How can we get more sleep?
Recently, some researchers, parents, and teachers have suggested that middle- and high-school classes begin later in the morning to accommodate teens’ need for more sleep. Some schools have already implemented later start times. You and your friends, parents, and teachers can lobby for later start times at your school, but in the meantime you’ll have to make your own adjustments.
Here are some things that may help you to sleep better:
Set a regular bedtime: Going to bed at the same time each night signals to your body that it’s time to sleep. Waking up at the same time every day can also help establish sleep patterns. So try to stick as closely as you can to your sleep schedule even on weekends. Don’t go to sleep more than an hour later or wake up more than 2 to 3 hours later than you do during the week.
- Exercise regularly: Try not to exercise right before bed, though, as it can rev you up and make it harder to fall asleep. Finish exercising at least three hours before bedtime. Many sleep experts believe that exercising in late afternoon may actually help a person sleep.
- Avoid stimulants: Don’t drink beverages with caffeine, such as soda and coffee, after 4 PM. Nicotine is also a stimulant, so quitting smoking may help you sleep better. And drinking alcohol in the evening can also cause a person to be restless and wake up during the night.
- Relax your mind: Avoid violent, scary, or action movies or television shows right before bed — anything that might set your mind and heart racing. Reading books with involved or active plots may also keep you from falling or staying asleep.
- Unwind by keeping the lights low: Light signals the brain that it’s time to wake up. Staying away from bright lights (including computer screens!), as well as meditating or listening to soothing music, can help your body relax. Try to avoid TV, computer and telephone at least one hour before you go to bed.
- Don’t nap too much: Naps of more than 30 minutes during the day may keep you from falling asleep later.
- Avoid all-nighters: Don’t wait until the night before a big test to study. Cutting back on sleep the night before a test may mean you perform worse than you would if you’d studied less but got more sleep.
- Create the right sleeping environment: Studies show that people sleep best in a dark room that is slightly on the cool side. Close your blinds or curtains (and make sure they’re heavy enough to block out light) and turn down the thermostat in your room (pile on extra blankets or wear PJs if you’re cold). Lots of noise can be a sleep turnoff, too.
- Wake up with bright light: Bright light in the morning signals to your body that it’s time to get going. If it’s dark in your room, it can help to turn on a light as soon as your alarm goes off.
If you’re drowsy, it’s hard to look and feel your best. Schedule “sleep” as an item on your agenda to help you stay creative and healthy.