Your Body On Sleep: How to sleep smarter

It may not surprise you to know that most college students have their ideas about sleep all wrong. Although studies done with fitness trackers show that the students wearing them average at about 7 hours a night, that is only students who are overall more aware of their health — and even they are on the low end of the recommended amount. Studies that focus on the general population are more likely to find that as many as 73% of students have sleep problems.

While it may not be a big deal to pull an all-nighter every now and then, or stay out late to celebrate a birthday, when left unchecked those nights can add up. Lack of sleep can eventually lead to a host of issues, including but not limited to lowered immune function, mood disorders, and hypertension. Don’t we already have enough things to make us sick, emotional, and stressed out?

While it may not be easy to get some rest with a big test or interview looming, it is important to not only make time for sleep, but make the most out of the time we are in bed. Here are a few easy ways that you can maximize your sleep, whatever your living situation may be.

  1. Have a routine. You don’t have to spend three hours on it, but try having 3-5 key things that you do every night before you go to bed. For example, I always end my day by washing my face, diffusing essential oils, letting my hair down, writing out a plan for the next day, and putting some lotion on my poor, winter-dried hands. This helps your brain connect that pattern of activities with winding down, and will make you less likely to experience the urge to bake cookies right after curling up.
  2. Don’t lay in bed unless you plan on going to sleep. While living in a tight space may leave nowhere to study but the bed, you can still choose to sit up with a lap desk and stay above the covers instead of snuggling in. As with the previous item on this list, it will help you subconsciously recognize that when you do x, it’s time for y – when you finally lay  down under the covers, it’s time for sleep.
  3. Try to keep your sleep patterns steady. While an occasional late night and early morning can’t be avoided, having a “typical” sleep time can work wonders. There was a time I would never have dreamed of getting up earlier than 8am, but now I do it almost every day because my internal clock has gotten used to it.
  4. Limit sugar and caffeine before bed. Coffee is an amazing thing, and chocolate is too, but within an hour or two before bed is definitely the time to cut those things out so you can focus on getting ready to rest (if not earlier).
  5. Keep electronics away from bedtime. I get it, I get it, Netflix is how you unwind — but try to leave the last half hour or so before bed as a sacred “no screen” time. Your eyes and sleep schedule will thank you.

This, right here, is how I get 8 hours of good sleep a night with full-time school, working, extracurriculars, and having a social life. It’s a priority for a reason: in order to do my best with school and in life, it is ridiculously important to get enough rest. Here’s my favorite TED talk on the subject, well worth the less-than-five-minutes it takes to watch: https://www.ted.com/talks/arianna_huffington_how_to_succeed_get_more_sleep

How do you make sleep a priority, or miss out from not doing so?

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