How to Fix Your Sleep Schedule For the New School Year

For a lot of university girls, your summer mode is an entirely different species than your fall, winter, and spring modes. In the summer, you may be working full time, partying more often, staying up later, taking naps in the sun, and even living in a different time zone. All of these things can impact your regular sleeping patterns, and readjusting to your school routine might be more difficult than you’d expect. If the demands of school are about to kick your butt, here’s how to fix your sleep schedule so you don’t hit snooze all the way through those morning lectures.

 

1) Get a good night’s sleep

First of all, GET SOME SLEEP. During the summer, a lot of university kids work customer service jobs, and tend to convince themselves that they can handle their eight hour shift on limited amounts of sleep. Hey, you clock in, you power through, you clock out—and then you go home and pass out. But when the school year rolls around again, you don’t have the option of just “clocking out” of university—there are tons of assignments, readings, and studying to do once class is over, not to mention extracurricular activities. According to the University Health Center of UGA, most university students only get 6-6.9 hours of sleep each night.* All-nighters and power naps may seem like the key to surviving your workload--however, the University of Saskatchewan’s Student Health Centre suggests that students who do this tend to have have lower GPAs**. They recommend getting an eight hour sleep every night in order to handle your busy schedule the next day and ultimately, be more productive.

 

 

 

2) Avoid taking early morning classes

Know your limit, play within it; i.e. don’t take classes you know deep in your soul you’ll never get to on time. While it may sound counterproductive to avoid super early classes—after all, an 8:00 a.m. lecture forces you to get to bed early and not sleep in—the truth is, if you’re a true night owl like me, it’s just not realistic. In my experience, even on my quest to get to sleep at a decent hour, I still don’t tucker out in time to get my eight hours by the time that dreaded 6:00 a.m. alarm goes off. Chances are, you’ll either skip half those lectures or mess up your sleep schedule even more by attempting to function for the rest of the day after dragging yourself to school before the sun has risen. Of course, not everyone can choose what time their mandatory classes start, but if you can help it, stick to 10:00 a.m. or later, just to give yourself a little more room to breathe (and sleep).

 

 

3) Stop ingesting caffeine at a certain time, or quit it entirely

Caffeine can be our saviour during the school year, but ultimately, it can do more harm than good. According to Sleep Education’s “Sleep and Caffeine” article, ingesting caffeine too late in the day can “delay the timing of your body clock.” Essentially, if you, for example, drink coffee too close to your goal bedtime, it’ll keep your brain awake for longer than it naturally would be and prevent you from getting a long enough or deep enough sleep. The article recommends you limit your caffeine intake to 300 mg-400 mg (equivalent to 3-4 cups of coffee) a day maximum, and stop ingesting caffeine 6 hours before bedtime. While we’re on the subject, if you have the power and strength of a thousand suns, try giving up caffeine. Do it gradually, though—caffeine withdrawal is not pretty, and likely will cause headaches, low energy, and perpetual grumpiness which can all affect your productivity, sort of defeating the purpose of fixing your sleep schedule in the first place.

 

4) Cut out the midnight-snacking

It might seem strange that what we eat can affect how we sleep, but studies show that eating too late in the night can cause our bodies to stay awake as it needs time to digest our most recent snack, according to Sleep Advisor. The website advises you to have your last bite 2-3 hours*** before bed, and make the effort to incorporate healthier foods into your diet, as Sleep.org says that “a balanced diet that emphasizes fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat proteins that are rich in B vitamins” helps to regulate melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep cycles.

 

5) Use ear plugs

From my personal experience, ear plugs are great for keeping you asleep. They help block out all the noise that might keep you awake or disrupt your deep sleep.They work best if you roll the ear plug between your palm and stick it into your ear while the foam is compressed. I recommend these orange, bell shaped ear plugs:

 

Additionally, some people wear sleeping masks to block out bright light!

 

6) Turn off the screens

Finally, the most important tip I can share with you is to turn off all electronic screens at least one hour before bed. University of Gothenburg’s psychologist Sara Thomée notes that “the blue light from digital devices suppresses the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, keeping us from having restful sleep.” Whether it’s a TV, computer, cell phone, you name it, that bright screen creates the illusion of daylight in your brain, thus tricking your body into thinking it’s not tired when, most likely, it is. Try reading a book instead, or listening to some calming music (I recommend listening to rain sounds to fall asleep). Another trick is to turn your phone on Night Shift—a screen option that shifts your display to warmer colours, i.e. no harsh blue light—when it gets dark out.

 

 

Going back to school after the summer holidays can be a tough adjustment, but how and when you sleep shouldn't make it any harder. Make the effort to fix that messed up sleep schedule, and if you’re reading this after 1:00 a.m., I’m judging you.

 

 

Edited by: Amanda Cloutier-Santos