Getting enough sleep is one of the best things you can do for yourself as an adult.
I know, it seems like there’s a lot to do in college, both socially and school-wise, and you want to take advantage of your new independence. And nobody tells you what to do anymore — except you, that is.
Here’s the thing, though: If you don’t get enough sleep, it affects your whole life. You may feel miserable, you may gain weight, have trouble focusing, be more likely to catch colds (and worse), and, according to the Harvard Medical School your judgement, when overtired, is equivalent to that of someone who is past the point of legal intoxication.
The same website notes that students who are overtired will struggle with all three components of learning: the acquisition of knowledge; consolidation of knowledge into your mental “database;” and recalling that knowledge when you need it. That’s bad news for tired college students.
Of course, there’s always that guy who claims he doesn’t need more than four hours of sleep. Chances are, he’s just not aware of how much better he’d feel on a good eight hours … more or less.
Adults need anywhere between 7.5 and 8.5 hours of sleep, depending on the person. If you start nodding off during a particularly dry lecture, it means you need more time in bed.
A recent Time magazine article explained the time of night you go to sleep also makes a big difference — people generally get deeper, more restorative non-REM sleep earlier in the night, and more dream-filled REM sleep later in the night. So, even if you go to bed at 3:00 a.m. and still get your eight hours, you won’t feel as recharged as if you’d gone to bed before midnight.
To get all the brainpower you need out of those eight hours, try sprucing up your sleep routines with the following tips:
1. Keep yourself on a schedule.
Make a schedule, and keep to it, preferably by hitting the sheets before midnight. Trying to “make up” for lost sleep on the weekends can just throw off your circadian rhythms even more, causing it to be more difficult to fall asleep the following night.
2. Create a pre-bedtime ritual.
Avoid screens, since they can keep you awake longer. Listen to music, read a little something for fun, do some yoga, take a shower, and get cozy.
3. Wait for bedtime.
Avoid long naps. Short 10-minute naps can be a nice mid-day recharge, but anything longer can disrupt your sleeping routine.
4. Watch what you eat and drink.
The Sleep Foundation recommends that you be cautious about what you eat and drink when it’s close to bedtime. It’s best to avoid alcohol, caffeine, and greasy foods 2-3 hours before bedtime.
If you didn’t have enough reasons to hit the college gym, here’s another: regular exercise can help you get a better night’s sleep.
6. Adjust the environment.
The Sleep Foundation explains the steps you should take to create an ideal environment for sleeping: The room should be 60 to 67 degrees with minimal noise and light. Crack a window if you need to, or stick your toes out from under the blankets. When adjusting the lighting situation, remember that even a mild glow can affect your shut-eye. You may have hallway lights coming under the door, or the microwave clock lighting up the room. Try covering those with dark paper, or go glamorous with a fancy eyemask. If that seems weird, try sleeping in a sweatshirt with the hoodie up to block out some light. In terms of sounds, well … there are always people who play music too loud and roommates who snore. Consider getting a noise machine, turning on a fan for some white noise, or just wearing ear plugs.
College is so crazy that keeping a sleep routine can be the hardest part. There always comes a time when you have to stay up all night to get everything done, or a social occasion where bedtime tea just doesn’t fit in. It’s okay. Even adding a few of these items to your checklist can substantially improve your sleep, which will leave you feeling more refreshed in the morning, and ready to take on whatever college throws at you.
Healthy Sleep Tips. (2014). National Sleep Foundation. Retrieved from National Sleep Foundation.
Heid, M. (2014). You Asked: What's the Best Bedtime? Time. Retrieved from Time.
Mitchell, H. (2014). What's the Best Time to Go to Bed? Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from the Wall Street Journal.
Sleep and Memory. (2008) Get Sleep. Harvard University. Retrieved from Harvard University.
Springen, K. 7 Myths About Sleep. WebMD. Retrieved from WebMD.