Oh, sleep. For many college students, it seems to be a fleeting dream. Between classes, studying, problem sets, papers, rehearsals, meetings, and eating, sleep simply doesn’t fit into our schedules that well. I was talking to one of my best friends the other day, who had a chemistry midterm at 7 a.m. that morning, and she told me that, though she had only gotten five hours of sleep beforehand, after her two-hour exam, she promptly fell back asleep again for three hours. This demonstrates the haphazard sleeping schedule of the college student quite well. She found it funny that she had indeed gotten eight hours of sleep that night; it was just as though she had woken up in the middle of the night and took a two-hour chem exam.
Not only is it harder and harder for students to get enough sleep as exam season rolls in, but more and more of us are getting stress-induced insomnia, which cuts down on our sleep time tremendously. Plus, dorms aren’t always the best sleep environment–anyone ever have a roommate who stayed up later than you with the lights on, studying or talking to a friend? Makes it difficult to sleep, right?
Indeed, college students are ranked towards the top of the list in terms of sleep-deprivation, most likely due to our irregular sleep patterns. In fact, only 11 percent of college students report having good sleep on a regular basis. Plus, most college students will get a diminished amount of not-so-good sleep during the week and then completely change their sleep patterns over the weekend, “catching up” on the sleep they lost over the week. This messes with the circadian rhythm, making it even harder for you to get a “good” sleep the next night. What is so detrimental about college sleep patterns is that approximately eight hours of good sleep is particularly important for students, because both deep sleep (which takes place early in the night) and dream sleep (later in the night) are required for learning. Sleep-deprivation and changing sleep patterns also lead to a weakened immune system, depression, anxiety and irritability–in addition to taking a toll on your studies.
So, what can you do about this problem? Well, first try to set a time to go to bed every night that will ensure you eight hours of sleep. And yes, there will be time to do the rest of your work tomorrow. Sleep is more important. Second, relaxation is key to falling asleep. Rather than stressing about your week and the amount of work you have to do, write it all down in a list and then forget about it. Try reading a book for fun or listening to some classical music before going to bed, and drink a cup of herbal tea with honey. It will do wonders. Also, try not to drink caffeinated beverages in the late afternoon and evening.
I happen to have a terrible time sleeping, and my newest discovery for a sleeping aid is a sleep mask. I know, sounds ridiculous, but it works wonders! The Earth Therapeutics Mind/Body Therapy Sleep Mask is a soft, sleep-inducing mask made of non-irritable silk on the outside and cotton on the inside. No scents, no discomfort; the mask simply blocks out distracting visual stimuli and creates a splendid dream world. I love it immensely and I know this may sound strange, but it really helps me sleep better.
Note to self: Stop studying. Go to sleep.
Lily Berthold-Bond grew up in a chemical-free zone and has struggled her whole life to understand and accept this non-commercial lifestyle. Now a sophomore at Tufts University, she has embraced her green life and hopes to share its possibilities with the rest of her generation.