Five ways to improve sleep quality

Sleep is one of the things that college students never feel like they get enough of. Here are a few simple ways to help improve the quality of sleep without making major changes.

1. Figure out what works

A good night's sleep. Graphic by Caitlin Lewis.

Make sure your bed works for you. While this might be difficult in a dorm setting, it is not impossible to achieve. There are some simple ways to make it so your bed helps you sleep. The most important of which is having a pillow for the way you sleep. The style of pillow you have can have a big impact on how well you sleep. If you are a side-sleeper using a pillow for a back-sleeper, this can lead to unnecessary snoring and restlessness.

2. Your diet is important

How, when and what you eat affects your sleep cycle. One of the biggest things to help your sleep cycle is eating a big breakfast. This gives your body time to metabolize the biggest meal of the day, going to sleep on a mostly empty stomach will help your body relax and be able to slip into sleep much faster. Be careful about when you drink caffeine; if you are trying to go to sleep, you probably shouldn’t chug a Mountain Dew before going to sleep.

3. Don’t be startled awake

Try to wake up as naturally as possible. Harsh-sounding alarm clocks may be needed after a long night out partying, but normally it is better to wake up naturally. Alarm clocks just disrupt the sleep cycle, leaving people feeling tired throughout the day. The key is getting just the right amount of sleep; too much and you feel cranky all day, but too little and you will be in desperate need of a nap or some caffeine by lunchtime.

4. Nap like a pro

Be careful how long you nap. Most experts agree that the ideal length of time to nap is 10-20 minutes. Any longer and you risk upsetting your sleep cycle. For those who overnap this will make you feel more rested, but once you shake off the initial wave of sleepiness, naps will make you more tired than when you began. Every person has an ideal napping length, so it might take some trial and error to find the right length of time that works for you.

5. Seek advice when needed

It is important to understand that there are some very serious sleeping disorders that could also explain someone’s general sleepiness. If it does not seem to be caused from a lack of sleep, also known as sleep debt, there is a chance that you could suffer from a serious sleep disorder such as sleep apnea or delayed sleep phase syndrome. For these more serious sleep disorders, it is important to go to a sleep clinic where you can be properly diagnosed.

For something that we do for about a third of our lives, it can seem like there is never a chance to get enough of it. Hopefully these simple tips will help have you sleeping better in no time.