Last weekend, you rolled out from under the covers to realize it was well past lunchtime. The other weekend you found yourself at a party that raged on into the hours of dawn. Now you’re lying in bed at 4 a.m., deep into the fifth hour of your Netflix binge when the realization strikes you: school is in just a few days. You’re registered for an 8 a.m. class. And you haven’t gotten out of bed before noon in over a month.
Before you panic and begin stocking up on copious amounts of Red Bull, here are six easy steps you can take to get back on track with your sleep schedule.
1. Wake up at the same time every morning.
Yes, every morning. Yes, even weekends (sorry, you party animals). Diligently keeping up a routine of wake-up times will gradually adjust your circadian rhythm, aka your internal clock.
2. Calculate your optimal bedtime.
Although you’re all grown up and may no longer believe in bedtimes, maintaining one can actually help you wake up without feeling like a zombie. How? Sleep occurs in cycles that last approximately 90 minutes. While waking up in the middle of a sleep cycle will leave you feeling groggy, waking up in between these cycles will help you feel alert and refreshed. Figuring out these optimal times may seem like too much math, but luckily there’s a handy website called sleepyti.me bedtime calculator that takes out all the guesswork of calculating. Simply input the time you need to wake up, and sleepyti.me calculates the best times for you to hit the hay. Visit the website at http://sleepyti.me.
3. Learn to power nap.
After that three hour history lecture, knocking out for a few hours may be a very tempting idea. However, long naps are counterproductive when trying to fix one’s sleep schedule. Not only will you delay your nighttime sleep, you may wake up feeling even less alert than when your head first hit the pillow. Try to keep your naps 30 minutes or shorter. Or if you need to recharge your batteries in between classes, simply relax in a chair and close your eyes for 10 minutes. These shorter power naps are more effective at recharging than long naps, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
4. Get a light on.
Make a habit of throwing the curtains open as soon as you wake up, saturating your room with daylight. According to the National Sleep Foundation, your body’s internal clock is set by various cues, such as eating and exercise. The strongest of these cues are brightness and darkness. The presence or absence of light naturally tells your brain whether it is daytime or nighttime; time to sleep or time to wake up. Immediately exposing yourself to natural light in the morning helps your brain realize it’s time to wake up.
5. Dim the lights at night.
Too much exposure to light in the evening will actually delay the onset of sleep. Towards the end of the day, turn off any bright overhead lights and opt for dimmer lamps instead. Lower the brightness on your laptop. Reducing light exposure will tell your brain it’s almost time for bed.
6. Put down your phone.
Responding to texts, catching up with vlogs on YouTube, and checking Instagram in bed may seem harmless, and many of us have made these things a pre-bedtime ritual. What many may not realize is that the artificial light from our mobile devices may actually be wrecking your sleep. Electronic screens emit a “blue” false light that suppresses production of the hormone, called melatonin, that regulates sleep and wake cycles, studies found. Mindlessly scrolling through Facebook just before bedtime can disrupt the onset of sleepiness and cause you to feel restless. Break the habit, shut off the screen and get some much-needed shut-eye. Don’t worry, Instagram will still be there in the morning.
With these simple steps, you’re on your way to a consistent sleep schedule. It may not happen overnight, but in time your body, skin, and grades will thank you. Good night, Hornets.