Sleep is one of the most important parts of maintaining a healthy body and mind. As a college student, you have lots of things that can work against you when it comes to getting the sleep you need (academic commitments, busy schedules, late night meetings, roommates and stress, just to name a few). The consequences of poor sleep can be major. Did you know people who have poor sleep have poor attention, decreased memory retention, increased likelihood of getting sick and increased likelihood of having an accident? Fortunately, we have some simple, easy to follow suggestions that will have you catching Zzz’s in no time.
You may have heard this term before. Sleep Hygiene are the basic strategies we should all be following to give ourselves the best chance at getting a good night’s sleep. Read through this list and see if there are any ways you could make some changes to improve these sleep promoting behaviors.
- Limit Caffeine: No more than 3 cups per day. No caffeine in the late afternoon or evening hours (at least 4-6 hours before bed).
- Limit Alcohol: May help you fall asleep at first but can lead to sleep disruption and make sleep less restful.
- Exercise Regularly but not Close to Bedtime: Regular moderate exercise can improve quality of sleep.
- Try a Light Bedtime Snack such as Milk, Peanut Butter, or Cheese: These foods contain chemicals your body uses to produce sleep and can make you drowsy. Avoid big meals close to bedtime.
- Keep Your Bedroom Quiet and Dark: Noise and light can disrupt sleep; try white-noise machines or ear plugs to screen sounds if noise is unavoidable. Use eye masks if light is unavoidable.
- Keep your Bedroom Cool: Temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit can disrupt sleep.
Other Sleep Improvement Guidelines
While Sleep Hygiene strategies are a necessary foundation for quality sleep, they are unfortunately not sufficient. Here are some additional tips for improving and maintaining good sleep habits.
- Select a Standard Rising Time: Set the time and stick to it every day, regardless of how much sleep you get each night. This will create a stable sleep pattern.
- Use the Bed Only for Sleep and Sex: Do not read, watch TV, eat, study, use the phone or computer, or do other things that require you to be awake. These activities unintentionally train your brain to be awake in bed.
- Get Out of Bed When You Can’t Sleep: Never stay in bed for extended periods of time without being asleep; this will increased frustration and worry about not sleeping and make it harder to sleep. It also creates a negative association with your bed/sleep time. If you are awake for 15-20 minutes, get out of bed no matter the time of night. Leave your room if you are able. Engage in relaxing, non-stimulating activities and don’t return to bed until you are ready to sleep.
- Don’t Worry, Plan or Problem-Solve in Bed: If your mind is racing, get out of bed and go to another room until you are able to return to bed without the worry. Consider setting aside time earlier in the night to worry so it’s less likely to follow you to bed.
- Avoid Daytime Napping: Napping weakens sleep drive, making it more difficult to fall asleep at night.
- Avoid Excessive Time in Bed: Go to bed when you are sleepy but don’t go to bed so early that you spend more time in bed than you need; this can make sleep worse. Determine how much time you “need” for sleep and stick to it.
Adapted from Edinger & Carney, 2015 by Anna Lock, PsyD and Coordinator of the Integrative Health Program