Between studying and socializing, college can feel overwhelming. Outside of school, balancing all the different aspects of your 20s is a lot, and prioritizing sleep can typically fall on the back burner of the To-Do list. But sleep should actually be a top priority if you want to be your best version fulfilling all these other "more important" tasks. So, here is a list of six simple tasks to improve your quality of sleep and life. Enjoy!
1. Get off your phone
This seems so obvious, and yet almost everyone struggles with it, including me. Turning off your electronics at least 30 minutes before bed is guaranteed to improve your sleep. The best change I made was charging my phone farther away from me to lessen the temptation of reaching for it right before closing my eyes. I used to tell myself I would sleep at midnight and at 2 a.m. I was wide awake, staring at my phone, regretful the next morning. Staying away from technology is textbook 101 in every article, book, podcast, social media post, etc., you read about improving sleep. Make the conscious choice to shut off the phone before bed; it is so worth it.
2. Use Headspace on Netflix
Headspace is a mindfulness app that helps reduce stress and anxiety through sleeping, meditation and other mindful techniques. Unfortunately, the app subscription is costly, but the bright side is that it's free on Netflix. During my junior year of college, I felt anxiety and sadness, and my mind would not shut off. I used Headspace DAILY to calm my nerves; it was so effective. Just thinking of Headspace makes me feel warm and comforted inside. Once you use it, you will know why too. On Netflix, you can customize your meditation/sleep sounds and visuals to get exactly the vibe you want. Headspace put my mind at ease when I thought nothing else could.
3. Read before bed
Although this tip may be a cliché, it is a game changer. Since the beginning of 2023, I have started reading before bed to replace the time I spent on my phone. I have never slept deeper in my life. Reading engages your mind, but I've realized that reading in bed helps me doze off to the point where I can't even read anymore, indicating that it's time to sleep. I know a lot of college students don't LOVE reading, but I guarantee it's just because you haven't found the right book yet. Some people love self-help books, while others gag at the sight of them. Some people prefer murder mysteries, and others prefer romance novels. I have discovered that books about life, mental health, finding truth and spirituality are my personal favorite before sleeping. It helps keep the mind relaxed and brings a sense of peace to the end of the day. Here are some of my recent favorites:
4. Falling asleep earlier (no later than 1 am)
This may seem almost impossible as a college student, but trust me, it makes a difference. As someone who is a night owl and definitely NOT a morning person, this has been the toughest adjustment to make. I always say that people have creative hours and different times, and I am usually most productive at night. However, I had to put a limit to these "creative flowing hours" because of my daytime schedule. The key is finding out how many hours of sleep you need to feel fully rested. Adjusting the time you fall asleep based on the time you need to wake up is the easiest way to practice this method. Using this method, I almost always should fall asleep around midnight. Once you get this routine going, your body will feel more energized, and you will get more from your day. I recommend being stricter with this policy on the weekdays and allowing more freedom on the weekends. This way, you can still have balance, having fun while maintaining a grounding state for your body.
5. Take melatonin
I never believed that melatonin would make a difference in my sleeping pattern, but boy was I wrong. A few months ago, my sleeping schedule was the worst it had been in a while; I couldn't fall asleep until 3 a.m. and was constantly exhausted. I was desperate to improve my sleep, but I was afraid to resort to things like melatonin because I had heard mixed reviews. I listened to a Skinny Confidential podcast episode where Simon Huck gave all the 4-11 on Kourtney Kardashian's vitamin/wellness brand Lemme. I decided to try it out, and the Lemme Sleep gummies have been life-changing for my sleep routine. Taking these gummies before bed has reset my internal clock, along with all the other sleep-optimizing practices. The gummies are vegan, healthy and tasty; you know exactly what is in them, and it doesn't hurt that the branding and packaging are adorable. Of course, if you prefer a more generic melatonin, it will do the same trick, but I am a sucker for some good PR, especially with health-related products.
6. Be consistent & educate yourself
Maintaining a sustainable and proactive sleep schedule is much more challenging than it sounds and looks. I slip up frequently. But the more I compromise my sleep, the more I realize how essential it is to my well-being. Sleep is fundamental to mental and physical health, contributing significantly to our productivity, mood and overall happiness/state of mind. Prioritizing proper sleep is so important, and the earlier we can start the better. My favorite way to keep up with what's what on sleep is by listening to podcasts about this topic. There is extensive research on this, and it's actually so interesting to learn about to help yourself and others. Here are some platforms I recommend when looking for tips on optimizing sleep and overall health
The Skinny Confidential: Andrew Huberman on Mastering Sleep, Stress, Anxiety, Hormones & Improving Eyesight for Optimal Health Benefits
Huberman Lab: Dr. Matthew Walker: The Science & Practice of Perfecting Your Sleep
Huberman Lab: Dr. Gina Poe: Use Sleep to Enhance Learning Memory & Emotional State