We all know the feeling – fighting to stay awake while Professor Monotone drones on about who knows what. Whether the culprit was a late night partying, cramming or just eight straight episodes of Breaking Bad on Netflix, forgoing a good night’s sleep affects every aspect of life. Concentration and memory take a hit, so even if you make it to your 8:00 a.m. class, chances are you’re going to miss the point. Lack of sleep also hurts the immune system, making you more vulnerable to colds and other contagious illnesses. Reflexes slow down and awareness gets clouded, vastly increasing the chances of walking into a ditch while texting. With school, social life, and everything else going on it can be tricky but, get a solid 7-8 hours a night and your body, and your brain and G.P.A. will thank you. Here are a few ways to help you get the sleep you need.
Frozen pizza might be convenient (and delicious) but a diet packed with processed food won’t help your health or your sleep schedule. A study conducted by Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology on nutrition and sleep found that excesses of carbohydrates and absence of the nutrients found in vegetables like peppers, tomatoes, and leafy greens were linked to short and disturbed sleep cycles. Eating late at night is also tough on digestion, making an early, nutritious dinner the best bet. Stir-fry is a fast, easy and healthy dinner option, especially if made with those colorful vegetables you always pass on your way to the frozen foods aisle. Buying a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store is a great and cost-effective choice that will provide a few meals – toss the meat in salad, soup or rice for a protein boost. As far as alcohol goes, booze may knock you out, but you’re likely to wake up restless a few hours later. A cup of chamomile or other caffeine-free tea before bed can work wonders, especially if you make it a habit. Pre-bedtime rituals help prepare your body and mind for snoozing.
The bed should be reserved for two things: sleeping and sex. In a shared house often the bedroom is the only place to study, but keep it to your desk. Studying or even web-surfing in bed takes away from the sleep environment, breaking the association in your brain between bed and sleep and making it harder to drift off when you want to. A cool, quiet, dark room is best. Obviously that’s not always possible; sometimes I think my professors must collaborate with my neighbors to make sure they throw parties the night before any big exam. For noise, earplugs are effective but sometimes a little too effective: if you sleep through the alarm it won’t matter how prepared you are. A fan can provide white noise and cool down the room. A draft blocker under the door can also help block noise from the rest of the house. For light, a sleeping mask is a quick fix. If you’re a commuter who finds yourself cramming away for tomorrow’s final in the library only to face an long trek home, consider asking a friend to crash on their floor so you can go to bed earlier and wake up later; an air mattress like the Serta ones found on Shop HQ will provide a lot more comfort than a scratchy couch.
Besides sculpting your abs, improving your mood, and increasing longevity, exercise is vital to a good night’s sleep. 20-30 minutes of daily cardio will do the trick. Take a jog, a swim or a romp in the bedroom – after all, an orgasm will put most people to sleep faster than Nyquil. Joining a team sport is also a great way to meet people and have fun while getting your workout in.
Sometimes the hardest part can be finding the time to sleep. Naps can be helpful, but a nap beyond the optimal 15-minute power nap can actually be destructive to your sleep schedule. Make sleep a priority and you’ll enjoy better health, more energy, and sharper focus – and the waking hours will be that much better.