How I Fixed My Sleep Schedule with 8 Steps

After going from living in solitude and serenity to living in a dorm hall filled with hundreds of students, it’s no wonder why my sleep schedule has been a mess. Needless to say, dorms are filled with noises at night. Whether it be loud neighbors or the occasional rat running through the ceiling, it can be hard to sleep. Lately, I would find myself drowsy throughout the day and miraculously full of energy come midnight. Obviously, I needed help. My goal was to create a nighttime routine that would leave me refreshed in the morning. So I reached out to the Health Promotion and Advocacy Center (HPAC) on campus and scheduled a wellness consult with Mickey Irizarry. Wellness consultations are appointments in which you can tell a health educator your concerns about your health and they can provide tips and general advice on how to improve your health. During my appointment, I told Mickey all about my sleeping issues and she let me know of eight helpful tips on how to get a better night’s sleep. I tried all eight steps to correct my sleeping schedule and here’s what happened.

1. Use white-noise

During the consultation, Mickey pulled up Spotify and showed me all the free albums of white noise that I could play at night. It ranged from jungle noises to birds chirping. White noise is a good way to drown out all of the loud noises in the dorm during the night. Either play the album on loop out loud or through your headphones. After listening to a few of the soundtracks, I found that my favorite playlist was the sound of rain. It helped tune out the people running through the hallways or yelling next door. Once my mind concentrated on the sound of the rain rather than everything else, I was in complete bliss.

2. Turn down the air conditioning or use a fan

By turning down the air conditioning, the cold air signals your body to begin to go to sleep. If your roommate doesn’t want the room colder, you can use a small fan next to you bed. Personally, I am not a fan of cold temperature so I was resistant to make the room cold. I kept my room’s temperature around 68 degrees Fahrenheit with the A/C fan on. Once I was under the covers snuggled in, my blankets became cozy and it was easy to fall asleep.

3. Block all light sources or dim them

As instructed, before bed I closed the curtains and turned off all the lights in the room. Turning off all the lights in the room include turning off all screens including phones and T.V. sets. Screens have a special blue light behind them that mimic the sun which keeps you awake longer. You can either turn the phone off completely or turn on a scheduled “night time mode” that will assist you in falling asleep. I turned my phone off, closed my computer, laid in bed and relaxed--and found that it was easier for me to sleep.

4. Watch your caffeine intake

This is a must! Too much caffeine can have you wired for the whole day and make it almost impossible to sleep. Most people don’t realize the amount of caffeine that is recommended daily. According to Mayo Clinic, the recommended caffeine intake for a regular, healthy person is around 300 to 400 milligrams. To give you some perspective, one venti Starbucks iced coffee has 235 mg of caffeine. Caffeine isn’t only found in coffee, but other things such as breakfast cereals and even chocolate. Make sure you are reading the labels and tracking how much caffeine you have a day. I monitored my caffeine intake throughout the day and made sure I was under the 400 milligrams by limiting my coffee and soda intake. Without a huge intake of caffeine, I was certainly tired and ready for bed when it was time.

5. Take a warm shower before bed

A nice warm shower before bed can make you feel not only clean, but extremely relaxed. According to The New York Times, showering before bed “is also a good way to unwind and release muscle tension and aids in sleep.” As soon as I stepped out of the shower, I felt calm and ready to lay down. However, it is important to allow time for your body to cool down so make sure you plan your showers ahead of time. I planned my shower an hour before I wanted to go to bed to ensure I would be able to sleep by the time I set.

6. Don’t drink too much water before bed

I can’t lie and say that I haven’t had to jump out of bed and rush down the hall to use the bathroom at 1 a.m. only to have my room key timed out. Using the bathroom in the middle of the night interrupts your sleep cycle and can end up making you more tired. I made sure not to drink any water one hour before bed and found that I didn’t have to wake up at all to go to the bathroom. It made my night more peaceful and, in the morning, I felt more refreshed.

7. Don’t exercise before bed

It may seem like a good idea to hit the gym right after homework and before bed, but this can actually cause you to stay awake longer. After exercising, your blood is pumping and you’re more alert. If you want to exercise make sure it’s well before the time you want to go to sleep to ensure you get a good night’s sleep. For me, I simply told my friends that I couldn’t workout with them and tried to reschedule to an earlier time.

8. Don’t give into campus culture of not sleeping

As a freshman, people install into you this idea that in college it’s the norm to not get any sleep. This doesn't have to be true. Remember to take care of yourself and your body by getting the right amount of sleep at night. It impresses no one that you slept three hours last night, but rather makes them worry. Prioritize your health and manage school work wisely. I use Google calendar to plan my out my homework which prevents me from having to stay up until 2 a.m. doing work.

With the help of Mickey and HPAC, my sleeping schedule has definitely corrected itself and I finally feel more awake during the day. Try to incorporate these steps into your night routine or make a wellness consultation with HPAC.