How to Fix Your Sleep Schedule (For Finals Season, At Least)

It’s finals season: you’ve pulled an all-nighter or two (or three), and now you’re waking up at two in the afternoon. We’ve all been there. University fosters unhealthy work habits, especially at this time of year. Sleep schedules can be incredibly difficult to fix, though, as your body overcompensates and adjusts. Here are some tips to help!

  1. 1. Decide what time you want to go to bed and what time you want to wake up.

    It’s going to take longer than a night to fix your sleep schedule, so having an end goal is a good idea. Knowing your body is key: how much sleep do you need to thrive? (Note: I said thrive, not function with three cups of coffee.) Keep in mind that you should get at least seven and a half hours a night, and I’d factor in at least half an hour to fall asleep.

  2. 2. Go to bed incrementally earlier.

    If your current bedtime is four in the morning, I guarantee that going to bed at midnight will do absolutely nothing for you. Your body’s adjusted to that sleep schedule and won’t produce melatonin at midnight. Go to bed around half an hour earlier every couple of nights and set your alarm that half hour earlier to match (unless you weren’t sleeping enough previously).

  3. 3. Put down your phone.

    I know, I know. It’s a classic, but it’s a classic for a reason. Screens emit blue light. While most technology comes with a night screen option, shining light into your eyes when you’re trying to convince your body that it’s night isn’t going to help. Try putting your phone across the room, or in another room if you can manage it.

  4. 4. Establish a night routine.

    It doesn’t have to be a YouTube-esque, eight step routine to be helpful. Doing the same thing around the same time every night will help remind your brain that you’re nearing sleep. Drink a specific kind of tea, stretch, read, journal, or listen to a podcast. Avoid implementing screen-based activities though, like social media or TV.

  5. 5. Try melatonin.

    Melatonin’s a good option for those of us who struggle with falling asleep. Take it half an hour before you want to fall asleep and then get into bed and do something peaceful. While not a long-term solution (supposedly anyway), melatonin’s a good way to help reset your schedule. Start with a low dose, though, because it might make you drowsy the next day.

  6. 6. Avoid drinking caffeine later in the day.

    Establish a cut-off point for yourself. I’d recommend 3PM, but this will vary person to person.

  7. 7. Make a list.

    One of the (many) reasons I have trouble sleeping is because I tend to think about everything I have to do right before bed. Making a to-do list for the next day eliminates the concern that you’ll forget that appointment.

  8. 8. Use white noise.

    If you’re one of the lucky few who can fall asleep without some sort of distraction, I’m jealous. Having a white noise source is helpful for covering up some of the bumps in the night. I usually have a fan going, and I also listen to quiet music or a podcast.

  9. 9. Establish a homework cut-off time.

    For a lot of people, night seems like an ideal time to get work done. It’s quiet, you’re tired, it’s cozy… until sleeping in leaves you lethargic and grumpy. If you work best in the evening, try to start working on stuff after dinner and then stop by eleven or twelve. Your health is important, and sleep is crucial to your brain retaining information, so you’re really doing yourself a favor.

I hope these help! Best of luck with your finals, and try not to pull too many all-nighters.