Time is always in short supply during college, it seems. When you are not working your tail off to keep up with school work, you are trying to have a social life and keep enough money coming in to pay the bills. Between these three pursuits, you might start considering skipping out on sleep. But that is where you have got to draw the line.

Aside from binge drinking, few things are more dangerous to college students than the chronic lack of sleep that seems to come with the territory. In fact, the more we learn about the nature of sleep, the more we realize just how bad sleep deprivation is for our minds and our bodies. Sleep deprivation has been linked to everything from poor grades to depression to heart disease and obesity.

So how do you get enough sleep and still accomplish everything your busy lifestyle demands. Here are a six tips to help you get started:

college student health tips sleeping

1. Exercise regularly.

Exercise is a must for students for a variety of reasons, but one of those reasons is its ability to help you sleep soundly. Studies have found that, for every hour of sedentary activity during the day, it takes an extra minute to fall asleep. They’ve also found that the quicker you fall asleep, the longer you sleep. More sleep is better, of course.

2. Go easy on the caffeine.

A half-dose of caffeine stays in your bloodstream for anywhere from three to 12 hours after being ingested. That entire time it’s tricking your body into thinking it’s in a stressful situation, preventing your brain from calming down. This means that, if you had a Coke at 5 pm, there’s a really good chance that the caffeine would still be racing through your bloodstream at 10 when you should be trying to get to bed.

Use caffeinated drinks carefully. They can ruin any attempts to get a decent night’s sleep, leaving you tossing and turning all night long, instead of getting the rest your studious brain requires.

3. Make it a routine.

Humans are creatures of habit. This goes for sleep as much as anything. If you start forcing yourself to go to sleep every night at 10, your brain starts to anticipate it. The more your brain anticipates it at a certain time, the easier it is for you to fall asleep at that time. In fact, it will gradually become difficult to stay up past 10.

Also, the more of a habit it becomes the more your social life will conform to this new change. The trick is, you have to be consistent. Wake up and retire to bed at the same times every day. If not, you will just confuse your brain and end up laying awake in bed for a couple hours. Which is not productive.

Also, provide your brain with cues that tell it it’s time to sleep. Dimming the lights. Turning on some nature sounds on your iPod. Writing in a journal. Any of these can provide that cue for your brain to get ready for sleep.

4. Use all-nighters sparingly.

They seem to come with the territory, and we’re not willing to rule them altogether, but regular all-nighters will absolutely kill your ability to retain information. So, although most students use all-nighters to catch up on homework, they may actually suffer a net loss in information retention as a result. If that’s not enough to keep you hitting the hay at a normal hour, check out this WebMD article.

5. Don’t eat less than two hours before bedtime.

We’ve all experienced the odd dreams and the restless sleep that can come from eating something right before heading off to bed. So, yeah, that sugar cookie you usually get from the vending machine after your evening shower? It’s stealing your precious sleep time.

6. Take a hot bath/shower an hour and a half before bedtime.

There’s no arguing the calming effects that a hot bath can have on you. You’ll want to make it at least 15 minutes to get the maximum effect. By the time you get into your jammies and get a nice warm cup of milk, you’ll be ready for the Sandman to sweep you off to Dream Land.

Do you struggle with getting enough sleep as a student? Or are you a disciplined bedtime master? Tell us how you’ve dealt with it in the comments section below!

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