Okay so being a college student, I really shouldn’t talk about sleep like I’ve got all the answers. I don’t, and unless you’re Arianna Huffington or a sleep specialist, neither do you. However, I’ve done enough napping and pulled enough all-nighters to know how bad fucking up your sleep schedule can be for your body and mind. So below I’ll talk about the basics, what not to do (that’s my area of expertise) and some tips for staying asleep during the night and staying awake during the day (which is pretty much the goal, right?).
To start, make sure you don’t have any medical reasons sleeping is hard for you because if you try everything I’m about to talk about and you’re still having a hard time, maybe seeing a doctor would be in your best interest. Sleep apnea, insomnia, mental illness, and physical illness can be the secret culprit for sleep-related issues, that can usually be fixed with the right treatment. Also, note that I’m not a doctor and your medical advice shouldn’t be coming from a well-read twenty-one-year-old with an internet connection. That’s no way to live.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s work on some common issues that students have. As someone in college, it’s really easy to come home from class, get into bed, and do your homework well into the wee hours of the morning. This is bad for several reasons. First, get out of bed. Do your homework (and basically everything else) literally anywhere that isn’t your bed. More on that later. Secondly, staying up late, especially working on an assignment or the night before a test might seem like the way to learn the most material and study for longer. This, however, is a lie that you need to stop believing right now. You should never ever compromise your sleep (also known as one of the keys to your mental and physical health) for studies, it’ll backfire. Your sleep is the time where your brain takes all the material you put into it and organizes it into little file folders for safe keeping. If you study longer and sleep less, your brain has less time to organize all the material into folders, and usually just dumps it all into the trash can. So now you’re running on no sleep and you barely remember the material you stayed up so late to cram into your brain.
Next, your bed. Get out of it. Seriously. Human bodies are pretty good at learning how things work, and if you teach your body that bed is for sleeping, your body will learn, usually in a week or two. Waking up at an appropriate time, making your bed (yes, just do it), and staying out of it until you go to bed at night will teach your body that laying down in bed means that it’s time to sleep. If you’re constantly in bed watching Netflix, doing homework, scrolling through social media, etc., you’re going to have a hard time telling your body that it’s time to turn off, because likely, nothing has changed.
You’re not going to want to hear this next part, and it’s even hard for me to follow this rule (i.e., I usually don’t, but have resolved to try harder). Get off your damn phone. The light is screwing you all up and you just don’t need it. Plug it in, set your alarm, hit “Do Not Disturb” and put it away. Better yet, buy a real alarm clock like a freaking adult and leave your phone away from your bed. If you can’t sleep, and your instinct is to reach for your phone, that’s a habit you need to break.
Please don’t be this guy.
Okay, that was the hard part. Next is the fun(ish) part. Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night, sweating with your mouth dry, and that sip of water feels like the first sip you ever took? Yeah, that’s pretty normal, but not exactly a good thing, as you might have guessed. To combat this, first, start drinking water, and a lot of it, especially before bed. Yeah, you might need to get up to go to the bathroom more often, which is not a big deal because at least you’re hydrated. Second, turn on a ceiling or standing fan if you have one (if you don’t, standing fans are usually around $10 at Walmart or Target), and third, get naked! There are actually a lot of proven benefits to sleeping naked (especially if you’re living with a spouse or partner), so why not?
Next, if we’re getting into the territory of actually adulting here, it’s smart to invest in bedding (if not an entire bed, but I know that can get expensive, so maybe just stick with the bedding if you’re on a budget) that is comfortable and attractive. You want to look at your bed after a long day of being FAR AWAY FROM IT and be excited to get in, and once you get in, you want to be comfortable. As far as what your bedding should look like? That’s mostly up to you, but the color blue seems to be the best for promoting a good night’s sleep. And those sheets? You want to wash them, like often. Like once every one to two weeks, depending on how often you crawl into them without having showered. As for your pillowcases? Wash those as often as you can, especially if you’re prone to acne or oily skin. That one was not so much a tip for sleep, but you’re welcome anyway.
Here are some other quick tips on getting to sleep:
- Create a nighttime routine. (This tells your body that it’s time to wind down.)
- Keep it consistent, go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time each day and night. (Even on the weekends!)
- Face your alarm clock or phone away from your bed, and across the room if you can. (This keeps you from looking at it at night and helps you actually get out of bed in the morning.)
- Don’t eat too much or too little before bed, and avoid caffeine and alcohol. (If you’re hungry or too full, you’re going to have a hard time falling asleep. But who am I kidding with the caffeine and alcohol? You’re in college, you’re probably double fisting a coffee and a beer right now.)
Now go forth, my friends, and get some damn sleep.