As fall break is already upon us I know we are all thinking, myself included, about one thing and one thing only: SLEEP! Well we are definitely thinking about all of the delicious home cooked food we will be eating, but I know everyone will for surely be catching up on some sleep. Here’s the thing though, at least for myself, I will be extremely tempted to stay up until 3 catching up on New Girl on Netflix and sleeping in until 11 am the next day. There’s an issue with that though; it’s the complete opposite of my sleep schedule when I’m at school, where I go to bed around 11 and get up by 8. The thing with sleep is no matter how much you get, it seems like you always need more, but the most important thing is to create a schedule/routine to get the best/most amount of sleep you can. Coming back from fall break classes seem to really pick up (if they haven’t already) and you will be getting less and less sleep; which will suck because you’ll have just come off of a four day break of nothing but sleep (and eating of course!). So to help you after this inevitable sleep deprivation happens I’m gonna give you some tips on how to make sure you really don’t become a part of the cast of The Walking Dead. So to catch up on your sleep now and then use these tips to form habits after break.
Give yourself a bedtime: I know you’re thinking “what she’s crazy I’m not a kid anymore!”, but this is really important. You need to go to bed at the same time every night so your body knows what time it needs to start calming down. Again I know you think I’m crazy because, trust me, I know it’s impossible as a college kid to go to sleep at the same time every night, but even if it’s 11 every night you need to set a bedtime. This applies to the weekends too!
Wake up time: Just like setting a bedtime you need to set a regular wake-up time. Once again you need this as part of a scheduled routine. Again I know, it’s next to impossible when you have 8 AMs one day and then class at 11 AM the next, but you need this to avoid feeling sluggish everyday. Try to avoid hitting snooze too, this isn’t helping your sleep schedule at all! Unfortunately again this applies to the weekends! Also getting some natural sunlight in the morning helps set your circadian rhythms (which help you sleep).
Naps: Yes we all LOVE naps and they’re not necessarily a bad thing. You can nap to make up lost sleep. It’s actually better to nap than to sleep in late to make up on your lost sleep because you’re not messing with your regular sleep schedule. You should just figure out what a good length of a nap is for you. For example for me a twenty minute nap doesn’t really help, it makes me feel worse. I need about an hour long nap to feel refreshed; make sure you don’t take too long of a nap though, because then you won’t feel tired when it’s your “bedtime”.
Exercise: It helps tire out your body and it makes it easier to sleep. You don’t have to run a marathon but even something like taking a walk is better than nothing. A lot of people do yoga, as it’s a good exercise and a calming activity.
Environment: It’s important that you have a good sleeping environment, one that’s quiet and without a lot of light. If you need to use ear plugs or create white noise to help block out sound (I sleep with a fan on every night and I don’t hear a thing). A cooler room will actually help you sleep better too. Obviously your mattress and pillows need to be comfortable too. I know most everyone is sleeping on a dorm mattress, so if you don’t have one already go purchase a foam topper to make your mattress more comfortable! Also if you really can’t fall asleep leave your bed and the room to go into another room and do a relaxing activity until you do actually feel tired.
Create a routine: I’m not talking about a bedtime and wake up time again, I’m talking about a schedule of things you do before you go to bed. Create a few relaxing things to do before you go to bed; you’ll eventually have your body trained to start winding down as soon as you start the first thing in your routine. My routine consists of getting in a quiet environment, watching one episode on Netflix, then reading. Do whatever helps you relax, this does not include studying! Also try to stay off your phone before bed (I know this is a hard one and I’m guilty of it!) but the light of your phone is not gonna help you fall asleep.
Uses of your bed: Sleep. That is what your bed is for and nothing else. I understand in a dorm there’s not a lot of seating so it’s hard to be comfortable when relaxing when you’re not on your bed. Don’t read or watch TV on your bed because your body will associate the bed with being awake instead of sleeping.
Eating: Try your best to avoid eating a big meal right before you sleep or even fatty foods (those are harder to digest) and this will keep you up because your stomach is working so hard. Some light snacks are okay though and may actually help you fall asleep. Don’t drink a lot before bed either, that will cause you to wake up to go to the bathroom a lot.
Maintain your mood: A lot of times you’re staying awake because of stress or anxiety. Try to relax yourself and not think about anything that is worrying you. I’ll admit I even count sheep (actually I count deer!) to keep my mind on something pointless and avoid deep thinking that will keep me awake. Try some relaxing techniques to help you out, like deep breathing or muscle relaxations. If something is really bothering you write it down and “write it out”; it gets your thoughts out of your head and you’ll remember to deal with it the next day.
Sleeping issues: You should definitely know when you might actually have a sleeping disorder. Signs of one can include: persistent fatigue, unrefreshing sleep, morning headaches, crawling sensations in your legs or arms at night, falling asleep at inappropriate times, physically acting out dreams, inability to move while sleeping. If you think you might have a sleeping disorder go see your doctor or a sleep professional to come to a conclusion of how to sleep better.