With late night study sessions and very busy schedules, many college students end up with irregular sleep or insomnia. Can’t sleep? Here are some tips to improve your sleep habits.

Photo of man looking into an eyeball

Preparing for Sleep

  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day even on weekends.
  • Stay away from caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes especially within the hours before bedtime. Some believe that alcohol helps sleep but it actually disrupts the sleep cycle causing a wake-up effect and less restful sleep.
  • Avoid spicy, heavy, and sugary foods 4-6 hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid long naps. A nap longer than 30 minutes will interfere with sleepiness at your regular bedtime.
  • Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation before bed. See Stress Management web page for more information on relaxation techniques.
  • Develop a “wind down” routine at least 30 minutes before going to bed. Examples include reading a light book, taking a warm shower, or listening to relaxing music. This routine will send signals to your body and brain that it is time for relaxation and sleep.
  • Turn off television and computer at least 1 hour before bedtime. The high frequency light from television and computer screens alerts your brain that it is daytime.

Your Sleep Sanctuary

  • Make your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary used only for sleep. Don’t read, eat or watch television in the bed. When you do this, you begin to associate wide awake activities with the bed.
  • Shut out extra light with heavy curtains or blinds, keep your thermostat on a cool, comfortable temperature (colder is better than warmer for sound sleep), and keep distractions such as textbooks and noises away from your bed. If you live in a noisy residence hall with an inconsiderate roommate who leaves on lights, consider investing in ear plugs and a sleep mask or buy a humidifier or air purifier for “white noise.”
  • Turn your alarm clock away from you toward the wall so you will resist the temptation to count the minutes.

Photo of a person laying awake in bed with alarm clock

When You Can’t Sleep

  • Use a journal to write down any intrusive thoughts that continue to circulate in your head when you’re trying to sleep or schedule “worry time” during the day to address issues that may keep you up.
  • If you have been in the bed for more than 15 minutes and can’t sleep, get up and do something boring and sedentary. Make sure to keep the environment relaxing (lights dim). For example, you may decide to read a boring textbook or have a light snack.
  • Exercise regularly but not too close to bedtime. Exercise will tire you out making it easier to sleep at night.
  • Repeat a word to distract yourself from intrusive thoughts. For example, try repeating the word “the” every two seconds or counting backwards.

Other Considerations

Several medical conditions can interfere with sleep. For example, depression, anxiety, and sleep apnea can affect sleep. In addition, many medications can have sleeplessness as a side effect. If none of the above tips work, see your doctor or make an appointment with UWF Student Health Services at 474-2172 to rule out medical causes. If you believe that your symptoms may be related to depression, anxiety, or stress, please call us at 474-2420, or stop by UWF Counseling & Psychological Services in Building 960, suite 200A, to schedule an appointment.