How to get a good night's sleep (even in a dorm room)

Why fall in love when you could fall asleep?

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Sometimes there is nothing better than a good night of sleep. You wake up feeling rejuvenated and fully ready to take on the whatever the world throws at you — even if that includes two term papers, a pile of reading, and an exam all due at the end of the week.

As a university student, getting a good night’s rest is crucial to your ability to retain information, understand complex concepts, and be successful overall. Unfortunately, for many university students, sleep is particularly elusive. Some studies have indicated that over three quarters of students get less than 8 hours of sleep per night.

A chronic lack of sleep can have serious and lasting negative impacts, which makes it imperative for students to strive for quality nights of rest. This rest can actually make up for the time lost studying in improving time management capabilities and information retention.

For those that are committed to good sleep habits, there are a number of tips and tricks to get a full 8 hours of sleep, even in a busy place like a dorm room.

Science behind a good night’s sleep

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Emerging research on the science of sleep is continually indicating that sleep may be more important than we ever thought to our body’s ability to maintain itself. During our time asleep, our bodies relax and work to repair damages from the day. Deep sleep is when the body produces the most growth hormones that are essential for the maintenance of muscles and bones. Furthermore, evidence suggests that good sleep helps us fight off illnesses and regulate body temperature and blood pressure more effectively.

From a mental health perspective, sleep may be even more important. Good sleep allows the brain to perform a cleaning and maintenance routine that can greatly reduce the risk of dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases. Research also indicates that a well-rested person is more capable of regulating mood swings and anxiety.

Numerous studies also indicate that not entering and completing the REM cycle multiple times during the night can limit the body’s ability to retain new information. Contrary to some beliefs, our brains are not less active when we’re sleeping than when we’re awake. During sleep the brain switches from collecting data to editing and filing it away — it is actively determining which information it will keep as memory and which it will discard.

Given this sleep science, it is imperative to try to get a good night of sleep every night. In a dorm room or other group living setting, this can be particularly challenging. Below are a few tips that can make sleep as restful as possible.

Get ready

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The importance of winding down every night cannot be understated. Following a nightly routine helps to tell the brain that sleep is coming soon and can help prime it to start entering sleep cycles as soon as you lay your head down. In many ways, teaching your body to start falling asleep is the key to quickly drifting off.

There are numerous activities that can be done to stimulate the feelings of going to bed, and many are incredibly simple. For instance, the process of putting on pajamas, brushing your teeth, and crawling into bed can be enough for some people. Taking the time to get comfortable by doing things such as taking out contacts before bed can also increase the quality of sleep.

Other things that can help the body unwind as part of a nightly sleep routine include having a warm cup of tea, reading a book, doing breathing exercises, or writing down positive things that happened during the day. If you have difficulties doing so, there are a number of sleep hacks that can help you wind down for the night. For those suffering from insomnia, this process may take longer. The important aspect is that your activities allow to the body to relax and start dropping stressors from the day.

It’s also important to take part in activities during the day that will aid in the your endeavors to get a better night’s sleep. Although it’s recommended not to look at bright screens before bed, plenty of bright light during the day is. The presence or absence of light affects our circadian rhythm, which is directly involved with the presence or absence of sleep. By letting your body know when it’s day time and when it’s night time, sleep will then come more easily when you want it to.

Another important routine to incorporate in your day in order to rest easier at night is exercise.

Exercising regularly is one of the best things you can do for your body. As it turns out, a good workout and restful sleep are mutually beneficial to each other. Getting quality sleep is one of the ways to get the most out of your workout. So to see results in the gym and the amount of ZZZZs you get, put on a pair of training shoes and get exercising.

Get comfortable

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Improving your comfort surrounding sleep can also work to improve the quality of sleep you are getting. For instance most people sleep best in a cooler environment, somewhere slightly cooler than the home’s typical daytime temperature. When sleeping, body temperature actually drops a tiny bit, and going to sleep in a slightly cooler room can actually help facilitate the process.

Sleeping in temperatures that are too cold or too hot can increase restlessness and ultimately reduce your ability to sleep restfully.

Taking into account the quality of your mattress and pillow can also make a big difference in your ability to catch some Zs. One National Sleep Foundation study found that nearly 92 percent of people surveyed said that a comfortable mattress is essential for a good night’s sleep.

Although what is comfortable varies by person, it is important to look for something that provides back and hip support, relieves pressure points, and evenly distributes weight.

Another thing to consider is the position you are sleeping in and how that may impact the quality of sleep you are getting in any given night. Certain types of pain such as back or neck aches can be reduced by adjusting your sleep position or even simply changing the thickness of your pillows. Likewise, sleep position can improve digestive system functions and nerve pains.

Prevent distractions

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Finally, if you are going to get a good night sleep, especially in a dorm room, it is critical to prevent distractions that can keep you up longer or interrupt your sleep patterns. Listening to calming music, white noise, or “outdoor sounds” can help buffer loud noises that may be coming from outside of your room and reduce distractions. It is just one of many ways that music can indirectly improve overall health.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges in this day and age is reducing the distractions associated with technology.

Blue light wavelengths, like those produced by phones, tablets, and computers, typically work to keep us awake longer and prevent the body from actually winding down the way a sleep routine might. That is why many experts recommend putting away the phone and turning off all electronics up to an hour before actually going to bed.

Some experts also suggest that waking up to light rather than being jarred awake by an alarm can make a big difference in our body’s ability to feel rested. Our bodies are tied to a natural rhythm associated with daylight, and as the room becomes lighter in the mornings the brain naturally curtails deep sleep and prepares the body for the day.

Alarms seemingly come out of nowhere and can pull you out of a deep sleep unnaturally. Things such as natural light alarms can make a big difference if you are required to be up before dawn.

Has this article made you sleepy yet?

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Lack of sleep in a chronic problem among university students. Unfortunately, not sleeping is a huge detriment that can have significant lasting impacts on both mental and physical health and the ability to effectively learn. Taking sleep seriously is a responsible way to improve general well-being.

There are numerous ways to improve your sleep, even in a college dorm room, such as by getting into a nightly routine, capitalizing on sleep comfort, and finding ways to limit distractions before and during sleep. For more advice on improving your sleep, read more about how to improve your sleep pattern.

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