Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

10 tips to get a better night’s sleep

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As college students, we all know that it’s hard to get a great night’s sleep. Between the pressures of school and the desire to spend time with friends, we often go to bed too late, wake up too early and toss and turn in between. Here are a few ways that you can fall asleep faster and wake up feeling more refreshed, even in the midst of a hectic school year.

Avoid drinking lots of fluids before bed

Drinking too much before bed can make you feel bloated and uncomfortable, not to mention you’ll be waking up throughout the night for frequent trips to the bathroom. You can minimize this by staying hydrated during the day and not drinking as much at night. Waking up during the night can seriously decrease the quality of your sleep, so cutting down on the amount of fluid that you consume beforehand can help you stay asleep until morning.

Avoid caffeine before bed

You may want to make yourself a quick cup of coffee while staying up late to cram in some extra studying, but resist the urge. It takes your body up to six hours to purge half of the caffeine you consume. This means that even if the effects of the coffee you drank have worn off long before, you will have trouble relaxing and falling asleep for hours afterward, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Eliminate the need for caffeine by starting your homework earlier and knowing when to stop for the night. Drinking coffee, black or green tea, soda or energy drinks close to bedtime make it extremely difficult to fall asleep easily, or sometimes at all.

No exercise before bed

Many people claim that rigorous exercise before bed helps them fall asleep quicker. In reality, engaging in intense cardiovascular exercise before bedtime can seriously upset your natural sleep rhythms. That being said, exercising earlier in the day or engaging in light exercise before bed (a nap, light stretching, etc.) can prevent restlessness while trying to fall asleep.

Don’t take long naps

Taking several hour-long naps during the day may give you more energy to do your homework until the wee hours, but it will ultimately be a detriment to getting a better night’s sleep. Taking extended daytime naps can cause your body to think that it has already gotten all the sleep it needs, which means you will have a more difficult time drifting off when it comes time for bed.  Consistently taking long naps can make you feel sluggish in the long run, and eventually you may even become dependent on falling asleep midafternoon. Instead of going to bed late, waking up early and taking a three hour nap in the afternoon, try to just hit the sack earlier. With the extra sleep you won’t have to take a long nap during the day, and therefore you’ll have more time to get your work done and go to bed at a more reasonable time.

Budget your time

When you get back from classes, plan out the rest of your day. Don’t waste too much time that you can’t afford on social media or hanging out with friends. Figure out how long each part of your homework will take and decide on an order to do it. That way you’ll be less stressed and won’t find yourself at 3 a.m. struggling to finish studying for an exam you have in six hours. Knowing your plan of action is significantly helpful in getting to bed earlier because you will be more aware of how long it will take to do everything you need to get done, when you need to start and how much time you can relax.

Make a plan for the next day

Before you go to bed, make a list of things you want to accomplish the next day. It provides a sense of closure at the end of the day, and you won’t stay up worrying about the next morning. Making a plan gives you a sense of stability and security, and you’ll fall asleep easier and faster with far fewer thoughts in your head and less stress.

Limit screen time and bright lights

Bright light keeps you alert. The ceiling lights in your dorm room are pretty harsh, so it would be beneficial to use a soft reading light when it starts getting late. This also means that excessive use of the computer, or lying in bed staring at your phone, is detrimental to getting a good night’s sleep as well. Turn down the brightness on your screens and try to engage in activities that don’t require them the closer it gets to bedtime.

Listen to audiobooks or relaxing music

Listening to a book on tape at a low volume is extremely helpful when falling asleep. A quiet, monotonous voice can be relaxing, take away your stressful thoughts and cause you to focus on something else. You’ll soon find yourself caught up in the content and drifting away into sleep.  Relaxing music can be helpful for falling asleep as well.

Establish a breathing pattern

One of the most basic requirements for getting a good night’s sleep is to regulate your breathing.  Breathing in for five seconds through the nose, then breathing out for five seconds out the mouth is the most relaxing pattern. You can create your own breathing pattern – anything that you find steady and relaxing. Deep breathing decreases your heart rate and establishes a rhythm for you to fall asleep to.

Get a sleep app

If you have a smart phone, there are several applications that you can download that monitor your sleep. One that is rated five stars out of over 9,000 iTunes reviews is called “Sleep Cycle alarm clock.” This app graphs your sleep stages noting how long it took you to fall asleep, how long you were in each sleep stage and how many times you were in REM sleep (the deepest sleep stage, short for rapid eye movement). The most helpful feature is that you can input a time span (for example, 30 minutes before or after your set wake-up time) in which the alarm will turn on during your lightest stage of sleep. This allows you to complete your deepest sleep cycles and wake up refreshed and rejuvenated.

Utilize these tips, and get serious about your sleep habits, and you’re sure to be drifting off to dream land and counting some serious Z’s in no time.

Elise Martorano can be reached at [email protected].



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    MarieOct 5, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Great tips! I definitely need to stop drinking coffee before bed, but it’s just the only way I can stay up to get everything done. I’m going to turn nocturnal if I’m not careful.