Breaking Bad Bedtime Habits

If you’re a night owl like me, you might be familiar with some of the habits we adopt before bedtime. Even if you’re more of a morning person, you might still have a few bad habits that can mess with your sleep cycle. As college students, it’s nearly impossible to have a normal, healthy sleep schedule. Whether it’s waiting until 10 p.m. to start studying for a midterm, drinking caffeine at bizarre hours of the day, binge-watching Netflix like there’s no tomorrow, or partying until the sun rises, it’s difficult to get the same amount of sleep every night. For night owls like myself, most of my active thinking takes place during the evening. I tend to get all my creative ideas at night or start thinking of all the things I want or need to do. This makes it difficult to sleep since I keep thinking of things that I need to write down or look up. It's both a blessing and a curse; however, there are a few bad habits we can work on to ensure we get healthier sleep. 

1. Using phones before bed

This is one that I am extremely guilty of. It's to the point where I feel bad that I’m even giving this advice when I can’t even take it yet. But it’s too important to ignore and one of the bad habits most college students tend to have. There’s something so addictive about checking your notifications once you’re settled into bed, scrolling through your feeds, and watching people’s stories. If I just laid down in bed and tried to fall asleep right away, staring blankly at the ceiling, it probably wouldn’t work. For some reason, I have to use my phone until I can barely keep my eyes open anymore. I listen to music, keep a conversation going with someone, or edit pictures. This is such a bad habit because the light emanating off the screen into your face tells your mind that it isn’t bedtime. This is especially true if your “blue light” isn’t turned off. I recommend setting your phone to switch to “night shift” at night which changes the blue light to red light. This can be beneficial for your sleep if you still can’t break the habit of using your phone. Another easy solution would be to plug your phone in somewhere far from your bed so you aren’t tempted to pick it up. 

2. Watching shows before bed

Yet another that I’m guilty of. We all love a good Netflix show, and the “next episode” feature is always urging us on. I personally prefer watching shows at night when I can get comfortable and forget all the things I’m worried about. I think part of the reason we binge watch is based on how stressed we are; it’s kind of like an escape. Even though I feel guilty after watching a few episodes in a row, it makes me feel a little less stressed. However, it is quite a distraction. Watching too much before bed can be troublesome. First of all, you can easily lose track of time and stay up way too late. Second, the light from the computer screen isn’t much better for you than the light from your phone. It shouldn’t be glaring in your face for hours on end and is preventing your body from going to sleep. You can also switch your computer to "night shift," but instead we should try to watch a couple episodes before we get in bed, and then leave technology aside when we’re ready to sleep.

3. Eating too much before bed

Another bad habit is eating late-night snacks or meals. This can be hard to avoid if we have night classes, stay up late studying, etc. It’s extremely tempting to go for a bag of hot Cheetos at 11 p.m. (I know from experience) or to make some mac & cheese right before bed. However, it isn’t good for our bodies to be eating carb-loaded foods or anything high in sugar right before we sleep because our body will convert most of those calories into fat and we won’t be gaining the right nutrients. We should aim to stop eating at least 3 hours before we go to bed, as much as we might be craving a late night treat. If you’re getting back late from a party and haven’t eaten, then, by all means, get something into your body. But for most normal evenings, we should try to limit our snacking. 

4. Stressing/worrying right before bed

One of the main contenders for messing with our sleep schedule is stress. School can get incredibly stressful, especially around midterms or finals. We have a Hell of a lot to worry about while also trying to balance everything else going on in our lives. All of this clutter in our minds can make it difficult to go to sleep. I know it does for me. A couple of solutions I have for feeling overly stressed is to first put anything away that’s stressing you out. This could be your study materials, lists of things to do, even your phone. Separate yourself from the things that are causing stress. Make yourself some tea, call someone you love, or do some journaling (a personal favorite). Do something that makes you feel content and relaxed. You could even try meditating or doing some yoga. Another tip is to clean your space; a clear space makes for a clear mind. If you can eliminate most of your stress before bed, you’re guaranteed to get much better sleep.

5. Saving studying for late at night

Last but not least, saving homework and studying for the last minute may seem like an easy thing to do. A lot of people just pull all-nighters to study, thinking it’s fine and that they’ll just sleep it off the next day. Personally, the later it gets the least likely my brain’s going to allow me to study. I think it’s important that we set certain times to study where we feel the most alert and stick to them. Studying instead of sleeping is bad for both your studying and your sleep. Your brain isn’t going to retain anything when you’re half asleep, so you might as well get some sleep. If you don’t get any sleep, you’re never going to feel alert enough to study. It’s an endless cycle that won’t do you any good. As hard as it is, sticking to a set sleep and study schedule is important. It doesn’t have to be perfect, as long as you’re feeling rested and getting things done.

Don't feel bad if you have trouble breaking some of these habits. I certainly haven't broken any of them yet, so you're not alone. This article is just as much for myself as it is for you reading it. Being in college is probably one of the least likely times that we'll be getting healthy sleep, but we can at least try. 

Image via Parenting Journals