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gabby thomas for sieze the night and day
gabby thomas for sieze the night and day
Wellness > Health

Here’s How To Get A Gold Medal In Sleep Habits, From Olympian Gabby Thomas

Have you ever looked at someone and wondered, “How do they do it?” You know, those people who balance a heavy courseload, extra-curricular activities, a social life, and a career, all while appearing effortless and unfazed? That’s how I feel when I see Olympian and graduate student Gabby Thomas — except she has no problem admitting that balancing it all isn’t as easy as she makes it seem.

Thomas won two medals in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics: an individual bronze for the 200-meter sprint, and a team silver for the 400-meter relay. In 2019, Thomas graduated from Harvard with a degree in neurobiology and is currently pursuing her Master’s in epidemiology from UT Austin.

With a schedule as booked and busy as hers, it’s easy to assume she’s probably pulling all-nighters. The reality is quite the opposite. “The initial journey [to better my sleep habits] was a little tough, I’m not going to lie,” Thomas says. But “it really came down to being disciplined and remembering my overall goal — I wanted to be a better version of myself and I wanted to feel like my best self, and I wanted to take care of myself.” Now, Thomas is partnering with the Seize The Night And Day campaign, and urging college students to turn healthy sleep into a habit. And yes, she’s talking to you. 

gabby thomas

Seize The Night And Day is an initiative focused on spreading information about insomnia, and assisting in access to medication for people who have trouble falling and staying asleep. And, when it comes to college students, insomnia and poor sleep quality is more common than you’d think. In fact, a 2022 study by the CDC showed that 60% of college students experience low-quality sleep on a daily basis. “Sleep isn’t something that is constantly talked about or prioritized for college students,” Thomas says. “In fact, it is almost glorified not to.”

Even if you don’t plan on training like an Olympic medalist in the morning, getting a good night’s sleep is vital to overall health. On average, adults over the age of 17 should be getting a minimum of 7 hours of sleep or more every night, according to The National Institute Of Health.

Here are some of Thomas’ top tips for healthy and sustainable sleep. (If I’m being honest, this woman deserves a gold medal for prioritizing her sleep, too.)

Make your bedtime routine a priority.

When it comes to bedtime, Thomas emphasizes the importance of creating a routine to wind down before heading straight to bed. For this Olympian, she starts her bedtime routine around 8 p.m. 

“I make some tea, usually a recovery-type [blend] with magnesium and light some candles,” Thomas says. “Then, I get into bed and just try to relax — I might do some meditation too before I fall asleep — and then I like to be completely asleep by around 11 p.m.”

Some of Thomas’ bedtime essentials include eye masks (to block out any extra light), magnesium tea (which is said to lower blood pressure and improve sleep), and a white noise soundtrack, like rain sounds.

Don’t study where you sleep.

While your dorm desk may seem like an ideal spot to study, doing work in the same space that you sleep in isn’t exactly the best idea. “I know it’s hard to do because you’re constantly in your dorm room,” Thomas says. “But if you can dedicate that space to sleeping and then have other dedicated workspaces, that helps a lot, too.” Head to a library, coffee shop, or quiet common space to study instead — not only will this separate your work and school life from your personal one, but I’m sure the scenery is much prettier.

gabby thomas
Avoid blue light at all costs before hitting the hay.

Using any kind of technology before sleeping is a total no-no. Thomas says limiting her screen time a few hours before going to bed has done wonders in terms of the quality of her sleep.

Blue light is emitted through phones, tablets, laptops, and even TVs, and is said to project high-impact beams that make it hard to fall asleep after absorption. For this reason, Thomas doesn’t even have a TV in her room, and puts her phone on silent a few hours before catching some shut-eye.

“Try to block out distractions and, if you can, put away your phone as early as possible,” Thomas says. “Get away from that blue light and all that stress and anxiety of constantly communicating and consuming.”

Know your needs, and put yourself first.

While Thomas is a face of this pro-rest movement, she still goes out, of course. But she also prioritizes relaxation. “Just having balance in your overall life is also important for your health,” she says. 

Her Friday nights might include dinner with friends or going out in her city of Austin, while others might be early nights in — especially if she’s competing that weekend. Getting the right amount of rest doesn’t mean you have to cut out all of the fun that college life has in store, it’s just about putting yourself first. In Thomas’ words, “Knowing yourself is the best thing you can do.”

Julia is a national writer for Her Campus. While she writes for all verticals, her focus is the wellness section, bringing you everything you need to know about relationships, astrology, and the best ways to get down and dirty. Julia is a recent grad of Stony Brook University, where she studied journalism with a minor in women's studies. During her time at SBU, she was a VS PINK campus rep, and an active member of Her Campus @ SBU. When she isn't writing, you can find Julia reading a smutty romance novel, hitting up her local crystal shop, or thrifting with an iced oat milk latte in hand. She's a Capricorn (but you probably already knew that) and a practicing yogi.