May 1st, 2017, 02:05 AM

A College Student's Guide to a Good Night's Sleep

By Elizabeth Knox
Image Credit: Pexels
If you drink five cups of coffee a day just to stay awake, it may be time for a change.

If you’re anything like me, you’re all too familiar with the snooze button and IT Cosmetic’s Bye Bye Under Eye concealer. You’re also probably a college student who, on more than one occasion, has claimed that you can’t get up because your “comforter has taken you hostage.”

In an ideal world we would work towards getting more sleep, but let’s be honest, this is the real world — and we know that, between Netflix and homework, nine hours of sleep just isn’t realistic. So I’m here to be your tour guide through the confusing, restless life of a sleepless college student, explaining not how to get more sleep, but how to make the most of those six — okay, maybe five — hours.

Image Credit: Pexels

As a procrastinating, easily-distracted, The Office-loving student, I’m not here to preach about putting the phone and computer down two hours before bed because I would like to be somewhat credible. Surprisingly enough, the one thing that deters a good night's sleep is the one thing I'll recommend using the most. Yes, your cell phone. But we’ll get to that in a bit. First, it’s important to know the science behind sleep. To put it simply, we go through sleep cycles during the night and they run on about 90-minute intervals. The super deep sleep that we all know and love, the REM cycle, or Rapid Eye Movement, is when our brain activity is at its highest. Waking up in the middle of a REM cycle due to the squawking of our alarms can feel like getting hit by a bus.

In a perfect world, we wake up without alarms at the end of a REM cycle and feel like a well-rested child again. Nevertheless, your Spanish professor teaching your 9 a.m. class does not care when your REM cycle ends. That’s where apps, or websites, come in. I personally like to use on my computer; or if you’re so inclined, you can download the app Sleepytime Sleep Scheduler. As the app’s description says: “Sleepytime helps you figure out when to go to sleep and when to wake up, by estimating sleep cycles based on 90 minutes each.”

Don’t forget about the 15 minutes it takes for the average person to fall asleep. This will ensure that you don’t wake up during a REM cycle, and you can surprise your Spanish professor with a smile the next morning, maybe even bumping your grade up to that B that seemed so out of reach. But I’m not promising anything. It’s also incredibly important to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day making it a habit, because eventually your body will set to this rhythm, allowing you to get a better night’s sleep.

Image Credit: Sleepytime Sleep Scheduler

The next step has to do with something called “sleep hygiene.” This is a fancy way of describing behaviors that lead up to sleep. Due to circadian rhythm, the rising and retiring of the body with the sun, we naturally start to tire when the sun sets. As most of us know, the artificial light from our computers, phones, and TVs — yes, I’m looking at you COD players — suppresses the releases of melatonin, the sleep hormone, causing you to be wide awake at 3 a.m.

However, I promised at the beginning that I was going to be realistic, because I too am a fellow phone lover. As far as the phones go, iPhones have a night mode setting that changes the lighting on the phone from blue light which mimics the sun to warmer tones, shifting your body into sleep mode (don’t worry Android users you can just download an app). As for computers, the equivalent can be done with a downloaded application that will do the same trick. It’s also important to develop a pre-bedtime routine, such as showering, meditating, having a cup of (decaf) tea, or reading a novel.

The idea begins with making small changes that can lead to a better’s night sleep. As impossible as it seems to a busy college student, sleep is important. Increasing productivity during the day means less stress. There’s a reason most prominent figures preach waking up early and getting a good night’s sleep. That’s how they became prominent in the first place. All it takes is a little bit of effort and a few apps.