With Spring Break behind us, there is a crippling realization for a lot of college students: our sleep schedule is in shambles and we are barely making it to class on time, much less fully prepared. How do we get our sleep schedules back to perfection? It will take a little planning and dedication to get your body’s internal clock to reset. It sounds weird to have to plan for sleep doesn’t it? That’s because it’s something your body already does for you naturally with an internal clock set by light levels, when you eat, exercise, and most importantly when you start your day. Here are a few tips to help reset your body’s sleep clock and get back on track:
1. Use Bright Light in the Morning: The best way to jump start your morning and shake off the grogginess from leftover melatonin is to flood your room with light. When you wake up, turn on bright lights and throw open the curtains to bring in daylight. This will give the same effect as walking out of a dark movie theatre in the middle of a bright afternoon.
2. Dim the Lights in the Evening: Too much light at night pushes your sleep time later. To cut down on light at night keep lights low near the end of the day. Dim lights or turn off overly bright overhead lights and use lamps instead. Try not to use laptops, tablets, cell phones, TVs, or other electronics too close to bed time. Our eyes are especially sensitive to the blueish light emitted by electronics, especially at night, and will keep the sleep inducing chemical melatonin at bay.
3. Time Your Meals: At home, keep a regular routine for meals and exercise. This helps steady your internal clock with a comfortable routine. This one can be tricky for college students already balancing class, work, and studying but it will help greatly in getting your sleep back on track.
4. Limit Your Time in Bed: If you lie awake when you’re in bed, try getting up and doing something mostly inactive, such as reading a book. Lying in bed awake only discourages the body from sleeping in bed in the future. Don’t nap during the day, either. A nap will make it almost impossible to fall asleep at a proper time later in the day and you will end up lying awake in bed.
5. Limit Caffeine: You may be tempted to use caffeine to get over the afternoon hump for the first couple of days. This is the last thing you want to do, with caffeine taking roughly 8 hours to work its way out of your system.
6. Most Importantly: Wake Up!: This sounds so simple and obvious, but it is the most neglected aspect of a healthy sleep schedule. By waking up as soon as your alarm goes off every morning, sorry snooze addicts, your body will naturally shift your sleep schedule to match. Even if you neglect all of the other aspects of a healthy sleep schedule, as long as you get up and get moving at the same time every day your body will adapt and restful sleep will soon return to your bedroom!
By Taylor Lesser