We all know that sleep is very important for our health and well-being, not to mention just functioning well during the day. I’m personally pretty serious about getting my 8 hours every night so I can be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the next day, and ready to be at the top of my game.
Yet, I noticed that even though I was getting enough sleep I was still tired when I got up, and I stayed tired for most of the day until I climbed back into bed. As college students we aren’t known for keeping the most regular sleep schedule, and sometimes that paper you’re working on at the last minute keeps you up into the wee hours of the morning. However, that tired feeling you have during the day may not be because you aren’t getting enough sleep. Rather, you may not be getting the quality sleep your body needs to recharge. After scouring the internet I’ve found some tips you can employ to avoid being a walking zombie during the day.
Create the proper environment for sleeping. This entails changing a few habits you may have picked up over the years. Experts recommend that you keep the room as dark as possible. This means dimming your digital clocks, turning off the TV, and getting rid of that night-light (not that you still use those). Light is a powerful cue to your brain that you need to wake up, which of course is counter-productive to sleep. Likewise, try to eliminate the most noise possible. You may feel that music helps you relax but it may be placing undue strain on your body during sleep. If you need to listen to something try using a white noise app on your phone to drown out any sounds that may wake you up during the night. Additionally, it is recommended that you keep your bedroom a few degrees colder than you would normally have it during the day, preferably between 60°-75°F, as this helps prevent your internal clock from waking you up unnecessarily during the night. If you have pets, try to prevent them from being in the room if they tend to wake you up. Some even recommend removing electronics from you bedroom entirely, for those in a dorm this may be more a little more difficult. However, the stronger association you can create with your bedroom as a place designated solely for sleep, the better sleep you will get.
Set a routine. This goes beyond just going to bed and waking up at the same time. Try to establish a relaxing routine that you perform for about a hour before bed. You might get comfortable in bed and read a book, or any other activity you find relaxing. Avoid working and talking about stressful situations, when stressed the brain secretes a chemical called cortisol that promotes alertness, which is counter-productive to relaxation. That being said, establishing a set time for going to bed and waking up is still important. Practicing this type of control helps set your internal clock. However, it may be difficult to get to bed at the same time every night; so your best bet is to establish a set time every morning to wake up. This practice helps to set your internal clock, which in turn allows your body to consolidate sleep better. This means that even if you don’t get a good night’s sleep, your body will make up for it the next night. The most important thing is that you try your best not to deviate from your routine.
Keep Calm. We’ve all been in that situation where all we want to do is fall asleep, but we can’t. This is likely because your trying to hard, and that can lead to stress that will keep you awake. If you can’t fall asleep after about 20 minutes, don’t force it. Try getting up and doing something relaxing for a while in a low-light setting. Once you start feeling tired and your body is ready to sleep, you can return to bed. Likewise, avoid watching the clock; nothing is worse and more stressful than trying to fall asleep with the clock staring you in the face, mocking your inability to fall asleep. Try turning the clock face away from you, or dimming the screen so you can’t read it. Not only will this help you fall asleep faster, but you will be less tempted to check the clock if you wake up in the middle of the night.
Avoid foods and activities that keep you awake. This may seem obvious, but just about everyone is guilty of doing this every once and a while. It should go without saying that your worst enemy is caffeine. This means trying to cut out coffee, soda, and even chocolate for about 4 hours before bed. Likewise, be careful when snacking late at night, it’s okay to eat something light if your hungry. But, that double bean burrito or slice of supreme pizza is asking for trouble with indigestion and insomnia. You should also try to avoid exercising too close to bed, exercise produces cortisol, which interferes with sleep. Try not to exercise within 3-4 hours of going to sleep. Also, try to balance your fluid intake, drink enough so that you don’t wake up thirsty in the middle of the night; and I’m sure I don’t need to warn you about what drinking too much liquid will do. Lastly, control your napping habits. Hopefully, you won’t need to nap if these tips are working; but if you do need a nap, the timing is crucial. Try to nap about midday for 20-30 minutes at most, this will give the boost you need the make it through the rest of the day, but it won’t ruin your sleep schedule.
I’ve tried a few of these ideas myself, and I’ve seen some improvement in the way I feel during the day. At the very least, you might trick yourself into sleeping better just by thinking positively. What do you do to relax after a hard day?