I love my sleep. I used to even go as far as saying that going to bed was the favourite part of my day, until I realised that sounded like my days were utterly boring. Now I have other favourite parts of my day (aka my morning coffee) but I still love my sleep.
Most students (and adults) I know have a love-hate relationship with sleep and they tend to either be sleeping all the time, or be constantly tired. It seems that nobody feels like they’re getting the exact right amount of sleep. Wow this feels like goldilocks.
It seems like a strange topic to write a blog post on, after all, we’ve all been sleeping (nearly) every night of our lives, and we seem to be doing an okay job of it, given that we’re all still functioning… well mostly. But I just wanted to highlight some tips that can help you sleep BETTER.
When you sleep better, your day could be better, because being tired isn’t one of the things that could potentially ruin your day. Starting the day well rested will put you in the best possible position to have a productive and successful day.
First things first, you need to know about sleep cycles
You might have heard that our sleep patterns can be divided into REM and non-REM sleep, standing for Rapid Eye Movement, but we can study sleep in even more detail than this. According to Psychology Today, a sleep cycle lasts around 90 minutes, within which we progress through multiple stages of sleep: non-REM and REM stages. Throughout these different stages we move between deeper and lighter phases of sleep.
It makes sense then that we aim to wake up during our lightest phase of sleeping. If we wake up during deeper phases of sleep it can make us feel groggy, which explains why you can wake up feeling extremely tired after a good 8 hours sleep, but can be really refreshed after a 90 minute nap.
Working on a 90-minute schedule, you should try to aim to sleep in multiples of these cycles i.e. 7.5 hours or 9 hours (most adults need between 7-9 hours sleep a night). In order to do this you should time when you are going to sleep according to when you want to wake up (accounting for the time it normally takes you to fall asleep as well).
Another way of doing this is using sleep technology such as apps. These track your movements during sleep to work out what stage of sleep you are in and when you are going to be in your lightest phase of sleep. One app I tried, called Sleep Cycle, allows you to set an alarm within a range of 30 minutes. It then detects when you are in the lightest phase of sleep during this period and wakes you up at this point. I would really recommend at least looking into sleep cycles and technologies out there, I have to say they’ve really helped me.
Other top tips for improving your sleep:
Avoid any stimulants in the hours before bed
How close to bed you should stop drinking caffeine really depends on the person. For example, I can drink caffeine until around 5/6 pm and still fall asleep okay, but my Mum can’t really have caffeine after 2pm. You’ll probably know your body better than I could ever tell you, but just be mindful of your caffeine consumption. Consider setting a reminder on your phone to stop drinking caffeine whilst you get used to cutting it out. If you really like a hot drink in the evening, you could try drinking herbal teas or decaffeinated drinks (although these might not be 100% caffeine free). The same goes for alcohol consumption, even though it is a depressant, alcohol can really negatively affect sleep quality.
Invest in your sleep
Investing in a good quality mattress and bedding can really make the difference between a good night’s sleep and a great night sleep. It’s important to get the correct level of firmness for you and lots of shops allow you to try out different types to see which you’d prefer. I really think that it’s worth investing in your bed because they last years and you will never regret buying a comfortable bed, but if you don’t have space in your budget for a mattress, you could always get a mattress topper.
Good quality sheets, duvet and pillows are also key to a great night’s sleep. I have quite a heavy duvet which I love and my pillows are standard polyester fill because I really don’t like feather pillows. The point is, get whatever bedding suits you properly.
Too hot or too cold?
According to The Sleep Council, the ideal temperature for a bedroom is between 16-18 degrees celsius, anything above 24 degrees or below 12 degrees is probably going to cause some issues with falling asleep. But if your room is always cold, you could just buy a higher tog duvet or wear warmer pyjamas.
Cut the late night snacks
Eating too late can really affect your ability to fall asleep, so you should avoid eating anything in the two hours before you want to go to sleep. Eating spicy, rich or heavy foods can cause indigestion and this discomfort will just keep you awake.
Stop scrolling and put the phone away
It is well known that screen time before bed is bad, but it’s also extremely common for people to scroll through social media just before they go to sleep. Yes, myself included. The science makes sense: blue light in our screens disrupts melatonin production, which is the hormone that makes us sleepy, but somehow we just can’t seem to stop. Some technologies now have ‘bedtime’ settings which decrease the amount of blue light in the screens, but it still remains that the best policy is just not to use them.
Pretend you’re a vlogger and have an evening routine
Your body loves habits, because it allows it to know what’s coming next. Creating an evening routine (and sticking to it) helps wind down your mind and body so that it knows you’re going to sleep soon and helps you become sleepy. For me, completing my skincare routine and reading are both key components of my night routine, and I often find myself falling asleep after reading just a few pages. Going to bed (and waking up) at the same time everyday will also help your body know when to start producing melatonin. Now I’m not going to start getting up at 6:30am on a weekend, but during the week at least I try to stick to similar timings.
Bedrooms are not for work
Keep work out of the bedroom, there is no place for it!! If you’ve read my room makeover posts then you know how much I hate the concept of taking work into your bedroom/working in your bed. It just doesn’t work, I will never ever be productive in there because I spent so long trying to create a room for relaxation, not productivity.
If you’re a student, you probably don’t have a separate room for studying, I didn’t when I lived out at university, I just had a desk in my room. So although you might not be able to have a work-free room, at least keep your bed a work-free zone.
Clear your mind
My mind runs 50 mph when I’m laying in bed at night, I think about things I need to do, things I should have done, things I don’t want to forget, embarrassing things that I do want to get. Everything. One way I help clear my mind at night is by having a notebook in my bedside table to write out any thoughts before bed.
I hope you found these tips useful, let me know in the comments if you can think of anymore! Check out my other posts and follow me on social media if you don’t already.
Want to become a more productive student? Want to work on your personal development? Want to learn about how to get into medical school?
If you said YES to any of the above, then stick around because you’re in the right place!
Whether you’re a current or aspiring student, I share tips and tricks that are going to help you out.
Get all my new posts in your inbox!