November 8th, 2007 Jamie
School and work can put a tremendous amount of pressure on you, so it’s no wonder so many college students have a hard time falling asleep. I know that I have always had an especially hard time getting to sleep before a exam or when I have a new, difficult responsibility at work. Luckily, I have found tricks that help me relax enough to fall asleep (that don’t involve counting sheep!).
Get Ready to Relax. If you want to get a good night’s sleep, you have to prepare both your mind and your body. Put on something comfy—nothing too tight or otherwise uncomfortable—and turn your lighting lower. Fluorescent or other white colored lights will hurt your eyes and keep you too alert, so use a lamp that has a warmer colored light (it should be a glowing light, like from colored Christmas lights, not a glaring light). Also, turn off your computer screen and the TV. If you are sensitive to sounds, you might want to have some white noise—I usually turn a fan on before I sleep to help me tune out the sounds of the street outside. Then climb in bed and get comfortable—arrange your pillow, make sure your blanket is warm enough, etc.
All set? Okay, now try one (or all) of these relaxation exercises:
- Tense and Relax. This is a great thing to do if your body feels tense. Starting with your toes, slowly tense every muscle in your body one by one, and hold the tension. Tense your toes, feet, legs, and all the way up your body–every single muscle including all the ones in your face! When your body is completely tensed, start at your toes again and release the muscle tension in every muscle one by one, like a wave moving from your feet to the top of your head. As you relax, try to focus on each muscle, and let it fully sink down against your bed. Breathe deeply as you relax.
- Read a book. Pretty simple, right? Make sure you have low, glowing lighting, and choose a calming book—no thrillers! Focus in on what you’re reading (don’t allow your brain to wander off into worries about test scores and due dates) and when your eyelids start to feel heavy, turn out the lights and let yourself relax into sleep.
- Paint the Room Black. Not literally—this is a relaxation technique for when your mind feels very busy. First, close your eyes and imagine yourself in your bedroom. It should be a room you know very well so you might want to try your room at home if you’re not used to your dorm room. Now start to visualize making the room darker—in your mind, turn off the lights one by one, lower the shades or close the curtains. Your room should look dusky now. Now, imagine slowly painting the room a calming, safe-feeling black. Paint the walls, the floor, the furniture, clocks, photos—everything. Really focus your mind on this and don’t let it wander to anything else. When everything is painted your visualization of the room should just be a pitch black, and your mind should be blank.
If all else fails, I’ve also found that focusing your mind on deep breathing can help you release tension and sink into sleep. For more in depth information, you might want to check out this article on how to fall asleep from How Stuff Works, and Lifehack.org has a good one about power napping to catch up on the Zzzz’s you might miss tossing and turning.
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Good luck falling asleep, and don’t forget to share your own tips and tricks with other readers by leaving a comment or sending me an email!
Photo by Georgios Wollbrecht
Entry Filed under: health