As a college student, I know that trying to get sleep while in school, maintaining a social life, working, internships or anything else can be a struggle. Follow these simple tips to get consistently better sleep on a regular basis.
Maintain A Sleep Schedule
Each person’s body runs on the circadian rhythm, which is primarily focused on regulating your sleep and alertness. Since your body plans to release natural melatonin before bed and help energize you when you wake up, it is very important to keep these activities at the relatively same time each day. If you sleep midnight to 8am one day, then 9pm to 11am the next, and 4am to 2pm the third day, you will quickly see how tired you are during the day and how restless you are at night. This is because our body is releasing chemicals based on when it expects you to function based on prior activity. However, by setting an approximate bedtime, (give yourself a two-hour span to account for later nights with friends), and not letting yourself sleep in too late on weekends and off days, you will feel more tired when getting ready for bed and more alert and prepared to start your day in the mornings.
Develop A Regular And Relaxing Bed Time Routine
Lots of people have trouble trying to get sleep at night because of built-up stress and tension from the day. To prepare your body for sleep and signal to your brain that it should start powering down for the night, create a personalized bedtime routine. This can include anything that fits your custom needs and wants, such as taking a shower or bath, drinking decaf tea, performing a skincare routine, reading a book, listening to a sleep-related podcast, or calling a significant other to say goodnight.
If You Can Not Fall Asleep, Get Up
Rather than laying in bed for hours staring at the ceiling, get up after half an hour of trying to sleep and do something else for a little while instead until you feel ready to sleep. It is very important that the activity you choose is relaxing. Try reading a book, journaling, or going on a walk. If you choose to watch TV or scroll through social media, be sure to put the blue light filter on, which will help your eyes feel less strain at night. If you still don’t feel tired after an hour, try laying down again anyway. Doing something for a while can help release some excess energy, but will also work to keep you awake as long as you are doing it, so it is important to stop and try to sleep again.
Only Use Your Bed For It’s Intended Uses
In order to optimize your ability to get sleep, you will need to train yourself to only use your bed for its intended uses: sleep and sex. Any other activities should be done in a desk, couch, outside of the room, or pretty much anywhere but where you sleep. When doing this, getting into bed will help signal to your brain that it is time to sleep and make the transition easier.
Exercise Often, But Give Your Body A Few Hour Rest Before Trying To Get Sleep
Exercising can help tire you out and generally regulates your body’s system functions, however, it also increases energy and prevents you from sleeping. The effects take a while to wear off, so be sure to stop working out a few hours before bed in order to optimally get sleep.
Set A Pre-Determined Time To Stop Drinking Caffeine
Coffee, soda, energy drinks, and tea are all commonly used ways to keep yourself energized throughout the day. There is no need to shy away from the use of such stimulants to stay awake, but be sure to back off several hours before bed, or you will find yourself restless and unable to get sleep. Personally, my caffeine cut-off is at 3pm daily, though some people stop drinking coffee at noon to ensure they can relax at night. The exact time is up to you, but be sure to leave around 7 or more hours for the effects to die down.
Limit And Plan Naps
There is no problem with taking naps to refresh yourself, but sleeping for too long or too close to bedtime can mess with your ability to get sleep at night. Based on REM cycles, the best nap, time length, is either 20 minutes, before your body starts falling into a deep sleep, or an hour and a half, after approximately one full REM cycle. If you plan on going to bed within 3 hours of waking up from your nap, it would likely be best to stay up, or you will find yourself unable to sleep for hours.
Power Down Any Electronics At Night Or Switch On The Blue Light Filter
Looking at electronic screens for extended periods of time can cause eye strain, so try to shy away from binging on Netflix for hours right before bed or scrolling through social media while laying down. If you can, set your blue light filter to activate after a certain time, 9pm is a good choice for most people, so that the intensity of the light has less negative effects on you before bed.
Particularly if you have a roommate, there are likely to be things seemingly out of your control keeping you awake. To limit these distractions, there are a couple of things you can do. Primarily, set boundaries as early as possible about the nighttime conditions, such as when the lights should be turned off and when guests need to be gone by. To provide a dark space, hang a black light-reducing curtain around your bed to form a canopy that can be pinned back for daytime use. Consider a white noise machine or phone app to help drown out other noises or just give you something to focus on.
Start Implementing A Daily Morning Routine
Try to start your day off on the right food each day so you feel prepared to start your morning. This routine could include making coffee, taking a shower, doing your makeup, or anything else you require. Set your alarm across the room if you are prone to hitting snooze for hours so that you have to stand up and walk before shutting it off.
Take Melatonin Before Getting Ready For Bed
For a natural sleeping aid, try taking melatonin! You can buy pills, chewable tablets, gummies, and more products containing melatonin. They often come in two forms, long-lasting and fast-acting. Choose whichever one is right for you or take a low dose of each to provide a well-rested night’s sleep.