• Avoid eating, computer work or watching too much television in your bedroom. Reserve the time for reading something you enjoy or listening to relaxing music or nature sounds. You will come to associate relaxation exercises with sleep, rather than work-related tasks or stimuli that can prevent your mind from fully relaxing.
• If you find yourself tossing and turning, change locations for 30 minutes. Read a book in the living room or prepare your lunch for the next day. It relieves the pressure to fall asleep and the anxiety that can go with it!
• Avoid afternoon caffeine boosts as much as possible. Ideally, if you can avoid caffeinated beverages and chocolate after noon, you are less likely to feel the effects and aftereffects of caffeine as it gets closer to the time you go to sleep. However, some studies reveal that avoiding caffeine after 4:00 pm is a good strategy to promote better sleep. Whatever the case, the type and amount of caffeine that you drink can have a strong impact on the quality of sleep. For more information on this, there are various “caffeine tables”, both online and in nutrition guides that list the caffeine source and its associated caffeine content.
• Plan your exercise schedule for first thing in the morning, mid-afternoon and no later than 5-7 pm. Exercising too close to bedtime can facilitate the fight or flight response which can activate the release of adrenaline and prevent you from falling asleep.
• Eating a small piece of cheese before bed releases the amino acid tyramine, an amino acid that is similar to the tryptophan in turkey in terms of its effects in promoting relaxation. If you are sensitive, allergic or lactose intolerant, turkey or complex carbohydrates in the form of whole grain crackers or brown rice can also induce relaxation by releasing the calming neurotransmitter, serotonin.
• Make sure your bedroom is set at an ideal temperature. You want to aim for between 54-75 degrees. Studies show that people sleep better in cooler temperatures.
• Practice going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, including weekends. Research shows that sleeping in very late on weekends can produce the sensation of jet lag. So, even if you get up just a little bit later than you do during the week, it is better than sleeping until the early afternoon hours, unless you are feeling under the weather and need the extra rest to feel better.
• Invite the sunshine into your life. Exposure to sunshine not only helps to awaken your brain, but it trains your body to sleep when it’s dark and wake when it’s light.
Consistent, quality sleep is especially important when it comes to all of the responsibilities that students juggle; it’s easy to take for granted the hectic pace of life that can leave us on chronic auto-pilot.
A peaceful night’s sleep is essential to counteracting the effects of burnout. For more information on this topic, visit this link.