By Kylie Hargrave
Elm Staff Writer
Between classes, homework assignments, social events, and anything else on students’ plates, it can be easy to become a constantly sleep-deprived college student. With the end of the year close in sight, the sleep deprivation epidemic is on the rise. As the year winds down and final exams come closer and closer the more burnt out students get. For a bit of help in the sleep department here are some “do’s” and “don’ts” when trying to optimize your sleep.
Dos: Make your room an optimal place for sleep when the evening comes. To optimize your environment, try a sleeping mask and earplugs, or if those are bothersome to you, try blackout curtains and a fan/white noise machine to block out noises. Keeping the room cool can help prevent stress dreams and/or waking up in a sweat. Doing relaxing activities before bed like walking, reading (except for on a back-lit e-reader), or listening to music is a perfect way to relax the body and mind right before bed. Exercise, but avoid doing it right before bed as it can actually prevent the body from being able to fall asleep quickly for some people. Last but not least, if you are trying to sleep but can’t, try to not check the clock. Try taking a short walk or reading for a bit isntead until your mind is ready to shut off naturally. To avoid this last problem, sticking to a set sleeping and waking schedule can train your body to fall asleep (and wake up) quickly and easily every night.
Don’ts: It’s best to not drink caffeine or alcohol for three to six hours before bed. They act as stimulants that can keep you up or wake you up mid-sleep. Nicotine can also act as a stimulant, so avoiding tobacco products before bed is a good way to go. Avoid drinking any excessive amounts of liquid before bed to avoid midnight bathroom trips and/or stress dreams due to having a full bladder. Don’t have any aggravating/stressful conversations or do any stressful work right before bed because it could activate the stress hormone cortisol, which prompts alertness (but on the other hand, do write out any stressful thoughts if they are keeping you awake because it could help slow your brain down). Along the same lines, it’s best to not make your bed a work space so your brain can associate the bed with sleep rather than something stressful like work, even if it is tempting to crawl under the covers to finish up that English essay at 1 in the morning. It is also a good idea to avoid napping, but if you have to, don’t nap after 5 p.m. because it could cause more harm than good by keeping you up later in the evening and ruining your sleep schedule.