I get it. Sleep is a scarce resource in college. You’re averaging a full 8 hours between yourself and your roommate. Your eye bags have eye bags and you’re crossing your fingers that your shirt isn’t on inside out. College means you might grit through a number of these days. The thing is, your lack of shut-eye isn’t troublesome half the time, because you can attribute it to positive experiences. You’re up having those late-night chats with your closest friend. You snuck in a few episodes of your favorite show before starting that essay. You stopped to get coffee with your friendliest professor. Whatever the case, you’re looking to sleep better, not more. Your waking moments are long but packed with something worthwhile. So, read on for advice to get the best sleep in college without doing anything drastic. Your REM cycles can thank me later.
1. Go to bed at the same time every night.
Your body likes routine. Your sleep cycle will naturally adjust to your needs if you make an effort to go to bed and wake up at the same time, even on weekends.
Those who exercise regularly get the best sleep. Even a few minutes daily will go a long way. Personally, I’m always exhausted after a good workout, so I like to make room for it in my schedule late in the afternoon or at night.
3. Develop a night time routine.
Doing the same, refreshing things each night before bed can help you relax. Soothing activities like a warm shower or listening to soft music will help your mind unwind and let your body know it’s time to sleep.
4. No caffeine within 4-6 hours of bedtime.
Caffeine is a stimulant with effects lasting 4-6 hours after consumption. Even if you believe “coffee doesn’t affect you” (like I do), it is a drug that acts as a very real trigger for a bad night’s sleep. Cut the coffee, tea, soda, etc to give your nerves a break before bed.
5. It’s all about temperature control.
Lower body temperatures trigger a release of melatonin, the hormone responsible for your biological clock. Experts recommend setting the the thermostat between 60 and 67 degrees fahrenheit for optimal sleep.
6. Avoid bright lights and loud sounds.
Other students living around you may not be the most considerate toward your sleeping habits. Do your best to block out the inevitable disruptions. A good friend of mine started wearing a sleeping mask and earplugs every night (under $10 each), and she has yet to stop talking about their positive influence on her happy REM cycles.
7. Avoid blue screens.
Light from a traditional screen bears blue-light wavelengths that stimulate the brain, throwing off your biological clock. Now you can use apps to replace the harsh light from your screens with warmer orange tones once it’s about time for bed.
8. Don’t hit snooze.
You’ve heard it from me before, hitting snooze is one of the worst things you can do if you want to wake up feeling refreshed. Instead of setting 10 alarms, choose one reasonable time to wake up, and follow through with it! Get up, stretch, start your day on the right foot.
9. Get the right pillow for you.
In college, you don’t often have control over your mattress, but you do have control over the pillow that goes on it! Finding a pillow that aligns your spine in a healthy way will do wonders for the quality of your sleep.
10. Run through the events of your day before bed.
Pent up anxiety can keep students up at night. One trick I’ve grown fond of is running through the day in my head once I’m ready to sleep. I take note of all the positive things I did paired with everything I’m grateful for. Then, I address the negative aspects of my day, and resolve ways to improve upon them in the future. This exercise helps me let go of any day-to-day unease, appreciate my circumstances, and relax overall. Once I’m more mindful, I have positive thoughts, and a much easier time falling asleep.
Joelle Resnik is a student at Boston College pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in both Economics and Communications. She will try to tell you she kayaks in her free time, but you can most definitely find her napping. Don’t confuse her for her twin sister.