While most kids in the Northen Hemisphere are enjoying their last few weeks of summer vacation before the new school year begins, most students in the Southern Hemisphere are currently in their mid-term. However, universities around the world tend to all follow the semester system which can start in August / September, January, March or June. But regardless of when the school year starts, every student knows how difficult it is to wake up refreshedin and ready in time for classes.
Here are a few tips to help students maintain a healthy sleep schedule:
- Maintain a regular wake and sleep schedule, even on weekends.
Try to keep sleep schedules regular, not varying them by more than two hours. This may be difficult on weekends, with the temptation to sleep in, but try to stick with it. Large variations in sleep schedules can have the same effects as getting less than normal amounts of sleep.
- Come up with a regular, relaxing bedtime routine. Examples include taking a hot bath, reading a book or listening to relaxing music.
Your bedtime relaxing routine will help you to separate your sleep time from your daily activities that may cause you excitement, stress and anxiety. Be sure to do these relaxing things away from bright light, and don’t do stimulating activities like homework right before bed. This can be difficult for students to do, but try to have some down-time between studying and going to bed.
- Create a sleep-friendly environment.
A sleep-friendly environment is one that is dark, cool, quiet, comfortable and interruption-free. Consider using eye-masks and/or ear plugs; “white noise” machines, fans or humidifiers to cover other noises, a dark environment or blue colored lighting which promotes relaxation.
- Don’t eat within two or three hours of your planned bedtime.
Eating too much before bed can make you feel uncomfortable as you are settling down. Try to avoid heavy meals right before bed and be cautious of spicy foods, as they can cause heartburn, which may prevent you from sleeping.
- Exercise regularly, but be sure to complete your workout at least a few hours before bedtime.
In general, regular exercise makes it easier to fall asleep and can improve sleep quality. Be sure not to exercise just before bedtime, as this can actually make it harder to sleep. Try to finish your workout at least three hours before you go to bed.
- Avoid caffeine before bedtime.
Caffeine is a stimulant. This means it causes your body to be more alert. Caffeine (found in coffee, tea, soda and chocolate) can stay in the body for an average of three to five hours. Even if you don’t think caffeine affects you, it is likely to hinder your sleep quality. Avoiding caffeine within six to eight hours before bed can improve sleep quality.
- Limit afternoon naps to one hour or less.
An early afternoon nap may help you get through your day. It is OK to take a short nap after lunch, but don’t nap longer than an hour, and never later than 2:00 or 3:00 p.m.