Self-Help for Students

 This is a collection of useful tips and articles for students to read.

1. Getting a Good Night Sleep

If you are having trouble sleeping, consider implementing some of the following general suggestions*:*This information summarizes common suggestions and guidelines about sleep hygiene. This information is not meant to take the place of medical guidance in dealing with a sleep problem. If you believe you have a serious sleep disorder, you should seek help from a physician or sleep clinic specialist.

Sleep Behavior

Develop a sleep routine: try to go to bed and get up at approximately the same time each day, even on weekends. This regular rhythm will make you feel better and will give your body something to work from. Erratic sleep habits prevent training of the “biological clocks” in our brains that help control our alertness and ability to sleep.

  • Avoid napping during the daytime to make sure that you are tired at bedtime. If daytime sleepiness becomes overwhelming, limit nap time to a single nap, preferably 20 minutes but no longer than 1 hour, and no later than 3 pm.
  • If you are unable to fall asleep or stay asleep after 15 to 30 minutes, leave your bed and/or bedroom and engage in a quiet calming activity elsewhere (e.g. read a book, or some other relaxing activity). Do not allow yourself to fall asleep outside of the bedroom. Return to bed only when you are sleepy. Repeat this process as often as necessary throughout the night.
  • Avoid oversleeping and lying in bed for prolonged periods after your sleep is completed.
  • Avoid lying in bed worrying about problems or challenges of the upcoming day. If necessary, set aside a ‘worry time’ at a different time throughout the day.
  • If you get up during the night to use the bathroom, it is best if you do not turn on lights because bright light tells your body it is time to wake up. If possible, use a night light in your bathroom.

Preparation for Sleep

  • The amount of sleep you need varies from person to person. For young adults (age 18-25), 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night are recommended. However, individual sleep needs vary from 6 to 10 hours, so make sure you know how much sleep you need to function efficiently.
  • A healthy, balanced diet will help you to sleep well, but timing is important. Try not to eat or drink too much too close to your bedtime. If you need or want to eat late, eat only a light dinner and do so at least 2 hours before sleeping. Avoid spicy or fatty foods, as these may cause heartburn. If you drink too much liquid before sleeping, you may wake repeatedly in the night for trips to the bathroom.
  • Some people find that a very empty stomach at bedtime is distracting, so it can be useful to have a light snack. If you do eat a light snack at night, it’s best to eat foods that that trigger serotonin, which makes you sleepy. Carbohydrates (e.g., bread or cereal) or foods containing the amino acid tryptophan (e.g., milk, tuna, or turkey) will do the trick. Tryptophan acts as a natural sleep inducer.
  • Do the same thing before bed each night, e.g. reading for 15 minutes, relaxation exercises. You can develop your own rituals of things to remind your body that it is time to sleep. Some people find it useful to do relaxing stretches or breathing exercises for 15 minutes before bed each night, or sit calmly with a cup of caffeine-free tea.
  • Do not agonize about falling asleep. The stress will only prevent sleep.
  • Taking a hot shower or bath before bed helps bring on sleep because it can relax tense muscles.
  • Do a relaxing activity before bedtime (e.g., read, listen to quiet music, do a craft, watch something non-emotionally arousing on television, deep breathing, muscle relaxation, imagery).
  • Limit late night electronics: TV and video games can be over-stimulating, making it difficult to fall asleep.  In addition, the glow from electronic devices can inhibit natural sleep cycles.


  • Regular exercise can improve restful sleep. This includes stretching and aerobic exercise, however avoid strenuous exercise close to bedtime (approximately 4 hours before bedtime)
  • If you are trying to sleep better, the best time to exercise is in the afternoon.
  • Morning walks are a great way to start the day feeling refreshed!

Alcohol & Stimulants

  • It is also best to avoid alcohol for at least 4-6 hours before going to bed. Many people believe that alcohol is relaxing and helps them to get to sleep at first, but it actually interrupts the quality of sleep.
  • Caffeine (in coffee, tea, cola drinks, chocolate, and some medication) and nicotine (cigarettes) are addictive stimulants that may keep you awake. Check the label: many products have caffeine such as chocolate, green tea and herbal supplements.
  • Avoid caffeine within four to six hours of bedtime.
  • Avoid the use of nicotine close to bedtime or during the night.

Sleep Environment

  • It is very important that your bed and bedroom are quiet and comfortable for sleeping.
  • Silence is more conducive to sleep. Turn off the radio and TV. Use earplugs, a fan or some other source of constant, soothing, background noise to mask sounds that you cannot control (e.g. a busy street, noisy suitemates etc.)
  • Experiment with room temperature and find what is best for you. For most people, a slightly cool room is ideal for sleeping, as this mimics your body’s temperature drop during sleep.
  • Use your bed for sleep only. Do not engage in other activities in bed, e.g. reading, studying, watching television. You want your bed to achieve what psychologists call “stimulus control” – that is, you want your bed to be a stimulus or cue for one and only one response, sleeping.

Sleep Aides

  • Sleep masks: Sleep masks block out all light and offer the enjoyment of sleeping in total darkness.
  • Ear plugs: There are several varieties of earplugs that are helpful in blocking out disruptive noises that interfere with sleep.
  • Audiotapes and Apps: There are a wide variety of assorted sleep-inducing audiotapes and apps ranging from visualization or relaxation techniques to soothing music or nature sounds that can be downloaded or freely available on YouTube.
  • White noise: Steady low sounds (such as those coming from a fan or an air conditioner) mask or dilute sounds that may be keeping you awake. Electronic “sound machines” are available that play continuous soothing sounds (e.g., waves, rain, or waterfall) or emit a fan-like masking white noise that can cover any distracting noises.

Source: Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, and Ron McMillan

2. De-Stress

Everyone experiences stress from time to time and learning how you as an individual can manage different pressures is a normal, and indeed useful, thing to explore whilst at University.Prevention

  • Good self-care: Taking care of yourself will help maintain your physical, emotional, and mental reserves to prevent and manage stress. This includes getting sufficient sleep, regular exercise, relaxation, and eating well.
  • Evaluate your priorities: There are so many exciting activities to engage in at Yale-NUS College, but if you try to do everything, you may spread yourself too thin to really reap value from the activities you’re engaged in. Ask yourself: What is most important to you? Imagine yourself 5-10 years in the future, looking back. Will you wish you invested more in academics? Developing friendships? Co-curricular activities?
  • Consider doing less: Try to leave yourself some down time to relax and replenish. Before taking on an additional responsibility, take some time to think about whether it is going to contribute to or detract from your overall well-being. Ask yourself: Are the benefits worth the potential stress?
  • Practice setting limits: It can be tough to say “no” to others, or to limit yourself from doing everything, even if you know it might be better for you in the long run. Rather than automatically saying “yes” to new responsibilities, consider changing your default response to, “Let me think about it” or “I’ll get back to you” to buy yourself some time to consider the impact of the decision.
  • Try not to stress about stress: Make stress your friend – new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Watch How to make stress your friend, a TED talk by a health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University.
  • Work hard, play well: Working hard is draining, and you deserve to relax and let loose. Choose activities that will help you unwind and have fun.

Stress Relief

  • Take a Deep Breath: Stress often causes us to breathe shallowly and this in turn almost always causes more stress! Mentally scan your body for physical tension. The next time you feel “uptight”, try taking a minute to slow down and breathe deeply. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to inhale and exhale slowly.
  • Talk to someone: Whether it’s a friend, family, counselor, or religious advisor, getting support is crucial.
  • Spend time with others: Social interaction is one of our nervous system’s ways of managing ‘fight or flight’ responses and can help you calm down and cope better with stress.
  • Play: Do something purely for the fun of it. Leisure activities and hobbies can be very enjoyable and inspiring, and they can offer an added sense of accomplishment to our lives.
  • Laugh, use humor: Maintain your sense of humor, including the ability to laugh at yourself. Laughter is good for you! Do something fun and enjoyable such as seeing a funny movie, laughing with friends, or reading a humorous book.
  • Write: Sometimes it’s helpful to get stressful thoughts out of your head and onto paper. Putting problems on paper can assist you in clarifying the situation and allow you a new perspective.
  • Change the scenery: Take a walk in the park or nature reserves or explore a new place.
  • Take a “Minute” Vacation: Create a quiet scene. Imagining a quiet country or beach scene can take you out of the turmoil of a stressful situation. When you have the opportunity, take a moment to close your eyes and imagine a place where you feel relaxed and comfortable. Notice all the details of your chosen place, including pleasant sounds, smells and temperature. Or change your mental “channel” by reading a good book or playing relaxing music to create a sense of peace and tranquility.
  • Move your body: Find ways to get active and incorporate more movement into your life. Exercise is one of the most powerful ways to de-stress.

Source: Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, and Ron McMillan

3. People who sleep less than 8 hours a night more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety

Date: January 4, 2018

Source: Binghamton University

Summary: Sleeping less than the recommended eight hours a night is associated with intrusive, repetitive thoughts like those seen in anxiety or depression, according to new research.


Sleeping less than the recommended eight hours a night is associated with intrusive, repetitive thoughts like those seen in anxiety or depression, according to new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Binghamton University Professor of Psychology Meredith Coles and former graduate student Jacob Nota assessed the timing and duration of sleep in individuals with moderate to high levels of repetitive negative thoughts (e.g., worry and rumination). The research participants were exposed to different pictures intended to trigger an emotional response, and researchers tracked their attention through their eye movements. The researchers discovered that regular sleep disruptions are associated with difficulty in shifting one’s attention away from negative information. This may mean that inadequate sleep is part of what makes negative intrusive thoughts stick around and interfere with people’s lives .

“We found that people in this study have some tendencies to have thoughts get stuck in their heads, and their elevated negative thinking makes it difficult for them to disengage with the negative stimuli that we exposed them to,” said Coles. “While other people may be able to receive negative information and move on, the participants had trouble ignoring it.”

These negative thoughts are believed to leave people vulnerable to different types of psychological disorders, such as anxiety or depression, said Coles.

“We realized over time that this might be important — this repetitive negative thinking is relevant to several different disorders like anxiety, depression and many other things,” said Coles. “This is novel in that we’re exploring the overlap between sleep disruptions and the way they affect these basic processes that help in ignoring those obsessive negative thoughts.”

The researchers are further exploring this discovery, evaluating how the timing and duration of sleep may also contribute to the development or maintenance of psychological disorders. If their theories are correct, their research could potentially allow psychologists to treat anxiety and depression by shifting patients’ sleep cycles to a healthier time or making it more likely a patient will sleep when they get in bed.

The paper, “Shorter sleep duration and longer sleep onset latency are related to difficulty disengaging attention from negative emotional images in individuals with elevated transdiagnostic repetitive negative thinking” was published in ScienceDirect.


Story Source: Materials provided by Binghamton University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

Jacob A. Nota, Meredith E. Coles. Shorter sleep duration and longer sleep onset latency are related to difficulty disengaging attention from negative emotional images in individuals with elevated transdiagnostic repetitive negative thinking. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 2018; 58: 114 DOI: 10.1016/j.jbtep.2017.10.003

Read other related articles at the Science Daily.