Sleep tips for first-year students
Embarking on your tertiary education is an exciting step in your life’s journey. You’ll be meeting new people, learning new things and enjoying more freedom than at school. Whether you plan to embrace the social opportunities or push yourself academically (or both!), you’ll need to get enough sleep to be your best. Between new routines, studying and possibly being in a new space, there are a lot of changes you’ll need to navigate and a good night’s rest is the best way to do that every day.
Here are a few tips to consider:
1. Set boundaries if you’re sharing space: If you’re sharing a room in res or living in a commune or digs, at some point you’re likely to want something different to your roommate or housemate(s). You might be studying while they’re bingeing a new season of their favourite series, or you might have a special guest over and they keep interrupting. It’s important to set some ground rules together to manage these sorts of situations.
“Silence is often viewed as consent in roommate situations,” says Harlan Cohen, author of The Naked Roommate “It’s easy to blame your roommate, but it all starts with you.”
Cohen suggests you both agree to the “uncomfortable rule,” which is a pact between roommates dictating that if anyone is uncomfortable with what the other is doing, you need to speak up within 24 to 48 hours of the problem.
Once you speak up, chances are the solution will be simple. For example, you might want to ask them to use headphones when watching Netflix at night so you can get to sleep, or you might both agree to give each other a day’s notice if you want the space to yourself to study (or to spend some time with a significant other) in peace and quiet. Or you could agree to set days where you’ll give each other privacy and alone time. If you snore, you might agree that your roommate can wake you if it’s keeping them up, or you might decide that the space needs to be a quiet zone until a specific time in the morning.
Having open conversations with your roommate or housemates is crucial to create a foundation of privacy and ensure a good night’s sleep.
2. Set up your space for good sleep. On a student budget, you’re unlikely to be able to create a luxurious hotel suite in your home / res room / digs. But you can implement some basics to make the space feel like yours – safe, comfy and a good place to sleep. For example, invest in a good pillow, consider hanging a curtain or drape around the beds for extra privacy, or get a small fan to help regulate room temperature in hot months, and an extra blanket or hot water bottle for the cooler ones.
3. Take charge of your sleep. You’re the grown-up in charge of your sleep now. That’s both exhilarating and potentially a bit daunting, as your parents or teachers can’t question your late-night parties, video game tournaments or midnight feasts, or make sure you’re on time for class in the mornings and that you eat your breakfast. That’s now your responsibility.
Figure out how much sleep you need to be able to do what’s on your agenda and plan around that. Find ways to manage your routine to suit your lifestyle. For example, you might start class later on a Thursday than other days, so you might decide that Wednesday evenings are a good time to see friends or to set up a study group, as you can finish a little later and get up a bit later in the morning. On the other hand, you might decide that Sunday is a good night to get to bed early to make sure you’re well rested for the week ahead. You might want to adjust your schedule near exam time to prioritise more time to study and sleep.
4. Embrace naps. Often, a high-school school routine doesn’t allow for naps, but a varsity or college schedule tends to be more flexible, so you can grab a power nap when you need one. The best time of day to do this is after lunch or in the early afternoon. Read more about napping here.
5. Practice better sleep hygiene basics. You’re in a new phase of life and so many things will change, from the type of academic work to the people you see regularly, your extra-curricular activities and the amount of responsibility you need to take for your own health and wellbeing.
The good news is the formula for healthy sleep hygiene will stay consistent: appropriate, consistent bedtime, managing your caffeine intake, getting some exercise and minimising screen time as you approach bedtime.
Getting the routine down will go a long way to help you navigate all the changes varsity / college life will bring. When you lack sleep, you feel impatient, agitated and thoughts become blurry. The most important thing is to take care of yourself.
If you’re looking for more helpful sleep tips and advice, click here to visit our sleep blog.