumnus of ThreeSixty Journalism. Kris is involved in a 12-week program at St. Thomas to lose weight and improve his health. A team of videography students will document his progress for a class project. Check back weekly to read about Kris’s experience.
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Week 6 of the program started off with a visit to the ER. The surgery I had on my back two weeks ago showed that I had an infection in one of my bones. The surgeon didn’t think much of it until my incisions started to show external signs of infection, and I was put on six weeks of antibiotics to help me get rid of it.

This setback has extended my healing time. Despite the setback, I decided to work on my sleeping habits in order to improve my energy. Now that I’ve kicked the caffeine out of my diet, sleeping better will help to give me more energy and stay more alert in class. I have made it a goal to get more than 7 hours of sleep each night. That is not easy for the modern college student.

I attended a sleep presentation offered by the Wellness Center at the University of St Thomas and learned a couple of things that I want to pass along.

Set a regular sleep schedule
Our internal clocks are screwed up! Unless we make a regular time we go to bed and get up, our quality of sleep will vary. It is commonly said that if you need an alarm to get up, you are sleep deprived!

Turn off all lights…including your cell phone
We are attracted to…oh pretty light…. things that cause light. Phones, computers and TVs emit light and tell our brains that it’s time to be up. That keeps you from sleeping. Besides, if your friend is calling or texting you at 2 a.m., you need to have a talk with him/her. Tell your friend to not call or text you at that time and be strict with it.

Put alarm clock at the other end of the room
That snore button is good, but not very helpful. I have hit snooze and turned back over for “just 5 more minutes” plenty of times. Problem is that 5 minutes turns into a half hour. A tip to beat yourself at this reflex is to put the alarm clock at the other end of the room so you have to physically get up to turn it off. I add a second factor: I have a cold house and getting up and feeling the cold wakes me up more.

Don’t drink caffeine after 3 p.m.
This tip depends on the person but can be generally stated for everyone. No more caffeine after 3 p.m. It’s simple; caffeine raises your energy level and if you are to trying to sleep better, they don’t work together.

Let white noise do the work
White noise is very helpful. Maybe you fall asleep to a particular noise that calms you down. A fan, crickets, clock, etc. Many smartphone and tablet apps will help.

Do a sleep study
If all else fails, you can always visit the doctor to get a sleep study done to see if you have a sleep disorder. It’s very possible that you may have sleep apnea or any other kind of sleep disorder.

The sleep has allowed me to feel better, stay focused and not wake up with an alarm. I have more energy throughout the day and it has gone splendidly with my diet. I have also lost 2 pounds this week, and I’m down to 220 pounds!

- Kris Mitchell, University of St. Thomas sophomore and ThreeSixty Journalism alumnus

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