One of the best – and worst – parts of college life is the flexible schedule. Sure, you have to go to classes or meetings at certain times, but you also get to decide when you eat, workout, or sleep. This flexibility might be great for your social life, but it can wreak havoc on your sleep schedule. Here are a few tips to help you get more out of your sleep.
- Maintain a schedule. Even if you don’t have class until 2 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, try to get your body used to a natural rhythm of going to bed and getting up at around the same time each day. When you sleep in until noon on Saturday, it might feel like you’re catching up on much needed sleep, but in reality, you’re throwing your sleep cycle off enough to cause you problems later on.
- Take short naps. A two-hour snooze fest between lunch and your evening class might sound good, but long naps can leave you feeling groggy and disrupt your normal sleep cycle, making it harder to sleep well at night. Instead, settle down for short, 20- or 30-minute naps that refresh your body without disturbing your nighttime sleep.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and exercise at the end of the day. It takes hours for the effects of caffeine and nicotine to wear off, leaving you staring at the ceiling at 2 a.m. after that Starbucks run after dinner. Alcohol might seem to help you sleep better, but actually prevents the body from reaching REM sleep, which is the most important and restorative sleep cycle. Exercise is best kept to morning or afternoon sessions, though a yoga routine before bed can help to calm your mind and body for sleep.
- Save your bed for sleep. If you train your body to think that your bed is the place where you do homework, talk on the phone, eat or surf the web, it becomes harder to sleep. If your bed is couch by day, bed by night – try adding pillows, mosquito netting, or something special and relaxing to transform it into your sleeping space.
- Turn off the technology. You might not consciously wake up for each and every text or Facebook alert that comes through, but those nightly vibrations interrupt your sleep cycle, leaving you awake but not rested in the morning.