Everyone has heard the same old advice about getting eight hours of sleep every night. Parents say it. Teachers say it. Thousands of YouTubers say it. But as college students, we find that school and life naturally get in the way, whether it’s a few midterms, a big essay or a friend's birthday. Some of us celebrate getting even six hours of sleep, but getting a consistent seven to eight hours of sleep provides more benefits than you would think.
A little bit of science for you: A healthy amount of sleep features four to six sleep cycles, each including periods of deep sleep and rapid eye movement sleep, which is when we dream. This is a crucial period of time because this is when your brain processes new information you learned earlier in the day, consolidates it and chooses which pieces to delete. If your sleep quality is bad, these cognitive functions don’t get a chance to develop. Consequently, this might be why you sometimes wake up feeling disoriented or forgetful.
Even with a busy school workload, it is still possible to create a healthy sleep schedule. Here are a few steps to get you started:
- Stick to a consistent sleep schedule. It is very important to go to sleep and wake up around the same time every day. Your body creates this biological clock and reinforces your body's sleep-wake cycle. Aim to wake up naturally every morning without an alarm — and preferably to natural light.
- Create a cozy sleeping environment. There are three pillars of restful sleep: temperature, luminance and noise. Most people prefer a cooler room, complete darkness and silence. Play around with blackout blinds, ear plugs, fans and ambient sounds. Find what works best for you!
- Don’t take too many naps. Yes, I know. Sometimes naps are necessary for getting through the day. But keep them short (under an hour) and don’t nap too late in the day. Naps will only disrupt your regular sleep schedule and make you restless at night.
- Manage your meals and caffeine intake. Don’t eat a big meal or anything too heavy during the few hours before bed; food babies will only lead to indigestion and discomfort. Use caution with caffeine too. Although it’s a regular component of a college student’s diet, caffeine can take hours to wear off and can severely disrupt sleep. So be smart and try to limit coffee to the early afternoon.
- Control stress levels and anxiety. Try to resolve any lingering stress factors before bedtime. I’ve always found that journaling does the trick for me. For a maximum of 10 minutes each day, I journal to clear my mind and find some peace. Check out the journaling segment of the magazine for more tips!
Of course, doing all of this isn’t easy. Doing these steps may take a few weeks or even a few months to perfect, but once you do, these are habits that will benefit you for a lifetime.