So, from time to time you may wake up and see me on your Twitter timeline having a breakdown at 5am because I can’t sleep, have a 9am lecture and think the world is about to crumble at my feet. Since moving into my second year university house, due to a multiplicity of reasons, I’ve been sleeping awfully. I’m not 100% sure what it is (as I sleep perfectly at home), but for the past six months I’ve tried literally everything to improve my sleep (including a solid three weeks taking Night Nurse every night, which I partly totally recommend and partly am meant to say you should absolutely not do that). Anyway, over the months I’ve collated a lot of tips from Internet searches, Youtube videos and just working stuff out for myself. Although I still sleep badly and can’t wait to move home again so I can get a proper routine back, here’s some of the stuff that’s helped me so far.
Invest in your sleep situation
My uni house is on a busy road, and my housemate who lives directly under me is practically nocturnal. Taking into account the thin walls and noisy roads, combined with super thin curtains that block out no light and a church bell down my road that tolls EVERY HOUR ON THE FUCKING HOUR, it’s safe to say my situation is far from comfortable. What I have done though, is make the best of a bad situation. I bought a Tempur mattress topper (an ode to my real Tempur mattress at home), I’ve put multiple blankets up at the window to block out the light (my landlord is too cheap to install a blackout blind regardless of relentless pestering), my nan kindly made me a draught/noise excluder, and I got some duck feather pillows. The next item on my Project Sleep list is a goose down duvet like I have at home, but at £200 my sleep is yet to reach such a crisis mode wherein I make a panicked 3am Argos order. What I’m saying here is, try to locate the issue that’s hindering your sleep and then fix it by any means possible.
Go out in the sunlight as soon as possible after waking up, or at least open all the curtains
Your body has to differentiate between morning and evening, and even though this method is crude and kind of odd, you wouldn’t believe how much difference just being out in the sunlight ASAP after waking up makes.
Don’t work in bed
This is something all us unemployed people fall victim to: The Bed-Job. As a student with little contact hours, it’s so much comfier to do essays from my blanket nest. In fact, I’m currently typing this with my duvet wrapped around me like a big-ass Twinkie. However, try to do the majority of your work in another room, or better yet, somewhere else entirely like a library. Working in your bedroom will make your brain race at night time, as it will associate the bed with a place of work rather than rest.
Separate your loungewear from your pyjamas
If, like me, you do nothing with your life but laze about the house, it’s very tempting to wear pyjamas all day and then just sleep in them. However, taking a shower at night and putting on a fresh, clean pair of pyjamas (even if you’ve only been wearing a onesie or leggings all day) really does make a difference. It’s weird, your brain kind of goes ‘oh, pyjamas: I guess I have to sleep now?’ Trust me.
Create a routine
Try to shower at the same time every day. Try to eat dinner at the same time every day. Try to tell your brain at what time it has to shut down.
Make your room ready for sleep, and sleep only
An hour before going to bed, light a lavender candle, put a hot water bottle underneath your covers, put an ASMR video on, put your pyjamas on the radiator, make sure you have a glass of water… you get the picture. Also, weird one, but plants! I don’t know what it is but I think I sleep better when I have flowers or even just cacti in my bedroom. Maybe it’s the extra oxygen. Maybe it’s just because plants are cool little pals to have.
Go to bed earlier than you need to
I sleep best when I start winding down at about 10pm, because otherwise I’ll be up until 3am watching every funny Youtube video and taking every pointless Buzzfeed quiz available. Plus, the earlier you go to bed and realise you can’t sleep, the better, as you’re able to get up and do things in order to become sleepy, and will have wasted less time in the process.
Don’t eat or drink just before bed
I drink so much tea every day I have to pee constantly, which is not cute when you’re all cozy in bed and your bathroom is downstairs. So, try not to eat for at least two hours before bed, and have your last drink half an hour before you try going to sleep. Also, stop drinking caffeine half way through the day. I drink regular tea until about 5pm, and then decaffeinated for the rest of the evening. Herbal tea is even better for you (if you can stand the taste, that is).
Stop using your laptop at least half an hour before you sleep
Log off when you have that last drink.
Having said that, special shoutout goes to this video, which taught me about the Mac app ‘F.lux’. It’s kind of weird but really effective. Basically, you set a timer, so that in the morning your Mac screen is bright white, like daylight, and at night it’s yellowy/orange, which takes the ‘blue’ light out of the screen. This app tricks your brain into relaxing, as the blue light from the Mac screen is what stimulates your brain. Although you should avoid using your laptop at all in the evenings, we’re all human, and this app just makes it that little bit better for your sleep. I MEAN, NETFLIX AIN’T GONNA WATCH ITSELF.
Don’t keep trying to sleep when you can’t
Get up, go downstairs, make some hot milk, re-brush your teeth, read a boring book, that kind of stuff. It’s annoying, but if you’re doing something you’ll at least feel more productive than just laying in bed for hours on end, plus, in turn it’ll make you sleepier.
Don’t beat yourself up for not being able to sleep
This is harder for me because I have the aforementioned clock tower that chimes every hour to remind me what the time is, but if you don’t have this problem, you should turn all your alarm clocks away from where you can see them. Knowing it’s 6am when you have to get up at 8 isn’t going to help anyone. If you can’t sleep, stop worrying about the clock and instead remind yourself ‘any sleep is better than no sleep, and although I’m not sleeping right now, I am resting, which will prepare me for tomorrow’.
Don’t be afraid to take medication
No, you shouldn’t have to rely on sleep medication, but if you haven’t slept for a week, sometimes sheer exhaustion alone won’t even make you sleep. Always have a lil supply of sleep medication as a last resort. My favourite is Night Nurse, but you shouldn’t take this regularly as it has stuff in it that can mess your liver up from frequent use or something? idk. Another good (less harmful) over the counter sleep aid is Sleepeaze (from Boots), or Potter’s Herbal Nod-Off pills, which are less effective but herbal, so won’t harm you if you take them frequently.
Remember: you can do a day on little to no sleep
I gave a uni presentation on literally 0 hours sleep (I was still awake when my 8am alarm went off), and still got a first. YOU CAN DO IT. Starbucks gives you two shots for a reason.
If you have any other tips I may have missed out (or anything that’s really helped you), tweet me!