by Selma O’Malley (‘22)
School started last month, but most of us are not used to a new sleep schedule. Some of us even go from twelve hours of sleep in the summer to five. A common issue when sleeping is taking a long time to actually get to sleep. With all the stress and anxiety in our lives, it can take a lot longer for teens to fall asleep. Here are 7 tips to get to sleep faster.
- Limit your time on your phone or device before bed.
Many studies show that the blue light that phones, iPads, and other screens emit causes a disruption in your natural day-night cycle. This is because it disrupts melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep in your brain. This decreases your brain’s urge to sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that one should shut off their phone at least 30 minutes before going to bed. You can always set timers to remind yourself or download apps that shut off other apps such as OurPact.
- Limit light and sound in your room.
As with blue light, lights in your room can disrupt your sleep cycle by stimulating your brain. If you feel it is necessary to have light in your room, night lights are less intrusive to your sleep. To reach almost complete darkness, you can buy an eye mask or drapes to prevent outside lights. Just make sure it doesn’t cause you to sleep in too late! Sound can also disrupt your sleep cycle. If outside noises such as cars keep you up, you could use earplugs. If you don’t like the feeling of memory foam in your ears, then you can play white noise. White noise blocks out other noises without being stimulating or disrupted. A quick YouTube search can help you find the right white noise for you.
- Turn the thermostat down.
Believe it or not, having a colder room can help you fall asleep faster. According to sleepadvisor.org, our body temperature drops when it’s time for us to sleep. Therefore, lowering the temperature of the room encourages the body to go to sleep by increasing melatonin levels. To decrease the temperature in your room, you can put a fan on for a few hours, open a window, or, if the rest of your family is OK with it, lower the temperature of the house.
Surprise, surprise! While exercise should (hopefully) make you tired and more compliant to go to sleep, the change in your body temperature from high during exercise to normal after simulates the drop in body temperature that melatonin induces. This is similar to making your room cold. However, the National Sleep Foundation recommends less strenuous exercise such as walks instead of running or weights in order to get better sleep.
- Stick to a sleep schedule.
Speaking from experience, trying to stick to a sleep schedule can be very beneficial. If you go to bed and wake up at around the same time every night, it will be easier to fall asleep and you will be less exhausted when you wake up. However, there are a few disadvantages. I have frequently woken up at 6 am on the weekends because I was so used to waking up at that time during the week. So, if you don’t mind the occasional extra few hours to your Saturday, I would recommend trying to go to sleep at around the same time. You can use timers and reminders to remind yourself to wrap up your homework.
- Invest in a weighted blanket.
Weighted blankets are, well, heavy blankets. Studies show that they affect your body similar to pressure therapy- pressure to the body can reduce stress because it causes your brain to release serotonin, which calms you down. This is also why hugs make us feel better! I have used a weighted blanket for almost a year. Mine is definitely very comforting and I would recommend anyone who deals with a lot of stress and anxiety to buy one!
- Drink less caffeine.
Many of us drink caffeine to stay awake in the morning and to keep us from passing out in the library during OH. However, many people don’t know how long caffeine will last. One cup of coffee can take almost 12 hours to fully digest. While this might seem beneficial to us exhausted high schoolers, drinking caffeine in the afternoon or too close to bed could keep you up for hours. So, think twice next time you get up to get some Monster or Red Bull to finish your essay. You may lose a lot more sleep than you wanted to!