Many college students have trouble sleeping well while at school. With all the academic demands, extracurriculars, jobs, and a social life, getting the right amount of sleep is hard. And early classes only makes it harder. With a new semester coming up, students will have to get used to switching from a summer sleep schedule to one for school. Here are some tips to help you get back into the groove of school. With these tips you will not only be able to get plenty of sleep on a college schedule, but also wake up refreshed and alert. After suffering through waking up for 8am classes my freshman year, I used these tips last year and they worked wonders for me. I could get up early without the added anger at my alarm clock. It worked so well for me, that I decided to do a bulletin board on sleep in my residence hall last spring and the tips even helped my residents.
1. Figure out what time you will need to get up – Look at your class schedule, and plan accordingly. Make sure you have enough time to accommodate your morning routine (showering, breakfast, exercise, etc.) when deciding a wake-up time.
2. Start early – Give yourself a couple weeks to adjust to a new sleep schedule. I would recommend starting at least 2 weeks before you go back to school. During the first week, start getting up a little earlier each day until you reach your goal time. And during the second week, wake up and go through a dry run of what you would do at school to make sure you have enough time to get ready.
3. Try to wake up at the same time each day – Establishing consistency in your sleeping patterns will only help in the long run. You will feel better each day, and waking up early won’t be a chore if you make a habit of it. So even if you have later classes two days a week, get up at the same time you would for your earlier classes. Do this even on the weekends. You can sleep in a little more if you have no where to go, but don’t give yourself an extra 2 hours. It will only make it harder to get out of bed Monday morning.
4. Eliminate caffeine and distractions before bed – Try not to have any caffeine after dinner and about an hour before bed, put down all the electronic devices and have some relaxation time. The bright lights of computers, smart phones, and TVs will keep you alert and awake and it will be harder to fall asleep. Use the time to shower, get in your PJs, or take some personal time to reflect on your day.
5. Sleep in even sleep cycles – You know how sometimes you go to bed and wake up refreshed and other times you feel terrible? The good feeling you get from sleeping happens when you sleep in complete sleep cycles. A sleep cycle is typically 90 minutes, so if you want to find the perfect time to go to sleep, start from the time you need to wake up and count backwards in 90 minute intervals. Any of those times are good to fall asleep, and you will wake up refreshed! Just make sure you are falling asleep at these times, not going to bed.
6. Put your alarm clock across the room – This will avoid snoozing or accidentally turning your alarm off. I learned the hard way after turning off my alarm and missing my first class! If you keep your alarm farther away, you will need to wake up and get out of bed to turn it off. In the time it takes to walk over, you will be more awake and less likely to go back to sleep. Just make sure if you share a bedroom with your roommate that (s)he isn’t terribly bothered by the extra beeps in the morning.
7. Try not to nap – I know one of my favorite words when I went to college was nap. But keep napping for toddlers. Napping can mess with your sleep and make it harder to fall asleep at night. Try to stay up all day, and soon you will start to naturally be tired around your bed time. If you absolutely need a nap, make it short – go for one sleep cycle (90 minutes) so you wake up refreshed but it won’t harm your sleeping patterns.