Student Life

Counseling Center

Sleep

"How do I get a good night's sleep around here?"  is a legitimate question that all college students must wonder about sometime.    Getting a healthy amount of sleep each night can be tricky.  Dorm life is remarkably noisy, distractions abound, and stress and anxiety about coursework will rob you of a decent bout of shut-eye.  Here are some suggestions to make sleep count:

  • Don't panic if you cannot fall asleep or stay asleep.  Worrying about losing sleep will only keep you awake.  Remember that for a short while, the loss of sleep is not dangerous. 
  • Wake up at the same time every day.  And try to go to sleep roughly the same time each night. 
  • Avoid caffeine or nicotine from four to six hours before bedtime. These are stimulants that can cause late-night awakenings. Stay away from sleeping pills as well.
  • Try a light snack before bed.  This may satisfy hunger pangs that may be keeping you awake.  But heavy meals close to bedtime will interfere with your sleep.
  • Exercise during the day to deepen sleep.  But avoid vigorous exercise within 3 to 4 hours of sleep.  It  may rev you up too much. 
  • Take away distractions, such as noise, light and extreme temperatures.  Invest in ear plugs or a white noise machine to mask noise.  Move your alarm clock out of sight if it is taunting you with the time. 
  • Take a short nap (30 minutes or less), as early in the day as possible, if you are tired.
  • Use your bed for sleeping.  If you can not sleep, get out of bed and watch TV, listen to music, read, or do something else that is relaxing.   If you are lying in bed and stressing out, get up and write down your worries.   Keep the bed associated with falling asleep, not wakeful activities. 
  • Get regular exposure to outdoor sunlight during the day. Your circadian rhythms respond to daylight.
  • Avoid looking at computer screens, iPads, iPhones, or TV before bed.  The lights these screens emil will interfere with melatonin levels.
  • If a good night's sleep continues to be elusive, think about talking with a psychologist.  There may be some conflicts that you are struggling with that are preventing you from sleeping peacefully.
  • If all else fails... medication may be warranted, but at the lowest effective dosage and for the shortest amount of time.  Long term use of medications may actually interfere with sleep.  As always, before you take any medicine or herbal supplement that is purported to improve sleep, consult with a healthcare professional.