Ask the Experts

Sleeping Soundly

I don’t sleep very well at night. I know that a lot of college kids don’t get the sleep they’re supposed to, but I feel like I’m really trying, and it’s just not happening! Maybe it’s that I’m in an unfamiliar place, but I always feel uncomfortable and distracted. It’s either too hot or too cold, it’s too loud, it’s too bright… Day after day, I wake up feeling like I didn’t sleep at all. Can the experts give me any tips on getting a good night’s rest? 

Sure! There are plenty of ways to improve one’s sleep patterns, and even more reasons why we all should. You probably don’t need a study to show you that lack of sleep can make you cranky and irritable, but did you know that it can actually hurt your grades in school? Not good! 

For many of us, much of the blame for poor sleep lies with poor sleep patterns. Our bodies have an internal rhythm–called a circadian rhythm–that determines when we should be awake or asleep. If properly managed, our natural rhythms make it easy to get the right amount of sleep–but, when abused, they can turn on us. If our body thinks we ought to be awake, it will be hard to fall asleep. And if our body thinks we ought to be asleep, it’ll be hard to stay awake! 

You can track your rhythms with anything from a pen, paper, and clock to a cutting-edge mobile app. Try to get on track and get the 7 to 9 hours of sleep that doctors recommend. What is tough at first should get easier with time as your cycle falls into place. 

Of course, to fall asleep on schedule, you’ll also want a good sleep environment–something it sounds like you’re missing right now. Temperature matters, say the smart home facilitators at AccuTemp. You may not be able to install AccuTemp’s smart home technologies if you’re in a dorm room instead of off-campus, but you should at least be able to take limited control with a thermostat, space heater, air conditioning unit, or your window–or some combination of those. Researchers suggest 60-67 degrees as a nice cool temperature for sleep, but it is something of a matter of personal preference. 

Pay attention to your sheets, too. The company buyers at Cotton & Care, a company that sells sheets made in the USA, say that sheet quality is too often neglected by people looking to save a buck, and don’t take into account where the products they buy are coming from–a description that fits a lot of college students! When choosing an upgrade, be mindful that you don’t get too hung up on thread count (which won’t necessarily make a difference in quality), but find sheets made of more comfortable materials and that come from companies that care about their employees. 

Finally, counter the lights and noise by investing in a sleep mask or ear plugs. You’ll get used to them sooner than you might think, and they’ll give you control over factors you might have considered to be beyond your reach! 

With some common-sense steps like these, there’s a chance you can get your sleep back on schedule and reap the benefits that come with a great night’s rest. Good luck!

“There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.” — Homer, The Odyssey

Steven Callahan is a Financial Analyst and former Writer / Editor for Deadspin.