Assistant Features Editor
What with homework, extracurricular activities, jobs, and a social life, a lot of college students find themselves sorely lacking in one area: sleep.
To add insult to injury, many people find that, after they put on their pajamas and crawl into bed, they lay there for an hour or more, contemplating the universe and wishing they were asleep.
Not being able to fall asleep is a pretty common problem. While it is a myth that you can make up lost hours of sleep, it is possible to assist the sandman by using some simple tips to fall asleep faster.
Believe it or not, some of the daily routines college students go through are probably affecting how they fall asleep. Michael Breus, a psychologist interviewed by ABC News, says that people “should be caffeinefree by 2 p.m.” According to Breus, caffeine has a half life of eight hours, which can affect the ability to fall asleep and the quality of sleep itself.
For women in particular, and for some men as well, beauty routines can also mess up sleep patterns. Using a peppermint face scrub or peppermint toothpaste right before bed can actually wake your body up, according to Cosmopolitan. Peppermint is one of several scents, also including some citrus scents, that have an energizing effect on the body.
Cosmopolitan suggests using a milder toothpaste and, for women, a lavender face wash. Lavender has been proven to send signals to the body that it is time for sleep. According to Good Housekeeping, sprinkling some lavender oil on a cloth and putting it under the pillow might do the trick.
Exercise has also been proven to aid sleep. Good Housekeeping states that aerobic exercise for 30 to 40 minutes, three times a week, improves sleep quality. However, exercising too late in the day cancels the benefits because it stimulates the body and makes it difficult to relax.
According to ABC News, turning down the heat may also help people fall asleep. Breus states that people generally sleep better when the room is between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Light seeping into the bedroom can also cause sleep problems. The best solution to this problem, according to Cosmopolitan, is to “get blackout shades, chuck your digital clock for one without an LCD display, shut off your computer before turning in—whatever it takes to make your room pitchblack.”
If daytime naps are a necessity, make sure they are done right. Nap for about 10 to 40 minutes, and when you wake, Good Housekeeping suggests spritzing your face with cold water.
Many people also wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble going back to sleep. If this happens, try reading. Make sure the book is boring, according to Good Housekeeping, and go into another room for 20 to 30 minutes, then go back to bed. If that does not work, repeat the cycle.
Even sleep expectations might be adversely affecting the ability to sleep. Some people need the full eight recommended hours, but some people can function just fine on as little as four hours of sleep. Stressing out about how much you are or are not getting could be making the problem worse, according to Cosmopolitan.
Similarly, Good Housekeeping suggests going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. If you have an 8 a.m. class, wake up at 6 a.m. every day, regardless of the other days when your earliest class might be at noon.
There are other alternatives if none of these in-house tips work. Medications are available by prescription, if necessary. Recently, the makers of Vicks NyQuil introduced a product called ZzzQuil, a product just to make you sleepy. It contains diphenhydramine, which basically acts as an antihistamine, according to the official ZzzQuil website, which makes you feel drowsy.
“Studies have shown that diphenhydramine relieves occasional sleeplessness when used as directed, by reducing the time it takes for you to fall asleep so you feel rested in the morning,” according to the ZzzQuil website.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are many ways to fall asleep and stay asleep the whole night. While counting sheep may be out, sleep is in.