Sleeping Tips

Statistics about insomnia:

College students are among the most sleep-deprived people in the country. This may be due to the irregularity of their sleeping habits. According to a 2001 study, only 11% of college students have good sleep quality, and 73% have occasional sleep problems. This same study found that 18% of college men and 30% of college women reported suffering from insomnia within the past 3 months, and over half reported feeling sleepy during the morning.

There's also evidence that an inadequate amount of sleep can:

  • Increase moodiness
  • Decrease ability to concentrate
  • Decrease retention of new info.
  • Challenge your ability to manage stress
  • Lessen your body's ability to fight off illness

Here are a few things you can do to make falling asleep easier:

  • Wind down for the night at least 30 to 60 minutes before bed.
  • Relax! An alert mind may make it difficult to sleep. Try to slow the pace of your activities in the evening. Do some light reading or watch TV until you become drowsy, and then try to fall asleep naturally. Light stretching, a warm shower or bath, or any other activity that you find relaxing, may be helpful.  If there's a lot on your mind, try writing down a detailed list and then forgetting about it.  
  • Avoid or limit caffeine and nicotine, which are stimulants, and alcohol, which can cause unrestful sleep and frequent awakenings during the night.
  • Exercise and stay active. Twenty to 30 minutes of vigorous physical activity enhances deep sleep, but avoid exercising in the 6 hours before bedtime since it increases alertness.
  • Avoid long naps. Naps of less than 30 minutes can actually be quite refreshing during the naturally occurring mid-afternoon slump, but napping for much longer than this can make you drowsy and interfere with a good night's sleep.
  • Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. A regular sleep pattern reduces insomnia, and increases your alertness during the day.
  • Have a light carbohydrate or dairy snack before bedtime in small amounts, but avoid chocolate or sugar. A bottle of milk puts a baby to sleep; the same principle can work for adults.
  • Avoid drinking large amounts of fluid late in the day. A full bladder can interfere with sleep.
  • Do not have a visible bedroom clock. "Clock watching" often intensifies insomnia. Turn the clock face away from you or put it in a drawer.
  • Avoid using your bed for any activity other than sleeping.  Studying, talking on the phone, or eating in bed can make it difficult to signal your brain that it's time to sleep when you decide to go to bed.

Tips for getting back to sleep:

  • Do visualization. Focus all your attention on your toes or visualize walking down an endless stairwell. Thinking about repetitive or mindless things will help your brain to shut down and adjust to sleep.
  • Get out of bed if unable to sleep. Don't lie in bed awake. Go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy. Worrying about falling asleep actually keeps many people awake.
  • Don't do anything stimulating. Don't read anything job related or watch a stimulating TV program (commercials and news shows tend to be alerting). Don't expose yourself to bright light. The light gives cues to your brain that it is time to wake up.
  • Consider changing your bedtime. If you are experiencing sleeplessness or insomnia consistently, think about going to bed later so that the time you spend in bed is spent sleeping. If you are only getting five hours of sleep at night, figure out what time you need to get up and subtract five hours (for example, if you want to get up at 6:00 am, go to bed at 1:00 am). This may seem counterproductive and, at first, you may be depriving yourself of some sleep, but it can help train your body to sleep consistently while in bed. When you are spending all of your time in bed sleeping, you can gradually sleep more, by adding 15 minutes at a time.

If you would like further information, please contact Psychological Counseling Services by telephone at (304) 788-6976 or simply stop by the office located on the base floor of the Health Center.