As college students, we are perpetually sleepy. Naps can be helpful in getting us through the day, but a good night’s sleep is the key to cognitive performance, boosting your mood, and banishing dark circles. In college, we’re constantly dealing with stress, so it can be difficult to fully wind down and fall asleep in order to get back to the grind the next day.
Rather than lying in bed counting sheep, try these methods to get a good night’s sleep more quickly:
1. Try to stay awake.
Yes, this tip sounds counterintuitive, but it actually has proof to back it up. A study held by Niall M. Broomfield at the University of Glasgow involved two different groups with insomnia and tested each group’s sleeping patterns. The group that ended up falling asleep faster was the group tasked with trying to stay awake. This group was only allowed to lay in bed, blink, and remain awake. Next time you’re having trouble falling asleep, use this reverse-psychology method to try to trick your body into sleeping.
2. Use a weighted blanket.
A weighted blanket applies slight pressure to your body, which increases your body’s production of serotonin — a mood stabilizer — and melatonin — a hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycles. With increased melatonin levels, your body receives the cue to go to sleep and stay asleep until morning, when those melatonin levels decrease. Weighted blankets not only help you fall asleep faster, but they can also be beneficial in helping people with insomnia, anxiety, PTSD, depression, and other mental illnesses sleep better.
3. Sleep in a colder room.
Sleeping in a room that is overly toasty can overheat your body and create a warm, welcoming environment for bacteria. The desired room temperature for sleeping is 60 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. When your body goes into sleep mode, your body temperature actually decreases. By sleeping in a cooler room, you are assisting your body in reaching a lower temperature sooner, which in turn helps you fall asleep quicker. Cooler temperatures also create the ideal environment for your body to speed up melatonin production to help you fall asleep even faster.
4. Use the “4-7-8” breathing method.
This nifty trick is supposed to help you fall asleep in less than one minute. The breathing exercise consists of breathing in through your nose for four seconds, holding your breath for seven seconds, and then exhaling air through your mouth for eight seconds. Then, you simply repeat this breathing cycle three more times for a total of four deep breaths. Slower and deeper breathing slows down your heart rate and increases your oxygen intake to put you in a calm, sleep-inducing state. Not only does this breathing exercise help you fall asleep faster at night, but it can also help you in times of stress and anxiety as well.
5. Lavender aromatherapy.
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils, either inhaled or applied on the skin, for healing purposes. Common benefits of aromatherapy include treating anxiety, depression, and headaches, as well as raising energy levels. Lavender is well-known for treating anxiety and insomnia, and has been proven to help people fall asleep faster and have a better night’s sleep. A 2005 study showed that those who smelled lavender before falling asleep tended to fall asleep more quickly, have a deeper sleep, and wake up feeling more energized than people who didn’t expose their senses to lavender.
6. Avoid using electronics before bed.
While most of us would like to binge-watch on Netflix until we pass out, that isn’t the best decision if you’re hoping for a good night’s rest. The blue light that your devices emit keeps your brain stimulated, suppresses melatonin production, and increases the time it takes for your mind to wind down into a sedative state. Rather than using electronics in bed at night, try reading instead. Reading relaxes your mind and tires out your eyes. If you’re having trouble deciding what to read, you could always read your textbooks (they’ll surely put you to sleep)!
Now, instead of lying in bed wondering how many hours of sleep you’ll get if you can fall asleep right now, try these methods and wake up feeling refreshed.