Can’t fall asleep? Don’t freak.

By Michelle Wehbe, SHAC

Instead check out these five easy tips for falling asleep and staying asleep.

Let’s face it. Sleep issues can be the bane of a college student’s existence. We don’t sleep enough on most weekdays, and we can’t drag ourselves out of bed on the weekends. And sure, almost anyone will tell you that waking up can be really, really hard (especially on those cold, wintery Michigan mornings).  The solution often seems obvious: we should all just go to bed earlier, right? Well aside from the fact that there are almost never enough hours in a day, falling asleep in and of itself can be a major challenge. When insomnia strikes it’s easy to feel helpless. Forcing yourself to sleep might not be possible, but making a few simple changes can make it a whole lot easier to get the most out of your sleep time.

Photo Credit: matsuyuki, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: matsuyuki, Creative Commons

1.     Avoid screen glow

Sending a few bedtime texts might seem harmless, but don’t let that tiny screen fool you. “Screen glow” from devices like TVs, laptops, and yes, even phones, can suppress the release of melatonin (a hormone that tells your body it’s bedtime).  It’s best to avoid screen exposure for at least 20 minutes prior to bedtime.

2.     Don’t waste your time tossing and turning

In reality, just lying there when you can’t sleep is probably only going to make things worse. Get up and do something! Read a book, listen to some relaxing music, or try meditating. It’ll take your mind off of the fact that you can’t sleep, and you’ll end up falling asleep earlier than if you had spent your time restlessly tossing and turning. Just be sure to avoid your laptop!

3.     Reset your sleep cycle by adjusting your wakeup time, not your bedtime

Waking up at noon can make it pretty difficult to fall asleep before 2am.  We often instinctively try to fix our sleep cycles by going to bed earlier, only to end up tossing and turning all night. The best way to reset your cycle is to wake up early – even if you don’t have to. You might be tired all day, but you’ll go to bed earlier the following night.

4.     Take the time to wind down

Avoid going straight to bed after working or studying. Give your brain and body a little break first. Taking 20-30 minutes to wind down at the end of your day can really help ease you into sleep. Take a bath, try some deep breathing exercises or do some light stretching – whatever relaxes you!

5.     Beware of what you consume

That early evening cup of coffee can do more damage than you might think. The effects of caffeine typically last 5-6 hours. What’s more, caffeine dosage across different brands of coffee (and sodas and teas) can be highly variable, so you might have more caffeine in your system than you think. On the other hand, chamomile teas, small protein snacks, or a warm glass of milk at the end of the night can actually help promote sleep.

Special thanks to Dr. Shelley Hershner, Department of Neurology, University of Michigan


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