By Dorian Grayson
You probably aren’t sleeping enough, but you likely already knew that. According to The Sleep Foundation, young adults ages 18-25 years old should be getting 7-9 hours of sleep, with the possibility for a little more or less depending on need. Too many, however, believe they’re the exception that only needs five hours to go about their day.
Unfortunately, consistent sleep deprivation is a risk factor for obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and strokes. Even if you don’t care about those health effects, sleep deprivation makes you less productive and attentive. This reduces your ability to pay attention in class and focus on homework, forcing you to spend more time working and studying, which cuts into your sleep time. It’s a vicious cycle that’s easy to slip into once the semester starts kicking into gear. However, sleep is in your control, and good sleep is an achievable goal.
One of the first steps to achieving a healthy sleep schedule is to go to sleep and wake-up at around the same time each day. Yes, even on the weekends. Your body needs consistency to understand the pattern, and it will throw everything out of whack if you spend two nights of the week going to sleep three hours later than the rest.
You may think you’re ‘catching up on sleep,’ but I assure you that isn’t the case. Ideally, your bedtime and wakeup time should each be within two hour windows every day. This accounts for mistakes, but communicates consistently to your body when you should be waking up and going to sleep.
One of the reasons you always feel tired isn’t just because of how much sleep you did or didn’t get, but because of when you woke up. Your sleep goes through cycles. It is better to get less sleep, but wake-up at the end of a cycle, than it is to get more sleep and force yourself awake in the middle. An average sleep cycle lasts about one to two hours, but you don’t have to do the calculations yourself. Go to sleepyti.me, enter your bedtime and get a sequence of times that should correspond to the completion of sleep cycles. Set your alarm to one of these times, and you should wake up feeling less exhausted than usual.
Things are rarely that simple, however. Sleepyti.me’s algorithm is based upon averages from sleep experiments and cannot be personalized to how your body works. For example, maybe you take longer to get to sleep, or your sleep cycles work irregularly. You cannot know if the times are accurate unless you test them yourself.
In an ideal world, you’ll set a regular time to go to sleep and figure out when you naturally wake up, then set an alarm as a backup, in case you don’t wake up at that time and might miss class. I know many of us have 8 a.m. classes, though, and I’m not gonna put that much faith in my body’s timers right off the bat. Use the weekends to experiment and find your natural wake-up time and work your way to the ideal. Going from a sleep-deprived zombie, wandering from class to assignment to class, to someone who wakes up naturally before their alarm each day is not only healthy, but fulfilling. Good luck!