It is a universally known fact that college isn’t the best time for catching up on beauty sleep. Between going to classes, studying, and maintaining relationships, many students find themselves feeling exhausted during a time when they’re expected to function at 100%.
Since you’re reading this article, I’m assuming that you’re already familiar with the effects of not sleeping properly. (Fun fact: Those aged 17-22 require between seven and ten hours of sleep per night.)
Instead, I am going to focus on practical sleeping tips and advice on how to improve bedtime habits.
Please note: This article is meant only to provide advice, as I do not possess any sort of medical background. If you are struggling with sleep or are unsure if the advice given in this article is suitable for you, you should contact your healthcare provider with your questions and/or concerns.
Sleeping Tip 1: Adjust Your Environment
The first thing you should do when considering how to improve your sleep is assess your physical environment.
Note that if you’re living in a dorm or in a space you don’t own, there’ll be probably limits on what you can do to to physically change it.
But that doesn’t mean that all hope is lost!
Here are some easy and inexpensive tips for improving your sleeping environment immediately:
- Wear a sleeping mask to block out excess light.
- Wear earplugs to reduce background noise.
- Add or take away extra blankets.
- Make sure you’re sleeping in something comfortable and cozy – even if it doesn’t look chic (my faded tees and worn out shorts say hi.).
- Replace your pillow if it’s not suited to your preferred sleeping position.
- Remove excess clutter from your room, as clutter is known to cause stress. Not sure where to start? Check out these 10 Crazy Simple Decluttering Tips.
Of course, there are also more permanent measures you can take to change your sleeping environment – if you are allowed to, of course – including:
- Investing in a white noise machine/fan, if a bit of noise helps you sleep. Just be sure to run this by any roomies, as not everyone appreciates the extra noise!
- Buying a new, high-quality sheet set or a luxe duvet – or, if possible, a new mattress. Although this may cost you money in the short term, believe me when I say that it’s one of the best long-term investments you can make for yourself.
- Installing blackout curtains, especially if you are a night owl who is still asleep when it’s light out. Sure, they might not look great, but you’ll definitely feel great when you wake up from a night of uninterrupted sleep!
Sleeping Trick 2: Make It a Priority
One of the most important sleeping tips I ever received was to make rest a priority in my life.
In fact, I like to think of sleep as being equally as important as school.
I know this sounds dramatic. But it makes sense when you consider that you probably won’t do well in school if your brain isn’t functioning at full capacity.
If that still doesn’t convince you, try to think of sleep as another “class” in your schedule with mandatory participation.
To schedule your sleep, all you have to do is follow these three simple steps:
- Consider how many hours of sleep you need to feel rested.
- Add to that number the amount of time you usually require to fall asleep.
- Add a bit of extra falling asleep time as a “buffer,” because you never know when your brain might take a little longer than usual to calm down.
Finally, I want to emphasize that you really can’t cheat when it comes to scheduling your sleep. Sure, we all have that one friend who claims to function just fine on three hours’ sleep and a couple of coffees. But, let’s face it, that friend is probably lying. If by some chance they aren’t, they’re part of a very small minority.
Sleeping Tip 3: Work With Your Body’s Natural Circadian Rhythm
Some people are morning larks, some are night owls, and the rest fall somewhere between. By now, you probably know which camp you fall into, and by extension, when you’re most productive and most tired.
Unfortunately, it can be really hard to work with your body’s natural rhythm in college when you’re a night owl who has to attend an 8:00am lecture, or you’re a morning lark who wants to go to a party.
However, there are some things you can do to avoid making life even worse for your sleep cycle, including the following tips:
- Easing into your day by doing the most pleasant or easiest tasks first if you’re a night owl.
- Doing the opposite if you’re a morning lark, for example: doing the most demanding things when you wake up and leaving the easier tasks for later in the day when you’re more likely to feel more tired and less alert.
- Not forcing yourself to work out in the morning. Not everyone looks forward to working out and I can assure you that trying to make yourself wake up for a task that you dislike is a surefire way to actually reduce your desire to get out of bed!
- Whenever possible, plan your classes in a way that fits with when you feel most alert and energized.
Sleeping Trick 4: Optimize Your Bedtime Routine
As far as I’m concerned, one of the best ways to optimize your bedtime routine is to reduce stress. Obviously, this is much easier said than done in college.
Thankfully, here are some tips help ease your mind before sleeping:
- Shower at night rather than in the morning. Showering is an inherently relaxing activity for most of us. In addition, by taking a hot shower about an hour before you turn in, you allow your body’s core temperature to cool, thereby making it easier to fall asleep.
- Do a quiet, relaxing activity before bed, like reading, meditating, journaling, listening to chill music, or even some low-key doodling.
- Get permission from a friend, significant other, or relative to call them (no texting!) every night. The call doesn’t have to last long; there’s just something so relaxing about hearing the voice of someone you care about, even if it’s just for a short time.
- Make a list of everything you’re stressed about at the moment. This will help you remove these things from your mind, at least temporarily.
- Two words: Gratitude journal. How do you do practice gratitude journaling? Simply write down everything you’re feeling thankful for at the moment. For example: specific friends, acing a big presentation in class, or even just having the opportunity to see the color of the sky that day.
Sleeping Tip 5: Get Help!
If you’ve tried all of these strategies and are still struggling with sleep, there is absolutely no shame in getting some outside help!
If you’re not sure where to begin, visiting your regular doctor is a good place to start. Before going, make a list of all of your concerns so that they can make proper recommendations for you.
These recommendations could include some or all of the following:
- Tests to determine if there’s an underlying health condition causing your sleep-related problems.
- A referral to another doctor who may be able to better help you with these potential problems.
- A referral to a doctor who specializes in sleep.
- A prescription to help you sleep better.
- A suggestion to try an OTC supplement or medication to help you sleep better. That said, even over the counter medications can be harmful to your health if you’re unintentionally taking them incorrectly. This is especially true if you have other health conditions or are taking other medications and supplements. Even if these things don’t apply to you, it’s always important to get the opinion of a professional before taking anything, no matter what.
What do you think?
Do you sleep well in college? Have you tried/do you plan to try any of the sleep tips listed here? Do you have any other tricks for sleeping better in college?
Let me know in the comments!