The Great Eight
Below are eight strategies to help you get better sleep. Focusing on these small changes can result in huge rewards in terms of sleep quality and quantity.
Tips and Tricks to Enhance Sleep Health
- Maintain a regular wake and sleep schedule — even on weekends, holidays and abnormal days off.
- Go to bed and wake up at about the same time each day.
- Consistency in a sleep schedule reinforces your body's sleep-wake cycle and helps promote a better night's sleep.
- Avoid eating within 2-3 hours of your planned bedtime. This will give the body time to digest.
- However, going to bed too hungry can leave you feeling uncomfortable, so be sure to eat dinner.
- Caffeine wakes up the body and can affect the body up to five hours after consumption. Caffeine close to bedtime disrupts the ability to fall asleep.
- Alcohol may cause sleepiness at first, but negatively impacts the quality of the later stages of sleep. Alcohol can be disruptive to sleep waves, and shortens the amount of time your brain spends in REM sleep. Additionally, nicotine may have initial effects of waking someone up, but the results are not long-lasting and leaves the body feeling more tired than before.
- To learn more about nutrition and creating eating habits to improve sleep, visit our campus dietitian.
- Doing the same thing every night before bed allows your body to get in the habit of preparing for sleep.
- Routines vary depending on the individual. Ideas for pre-bedtime activities include, but are not limited to, having some decaffeinated tea, putting on pajamas, brushing teeth, washing face, writing in a journal, taking a bath or shower and making a to-do list for the next day.
- Limit screen time as much as possible before bed. The blue light from phones, televisions, computers and tablets keeps the brain awake by interrupting the natural melatonin processes.
- Try to use your bed primarily for sleep. If we do homework or hang-out on our bed, our bodies won't recognize it as a place to sleep when it comes to bedtime.
- If you go to bed and feel restless, and it takes longer than 15-20 minutes to fall asleep, your body may not be ready for rest. Get up and do something relaxing until you feel a bit more sleepy, and try again.
- While naps can be beneficial, it is important to know how the length of your nap can positively or negatively impact your awake time.
- A 10-20 minute nap is ideal for a quick energy boost, increased alertness, improved cognitive function and can leave you feeling calm.
- A nap over 30 minutes long gives a smaller energy boost than a shorter nap, and may lead to feelings of grogginess when waking up.
- A 60 minute nap also results in a groggy feeling when waking up. However, there can be improved memory with a nap of this length.
- Exercising regularly helps the body feel exhausted and ready for rest.
- Aim to exercise at least three hours before bed time. Exercising closer to bedtime doesn't give the body enough time to enter into the "rest and digest" state of relaxation.
- As stress level increases, sleep quantity and quality decreases.
- Sleep itself is a great way to combat the effects of stress, however, stress makes sleep difficult.
- To help manage stress, and ultimately improve sleep, take time to maintain regular exercise and good nutrition, practice various relaxation techniques, take a yoga class, focus on time-management, avoid drugs and alcohol, and talk to someone you trust.
- The Counseling & Testing Center can help students develop a stress management plan. Schedule an appointment »
- Create an environment for sleep that enhances natural light. Natural light allows the body to manage melatonin and circadian rhythm processes. The optimal environment for sleep is:
- Cool – The optimal room temperature is 68 degrees Fahrenheit. The human body gets better quality sleep in cooler temperatures. If you live in a house or residence hall where you can't adjust the temperature, open a window to allow more cool air to circulate.
- Dark – A dark room ensures the production of melatonin. Eye masks can help block out light coming from a roommate or outside lights.
- Quiet – A quiet room is essential to allow the body to fall asleep without disruption. Talk to roommates or family members who are loud or talking while you are trying to go to sleep. Ear plugs can help drown out the sounds in noisy rooms, apartments or residence halls.
- Comfortable – Create a bed that is comfortable, so you aren't constantly tossing and turning.
- Clean – Keep the room clean and free of irritants and allergens.
- Find a sleep environment that works for you, while remembering the tips above.
- Melatonin is a naturally produced hormone in the body. Studies examining the effectiveness of melatonin show it can decrease the amount of time it takes the body to fall asleep. Results show very limited benefits to improving sleep quality or quantity in comparison to placebo pills over time. However, supplemental melatonin can be very effective in helping reset the body’s natural circadian rhythm in cases of jet lag and shift work.
- Other artificial sleep aids should be avoided, as they can disrupt the body's natural ability to sleep.
- Eye masks and ear plugs may be aids that can help get the body ready for sleep by blocking out noise and excess light.
Learn how good sleep can improve body function and help you avoid health risks.