My relationship with sleep is complicated and largely ironic. If you ask any of my friends, they can tell you how much I love sleep. In fact, I will tell you how much I adore it. I am the first to encourage a nap for anyone debating whether they should take one and do everything to ensure my sleeping space is a comfortable one. That is a lot said though for someone who doesn’t get enough of it. The issue of sleep never seems to go away, and less and less people are getting enough of it—especially university students. Between classes, work, friends, extracurriculars, homework and (let’s be honest) Netflix, there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything we want, and sleep often takes the hit from our packed schedules. One study shows that the average university student gets about 6 hours of sleep a night, and students can tell you that when midterms and finals hit, that number probably drops, far below the recommended 8.
We all know the usual issues associated with a lack of sleep: higher risk of sickness, memory issues, poor decision-making. The list goes on.
So if poor sleep causes that many problems, why are so many students getting so little of it? My answer is that sometimes it’s just tough to fall asleep. Of course, there’s my usual routine. Laying in bed and putting away my phone. But that leaves me with nothing but my thoughts. So I think. And think. And think.
Before I know it, hours have passed, and I’m no closer to the thresholds of sleep than I was when I first got into bed. Sick and tired of being tired, I decided to search out new ways to fall asleep, especially ones that would make me fall asleep faster.
My favourite: sleep casts, also known as sleep podcasts designed to help you fall asleep with stories and relaxing audio. I enjoy a certain level of noise when I fall asleep. Silence allows my mind to think, but sleep casts are just enough sound that I can pay attention without being fully engaged. Besides, who doesn’t like a good bedtime story?
I’ve also tried exercising a couple of hours before bedtime, and getting fresh air, all recommended ways to create the space for restful sleep.
Another one of my preferred techniques to deal with the stream of thoughts as I go to bed comes from mindfulness: simply acknowledging the presence of thoughts, but recognizing when they are not worth my mental energy. I do not find it necessary to plan out my entire week as I go to bed. I’ve decided to leave that to the me that wakes up with a good night’s sleep on her side.
I wish I could say that after doing these things, I sleep deeply and peacefully every night. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and sticking to my ideal nighttime routine every night as a university student can prove difficult. I simply try to engage in the activities that have helped me in the past when I can, and not sweat it when I have nights where I still can’t fall asleep. My relationship with sleep will never be perfect, but at least I’m trying, and sometimes, that is enough.
HEADER IMAGE: SADIE LEVINE