College life is full of sleep disturbing circumstances: loud residence halls, “night owl” roommates, late night study sessions, too much to do, too little time (Add your issue here...) How can you make the most of your precious rest time?
Establish a routine. Wake up at approximately the same time each day. Try to maintain the same schedule regardless of your class schedule. Aim for the same general bedtime. There will always have to be exceptions, but you are attempting to train your body’s sleep/wake cycle, so that you become tired and become alert at the appropriate times. When you are able to wake on your own, feel well rested and function well throughout the day, you are getting enough sleep. If not, gradually add sleep time until you do.
Do not nap. This only interferes with the establishment of a consistent nighttime sleep routine.
Have a behavioral routine as well. For example: brush teeth, change clothes, read for ½ an hour, put down the book, set the alarm clock, lights out. Try to keep the routine consistent. It will help to train your body to sleep on cue.
Use your bed for sleeping. This is a tough one for college students. There is precious little sitting and studying and visiting space in a residence hall room. Again, training your body requires consistency. If you must use your bed for activities other than sleep, use it differently. Sit at the opposite end; don’t lie down in the same way as for sleep.
Eating Avoid caffeine, nicotine and other stimulants 4-6 hours prior to bedtime. You will have to determine your own personal sensitivity to these substances. Although alcohol is a depressant and will make you sleepy, you will not get a restful sleep under the influence of alcohol. A large meal before bed may keep you up, however a snack will prevent you from awakening from hunger during the night.
Exercise A regular consistent regimen of exercise will help you sleep more deeply. The timing of your exercise sessions is individual. Some people are tired out by exercise, some are revved up. A stretching routine or meditative movement such as yoga or Tai Chi may help relax and calm you before bed.
Adjust Your Environment
Light Darken the room, not only when sleeping, but also as you are preparing for sleep. Try to simulate night falling in your room. Turn off some lights in your room, avoid bright overhead lights, which can fool your body into thinking – “daytime”.
Temperature The ideal temperature is a warm bed in a cool room. Try to have your room’s nighttime temperature about 60 degrees. Use additional blankets for warmth.
Noise Address this issue to the extent that you can. Residence halls are noisy. Background instrumental music, earplugs, and white noise machines are strategies students can use to mask noise beyond their control.
Distractions Put the alarm clock where you can’t see the time, turn it away from you, so that you aren’t lying in bed counting the minutes you aren’t sleeping.
A few more tips...
None of this is going to work without your roommate’s cooperation. How can you bring it up? How can you ask for what you need in order to sleep well without offending your roommate or interfering with his/her sleep needs? You will need excellent communication, negotiation and assertiveness skills. The Counseling Center is a great place to develop them. A counselor can coach you through creating a sleeping compromise with your roommate or you can spend a number of sessions honing these same skills and applying them in other areas of life.
Worries, anxious thoughts, deadlines and problems can keep you awake thinking. If you find it difficult to “switch off” your brain at bedtime, consider utilizing the counseling services of the Engle Center. Discussing your concerns with professionally trained counselors can help you quiet the noise in your head and help you deal with your waking life more effectively so that it doesn’t intrude upon your sleeping life.
Learn more about it!
Check out these links for additional information about managing sleep problems: