Jumping into college as a freshman, it was easy to quickly stray from a traditional, some may say “healthy,” sleeping schedule. Whether it was pulling all-nighters to finish a paper, indulging in the dining hall’s servings of “late night” chocolate chip cookies, or trying to maintain a social life, there are many distractions from the necessary body reset button that we call sleep.
Currently arriving in my senior year of college, I can say I have learned a lot in the last three years. But one of the most important things I’ve learned is the necessity of having a regulated, routine sleeping schedule. Not only is it a morale booster, an energy provider, and a time saver—it helps me prioritize the most important parts of my day.
Here are my 5 tips for getting back into a normal sleeping routine (especially after years of constantly changing schedules, late night classes and too much caffeine).
Daily exercise saved my sleeping schedule. I realized you don’t have to complete a hardcore workout to consider yourself “exercising”—just getting up and moving in any way will do the trick. Personally, morning workouts became my motivation to get the day going. Going for a run (sometimes it turned into a jog, sometimes a power walk, sometimes a stroll) got me up and moving, and woke me up in a much more calming way than my alarm ever could.
Moving my body after sleeping turned me, a routine night exerciser, into—dare I say—a morning person. I was no longer waking up and rushing to get out of the house, but taking the morning slow. I transitioned from being the girl who was late to her workout appointments every morning, to actually choosing morning classes over evening ones. However, making this early-morning life possible hugely relies on bedtime the night before, which brings me to my next point.
2. Don’t save work for last
My sleep schedule turned around when I decided I would no longer do homework or study past 11 p.m. Although this may seem unfathomable for some, I found myself no longer productive past 10:30 p.m., and merely pushing my brain past its desired limit. I found myself going in circles around the same work that would be better, and more efficiently, done after a brain reset. I soon accepted that bedtimes were not just for children—it was a necessity in allowing myself to reset and recharge.
Although it was sometimes embarrassing for me to say goodnight to all my roommates two, maybe three hours before they were even considering sleeping, I knew that tomorrow’s productivity depended on today’s rest. I learned to get my studying and work over with first, even when I really did not want to, and left the rest of the night for winding down and taking it easy. This taught me to delegate which tasks were the most necessary and important, and which could wait until tomorrow. The organization of my work saved my sleeping schedule (and most likely my sanity too).
3. Limit your caffeine intake
Coffee! It’s a must in my day-to-day goings on. But I soon learned that having a coffee every night after dinner was, although helpful for those late-night study sessions, not a necessity. I learned to regulate myself to just a few coffees a week, although it did take a week of very frequent napping (caffeine withdrawals are real). However, limiting myself to a coffee in the morning, and only when I actually needed it, left me energized for the day, but not to a point of jittery-ness or overindulgence. While I am all for a good cup of coffee, I restrict myself to having one only before 3 p.m. (A restriction which, I must admit, gets harder when Starbucks releases their fall lineup).
4. Find your favorite de-stressers
There are some nights when the stress of my day, or anticipation for the day to come, leaves me restless. I came across lavender essential oils in a workshop at my work, and they became my go-to when I was in need of a deep sleep. Spraying the area just above my bed before bedtime with an essential oil spray sends me into a deep relaxation. Additionally, rather than looking to coffee right before bed, I occasionally opt for a decaffeinated tea. Especially during these brisk fall nights, a warm cup can be the perfect relaxer, especially when paired with my favorite blanket and a nice face mask.
Finally, candles! Although you must be sure that you don’t drift off to sleep with them still lit, doing some last-minute reading with a good cup of tea and some candles gets me ready to sleep and takes my mind off of a stressful day.
5. Get in the covers
Just get in bed! Sometimes that is all it takes for your body to know it’s okay to shut down for a bit. Treat sleep as a prize for accomplishing your day. Let your body recharge. Something that became a habit for me was making a list of all the things that needed to be done the next day—that way, it didn’t linger in my mind as I tried to fall asleep. Having my plan laid out let my body and mind relax, and it becomes much easier to hop right into bed and drift off into that wonderful world of sleep. In short, choose your coziest blanket, dim the lights, and let yourself recharge for the next morning.