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Sleep: More Difficult Than it Seems

1:47 a.m.

I am lying on my side, one arm curled around my pillow, the other sprawled on my bed. I should be asleep. You need to check JobMine in the morning, a voice within me whispers anxiously. I roll over and try to ignore it. Then, sighing, I reach over to my bedside table, turn on my lamp, scribble a reminder on a post-it note, turn the light off, and pray to fall asleep soon.

I don’t.

I stay awake for another half an hour thinking. You need to think of an idea for your next Her Campus article, the voice whispers again. Less impatient but still irritating. Oh yeah? Well, I should write about you, I retort as I finally feel myself growing sleepy. I fall asleep before it can reply.

When I wake up at a decent hour in the morning, I sit in front of my computer. Perhaps I should start with an anecdote, something funny yet also personal. But how should I begin? Am I even allowed to write in first-person? I’m distracted by the mess of “to-do” notes on my desk. I was supposed to remember to do something, I muse to myself as I try to decipher my rushed, unintelligible handwriting.

Welcome to the internal chaos that my life quickly descends into when I’m stressed. I can’t sleep, wander through the day suffering the effects of sleep-deprivation, stay up late trying to compensate for working at a slower pace because of how tired I am, and watch the cycle repeat when I finally try and go to sleep.

Slowly, I have begun to realize that the only way to break away from my unhealthy routine is to invest the effort required to replace my maladaptive habits with adaptive ones. While I have thus far only made small and gradual changes to my lifestyle, I was amazed to discover that they actually work. I don’t have to be the stereotypical overtired, perpetually stressed university nerd student. Here are some tips that I followed while attempting to regain control over my sleeping patterns, which may be helpful if any of you can relate to my struggle:

 

1. Make Organized To-Do Lists.

As the queen of writing out a neatly arranged list of everything I need to do each night (only to remember something new that I forgot to write every five minutes after that and scribble around my oh-so-organized list until everything becomes jumbled to the point of being indecipherable), I can personally attest that this tip is harder than it seems. However, I’velearned that taking the time to keep a tidy to-do list instead of hastily-written  reminders saves much more time in the long run.   

 

2. Don’t Eat Junk Food in the Middle of the Night.

There’s no judgment. We’ve all been there, me included. Chocolate and chips seem even more alluring than usual – they’re already pretty tempting during the day – as it approaches the time to have a midnight snack. Don’t do it – fight the urge. Ingesting anything with an excess of sugar or caffeine right as you prepare to go to bed is, to put it simply, a bad idea. Save your junk food for later – maybe as a reward for after you finish a difficult class the next day.   

 

3. Try to Go to Bed at the Same Time Every Night.

Remember that lecture on our circadian rhythm you may or may not have listened to back in PSYCH 101? It turns out, it’s real. Who knew? If you go to bed at irregular times throughout the week, your body will have a much more difficult time adjusting itself to your sleep schedule. However, if you go to bed at similar times every day, your body will be able to anticipate when it should start preparing to go to sleep.     

 

4. Find a way of De-stressing Yourself and Make Time to Actually Do It.

Go to the gym. Go for a run. Cook one of your favourite meals. Write in a journal. Talk to your friends. Talk to your family. Clean your room. Allow yourself to prioritize whatever it is that you know would make you feel better but continually can’t seem to find the time to squeeze into your schedule, even if it’s just for half an hour every week.   

 

5. Take it One Day at a Time.

Everybody says that your first year of post-secondary is the hardest. This may be true for many, but in truth, university can be challenging no matter what year you happen to be struggling through.  Everyone has days where they feel as if they can no longer handle all that they’retrying to balance, and it becomes easy to feel overwhelmed at certain points each term. Take a deep breath. You’re not alone. You will get through this.

It’s going to be ok.

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