You crawl out of bed after your sixth alarm goes off, wince at the sunlight peeking through your blinds, and drag yourself to class. The thermos full of coffee is the only thing keeping you from passing out in your lecture. It seems like sleep deprivation is a right of passage for college students. Some even brag about how little sleep they get, taking a strange pride in powering through a difficult day with nothing but caffeine and relentless determination.
However, what people don’t realize is how much lack of sleep affects your health, academic performance, and overall quality of life. Studies have shown that 17 to 19 hours without sleep produces effects similar to a BAC of 0.05%, which is over the legal driving limit in many states. You wouldn’t go to class drunk every day (at least we hope not!), so why would you show up sleep deprived?
Even if you feel like you just don’t have any extra time to snooze or can’t seem to fall asleep in less than half an hour, we have a couple of tips to help you get the most out of your sleep. Don’t settle for feeling drowsy all the time. Use these tips and unlock your secret sleep superpowers to get through the day feeling 110%!
1. Get more sleep (duh)
We’ll start with the obvious: get more sleep! It’s recommended that adults clock in 7-9 hours of sleep every night, so unless you’re getting 9+ every day of the week, you can do better. “Now hold on,” you say, “just how am I supposed to get an extra hour of sleep? My days are already packed!” Think of it this way: if you get an extra hour of sleep each night, you’ll feel more alert and energized, allowing you to get your work done an hour more quickly!
2. Take naps
If you have a schedule that limits the amount of sleep you can get each night, supplement it with naps. Naps as short as 10 minutes can have a positive effect on alertness and performance, so this is something everyone can find the time for. If you find yourself feeling sluggish after waking up from a nap, try a caffeine power nap. Caffeine takes about 30 minutes to have an effect, so drink your coffee, set a timer for 30 minutes, and you’ll wake up just as the caffeine hits to keep you awake and active.
3. Have a regular bedtime routine
Try to sleep and wake up at a similar time each day. The more regular your sleep schedule is, the more prepared your body will be to fall asleep and wake up in the morning. Also try to have some kind of bedtime routine – stop studying and take some time to wind down before you go to bed. Having a regular routine helps to tell your body, “it’s time to sleep!” and you’ll find that you fall asleep much more quickly.
4. Make time for sleep
Plan to get 8+ hours of sleep; don’t just hope you will. Sleep takes up a significant amount of time – probably more than any other single activity you do – so you have to plan for it. Commit to a certain bedtime and wake-up time, and plan your day accordingly. Sometimes it can be tough, but you need to hold yourself accountable and stick to the schedule!
5. Get up immediately and drink water
Do you struggle to get out of bed in the morning? Try not to lie in bed for a long time when you wake up. Instead, get out of bed immediately and drink some water. It will help get rid of that groggy feeling, which can often be caused by dehydration. Additionally, if you get up promptly instead of spending half an hour in bed, that’s an extra 30 mins that you can now use for bed time later!
6. Avoid screens before bed
Blue light from screens has been shown to have just as strong a sleep-inhibiting effect as caffeine. Ideally, you should avoid all screens for at least an hour or two before bed, but if that isn’t feasible, try to at least avoid them for 30 minutes before. You can also download f.lux, a free app which automatically adjusts your computer screen at night to filter out that blue light which prevents you from sleeping. Most smartphones also have a ‘night mode’ which does the same thing.
7. Get rest before the test
Some students will try and stay up late to cram for their test the next day – don’t make that mistake! Lack of sleep impairs memory and performance on cognitive tasks, so skipping sleep will put you at a big disadvantage. Also, you need sleep in order for your brain to incorporate new information into your memory. If you try and cram for a test without getting enough sleep, you won’t be able to remember the information as well.
8. Respect your roommate’s sleep schedule
Different people have different sleep schedules, so it’s likely you and your roommate won’t always be going to bed at the same time. Make sure you discuss sleep schedules with them, and agree on what times you should be quiet, and after what time you should avoid having guests over. If you want your roommate to be quiet and respect when you want to sleep, you should do the same for them.
9. Use caffeine wisely
Caffeine is a bit of a miracle drug – it’s been shown to improve athletic and cognitive performance, and in common dosages, it has very few negative side effects. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t hold your performance back, too. Having caffeine near your bedtime will prevent you from falling asleep, and even if you do manage to fall asleep, it will disrupt your natural sleep cycle. Furthermore, if you rely too heavily on coffee to get through the day, it can lead to a host of problems such as high blood pressure and withdrawal symptoms. Many caffeine-containing energy drinks are also extremely high in sugar and contain other substances that are detrimental to your health. Caffeine does have its uses – but it can’t replace sleep!
10. Encourage others to get more sleep
Don’t feed into the culture of bragging about how little sleep you can survive on. Instead, brag about how much sleep you get and how great you feel! All-nighters and chugging coffee may happen every once in a while, but don’t rely on these methods or encourage others to. Instead, promote healthy habits and spread the power of the zzz’s!