Creating a Sleep Sanctuary

March 19, 2024

Sleep is crucial while you’re at UNC-Chapel Hill. Good sleep helps you achieve academic success – improving memory and cognitive function, regulating mood and reducing stress levels. Adequate sleep also benefits physical health  – it allows your body to fuel itself with more nutrient-dense foods (as opposed to quick energy foods craved by tired people), boosts the immune system, and improves performance.

There are lots of barriers to good sleep in college, so some of the strategies below may seem impossible. Find at least one idea that you can try for the next week to help yourself get better sleep. After this week, add another strategy if you can.

  • Create a sleep-conducive environment: Make your sleeping space comfortable and relaxing. Most of us benefit from
    • comfortable bedding
    • a cool and dark room
    • quiet; use earplugs or a white noise machine if needed
    • darkness; use blackout curtains or eye mask if needed
    • an alarm clock that’s not your phone/tablet
  • Set consistent bedtimes and wake-up times: Keeping a consistent sleep schedule helps regulate the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day (yes, even on weekends!), can help you feel more rested and alert throughout the day. Once you know how much sleep you need, spend that much time in bed each night.
  • Get out of bed if you can’t sleep. If you haven’t fallen asleep in 20 minutes, get out of bed, no matter the time of night. Leave your room if you’re able. Engage in relaxing activities and return to bed when you feel more ready to sleep.
  • Manage stress: College can be a stressful time, and stress can disrupt your sleep patterns. Try to manage stress through exercise, meditation, or other relaxation techniques. Get support with underlying mental health concerns that may be contributing to your stress levels.
  • Prioritize sleep over other activities: It can be tempting to stay up late studying or socializing, but getting enough sleep should be a top priority. Naps aren’t nearly as effective as sleeping through the night. Make sure you have enough time for sleep; avoid staying up late to cram for exams, finish assignments, or hang with your friends. 

Remember, if you snooze, you don’t lose – you win a higher-functioning brain and improved health.

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