How to Sleep

Making Time to Sleep and Doing It Right

You’re a college student now, so you might wonder sometimes how in the world you forgot how to sleep.  It’s something you’ve done your whole life, so why does it seem harder, now that you’re a little older?  No matter how tired you are, you can’t fall asleep—and when you do finally conk out, you still feel tired all throughout the next day.

Even though lack of sleep might seem like the price you pay to be an involved student, it is costly.  When you neglecting everything you know about how to sleep, your ability to focus suffers, and your response levels—that keen ability to think on your feet—dramatically come crashing down.  College is already stressful enough: when you forget how to sleep, you’re less mentally and physically prepared to deal with the pressure and anxiety of daily activities.

Another Way to Burn the Candle at Both Ends

As college students, it sometimes seems that to accomplish every goal we set for ourselves, we have to squeeze the day dry for all 24 of its hours.  College, with all of its opportunities for involvement, is when we grow most familiar with the phrase “burning the candle at both ends”: we stay up to finish a project and go to bed later and later each night, but then wake up earlier and earlier each morning to return to the daily grind.

Weirdly enough, that’s not what the phrase originally meant.  In the 1700’s, when it first appeared, “burning the candle at both ends” described thrifty families who would pinch their pennies by using every inch of candle wax that they could, which often meant—you guessed it—burning it at both ends.

The lesson here is that you, a college student student in the 21st century, don’t have to burn the candle at both ends in the modern sense of the phrase. Instead, like the penny pinchers of the old days, you can be greedy—but with your time, especially when it comes to sleep.  Re-learning

Those who know how to sleep and still do it all—intramurals, community service, student government, and schoolwork on top of it—are those who are greedy about their time.  You have to admit, burning the candle at both ends is a pretty creative way to save wax.  Take it as inspiration to get creative with how use your time in order to make the most of it—and to make the time for sleep.

Keep Track of Your Day

Track your time as if you were tracking your expenses.  Many personal finance gurus suggest you track your spending for a week.  Instead, for one day, keep close track of how you spend your time, from when you wake up to when you (finally) go to bed.  At the end of the day, review your log.  Which activity can you skip next time?  Which one could use more time?  You might even forget about the log because of too much distraction.  Even so, make a note of it.  Trim away unproductive social media use, or time in front of the TV or Netflix.  While convenient, distractions like these are usually only a mouse-click away, making it all the more difficult to avoid the temptation.  Sometimes you’ll find it necessary to physically remove yourself from these things entirely.

Make a Routine—and Stick to It

With a clear idea of how you spend your day, you’re ready to draw up a plan for managing your time better.  Sometimes one of the first problems we notice is how long it takes just to leave the house in the morning and get our day off its start.  If you find yourself having this problem again and again, you can start, start exercising or studying at a coffee shop in the morning to get yourself out of the dorm or apartment.

The goal is to fill your day with regular activities: this lulls your body into a rhythm and helps build the discipline it takes to get things done.

And now, sleep

Now that you’ve done all this work, you deserve the best rest possible, so let’s talk about how to sleep the right way.

First, if you’re waking up sore and groggy, consider treating yourself to a quality mattress and pillow—you won’t regret it—and make sure you’re comfortable.  If you’re thirsty, don’t lay awake wondering if you should drink a glass of water or not—just do it.  Trying to sleep when you’re uncomfortable or cold can ruin the quality of your rest, so don’t hesitate to grab an extra blanket or to wear socks if your feet are chilly.

Second, spend a few nights looking into what position your body seems to prefer.  Are you a side sleeper?  A stomach sleeper?  If you notice that one feels more natural than the other, you can cut down on your time spent tossing and turning by starting off in that position and accelerating the time it take to fall asleep.

Research has uncovered the effect of exposing our eyes to TV, computer, or tablet screens before sleeping, and the verdict is not good.  If you’re trying to sleep, the impact of light on your eyes throws your body out of sync, and it may be harder to fall asleep and stay that way.  Cut down on using electronics before bed—read a book or magazine instead.

Finally, try going to bed at the same time each night.  With a regular sleep cycle, you’ll feel more energized throughout the day, and thus be more prepared to perform at your best.

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