Expert Advice from The Sleep Help Institute on How to Sleep Better Based on Your Personality
No two people have identical sleep habits, which is why understanding how your unique habits, preferences, and lifestyle all factor into getting quality shut eye is incredibly important. As someone who has struggled with insomnia for most of my life, the first step to improving my sleep was to first become aware of my night time habits and how they were factoring into my daily energy, mood, cravings, and overall health. When I was experiencing the worst of my insomnia, I was in the thick of my undergraduate degree at Case Western Reserve University where the academic work load was intense and the nights of studying seemed to go on forever.
In retrospect, I wish I had the awareness to see how my habits were interfering with getting quality shut eye, which is what motivated me to write this article in collaboration with The Sleep Help Institute for the many different archetypes of college students! Even if you are someone who is not in school, there is something for you to gain from this article and the expert advice from The Sleep Help Institute.
In this article, I interviewed the experts behind The Sleep Help Institute who are on a mission to improve your sleep and to help guide your path to a better night's rest.
Transitioning into the lifestyle of a college student is more commonly than not a reality shock for most young adults who are leaving the comfort of home and venturing out into the world of independence and self-sufficiency. A change in schedule, new morning and evening routines, different eating habits, exciting social endeavors, and an insane amount of studying can take a toll on sleep quality resulting in a the newfound struggle to obtain restorative sleep. Research shows that those who suffer from sleep disruption, abnormalities, or insufficiency have a higher likelihood of developing a slew of chronic health conditions ranging from diabetes to depression. Nobody got time for that, so here is a guide that is tailored to a diverse range of college student archetypes so you can find tips that will be the most helpful for your lifestyle. Even if you are not a college student, this curated advice is widely applicable to anyone who struggles with sleep such as parents, business people, entrepreneurs, night shift workers, or just the everyday insomniac!
Archetype #1 – The Hustler
Most of us have at least one person that comes to mind who is the definition of a Hustler. They can usually be found working multiple jobs, holding down a position as the President of the Young Entrepreneurs Club, and have a way of making influential connections with the right people. This individual has some serious hutzpah for making a name for themself, and will stay up late and get up early to make money moves. As a consequence of the daily grind, The Hustler often slacks on sleep because after all, the early bird gets the worm. Their entrepreneurial brain often keeps them up with inspiring ideas and they have a hard time “shutting off” at night. What recommendations could you give to the Hustler so that they can keep the ball rollin’?
The Sleep Help Institute: "The Hustler finds that they can’t quite get their brain to turn off long enough to count the sheep and fall asleep. What I would suggest for them is to try journaling before bed. They can write down anything from the things they’re anxious about to the cool idea they just had so that they’ll remember it later. Using it as a to-do list has been found to help people fall asleep an average of 9 minutes faster than when they didn’t do it - the same amount of time that sleep medicines take to work."
Archetype #2 – The Night Owl
Remember that one person who was always late to your 8 A.M. Biochem class? This is the epitome of The Night Owl. This person is the most productive at night and finds they get a second wind of motivation or creativity once others have zonked out for the day. As a result of their unique productivity schedule, morning classes and commitments are the arch nemesis of The Night Owl. Some may call this person lazy, but they are clearly just misunderstood for their inverse sleep schedule. Yet morning classes are occasionally unavoidable with scheduling college classes, so what modifications can The Night Owl make to their sleep routine to help accommodate to these challenges?
The Sleep Help Institute: "For the Night Owl, I’d recommend that they adjust their sleep schedule. If they want to adjust their sleep schedule to be more amenable to their class schedule spending time in the bright, natural light could be the key to changing their circadian rhythm.
The Night Owl should try adjusting his bedtime slowly, moving it forward by about 15 minutes every two or three days, according to Rafael Pelayo, clinical professor at the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and the Stanford University School of Medicine in California. They should also get up at the same time every day, even if their classes don’t always start at the same time and spend some time in bright light."
Archetype #3 – Over-Achiever
Physics tutor + teacher’s aid + President of the Creative Writing Club + 4.0 GPA. This person continues to stack on items to their to-do list because being busy maintains a sense of forward momentum for them and makes the Over-Achiever feel unstoppable. However, being unstoppable does not help when it comes to rest and regeneration, and sleep tends to be a trouble area for this archetype because they have issues shutting off their brain at night. With such an insane schedule and list of obligations, passion can quickly turn to exhaustion if the Over Achiever starts losing sleep because of anxious thoughts. What structures or habits could the Over-Achiever schedule into their daily routine to help them unwind and sleep well at night so they can keep up with their demanding schedule?
The Sleep Help Institute: "The Over-Achiever works well with a schedule, so it may help them to schedule some time into their day for some exercise. If they have to work, they might find dictation software helpful to get some work done while they’re on the treadmill. Moderate to vigorous daily exercise, like running, has been found to positively impact sleep quality and psychological functions like your mood and function in a study published in the Dec. 2012 edition of the Journal of Adolescent Health journal.
Like for the Hustler, keeping a journal as part of their evening routine might also help the Over-Achiever fall asleep easier, and to keep track of everything they need to do when they wake up. Keeping it next to their bed will make it easier to keep up with!"
Archetype #5 – The Lab Rat
Beakers, centrifuges, and gas chromatography make the Lab Rat giddy with excitement. They feel right at home in the lab performing experiments and encountering the endless lessons of science and research. Yet unlike the previous archetypes, the Lab Rat loves to get so engrossed in their work that they rarely get out and about for some fresh air and sunlight. Head in a textbook or nose pressed to a tablet screen is the Lab Rat’s happy place. Computer screens, data charts, and florescent imaging expose their eyes and brain to excess blue light and they find themselves unable to sleep at night. What are some of the issues with excess blue light exposure, how does this impact sleep, and what are some lifestyle modifications The Lab Rat can make to help their brain refresh?
The Sleep Help Institute: "Blue spectrum light is great for when The Lab Rat wants to work. It tells the brain that it’s time to pay attention and work, which is why it’s used in a lot of electronics.
However, because it tells the brain that it’s time to work when we use anything with blue spectrum light in the evening - like when we’re working late in the chem lab, or the Lab Rat is typing up that paper she's been working on all week. If she wants to avoid this, she should stay off of her phone and laptop for about an hour before bed. Or, if she needs to use electronics, some yellow-tinted glasses may block out the blue light."
Archetype #6 – The Athlete
Two-A-Days, 8 AM practices, evening weight training, and multiple games and competitions a week is grueling, but is what drives The Athlete. This individual craves their time on the field, court, mat, or dance floor. Using their body feels like second nature, yet maintaining physical fitness consumes a ton of energy. When The Athlete is in peak performance, they are fueling correctly, recovering efficiently, and performing at their best. However, hectic class schedules and weekends out partying with the teammates can take its toll on the sleep schedule of The Athlete. Being that sleep is essential for maximal physical recovery, what are some ways that The Athlete can add in some additional recovery tools to ensure they are sleeping well and performing at their best?
The Sleep Help Institute: "Exercise and sleeping well go hand in hand. However, The Athlete should be careful not to overtrain. Athletes who overdo on high-intensity activities like weightlifting can find that their resting heart rates increase, their blood pressure becomes elevated, and their basal metabolic rate rises, according to Livestrong. Endurance athletes are more likely to have a decreased resting heart rate, and early onset fatigue when they exercise. The Athlete should listen to her body and talk to her coach if she finds herself feeling overworked by her routine."
Archetype #7 – The Pre-Med Student
The closest I’ve ever come to seeing crazy was while witnessing one of my best friends travel down the path to becoming a doctor. The Pre-Med Student is the definition of a bookworm and typically has a look of perpetual exhaustion due to the copious amounts of studying involved in Pre-Med classes. Most of us think this person is crazy, but to the Pre-Med Student, becoming a doctor and helping others is the most meaningful tribute they can make to the world, so the intense work is worth being exhausted. Due to their insane course load, this person is so close to sleep most of the time that falling asleep at the dining hall, at the library, and even at the occasional party is second natures. Being that falling asleep isn’t the issue for the Pre-Med student, what are some ways that they can schedule in time efficient restorative practices to their daily routine?
The Sleep Help Institute: "Daytime sleepiness is a huge problem for college students with poor sleep habits. The best way the Pre Med student can work to fix this problem is to set a consistent bedtime and wake time and schedule some time for naps or exercise during the day to help you make it through. This consistency helps to anchor the circadian rhythm.
The Pre Med student can also try going outside into the sun - adding 30 minutes of exposure to sunlight will help to regulate sleep patterns. If none of this is working, it may be worth it to see a sleep specialist to make sure that there isn’t an underlying health cause."
Archetype #9 – The Greek Gal or Guy
Α Β Γ Δ Ω Ψ Σ – or whatever combination of Greek alphabet soup you find yourself a member of, Greek life living comes with a unique set of challenges when it comes to sleep – ROOMATES (like, a ton of them).
Living in your fraternity or sorority house means a borage of noises, smells, and sights. Whether it’s your brother making a nude dash from the bathroom because someone snagged his bath towel or your sister blow-drying her hair at 5:30 am, your sleep is guaranteed to be anything by serene and peaceful. Yet living in Greek housing can be insanely fun and rewarding as you will always have someone to talk to and hang out with. Given the environment of Greek housing, what tips and tricks can you offer to new brothers and sisters who need some peaceful shut eye?
The Sleep Help Institute: "Living with that many people can be a struggle. Do what you can to soundproof your space, and set some boundaries with your roommates. If you know you have a test this week, tell your new siblings about it and tell them what you need them to be mindful of. It may be helpful for the Greek student to use some earplugs and an eye mask when they sleep, to block out the distractions around them when it’s time."
Archetype #10 – The Caffeine Junky
Double-shot espressos, energy drinks, sodas, and even caffeine pills are no match for the Caffeine Junky. This person seems to have become immune to the effects of caffeine and sustains an intake that would make most people’s heart burst out of their chest. A crazy class schedule and long nights of studying raised caffeinated beverages up onto a pedestal for this individual and they have a hard time functioning without their daily jolt.
Due to the endless stream of adrenaline and cortisol, this individual struggles to sleep at all and finds them staring at the ceiling unable to rest most nights. Caffeine is an addicting stimulant to quit or reduce, making this task seem quite overwhelming. What are some tips for The Caffeine Junky that will help them tapper down on caffeine and finally get some restful shuteye?
The Sleep Help Institute: "The first thing the Caffeine Junky should do is track just how much caffeine they’re drinking in a day in a journal so that they can see where they can cut some out.
Caffeine can actually cause withdrawals when you don’t have any after having it for a while. The Caffeine Junky can replace that drink with something with lower amounts of caffeine at first but should be cutting out about 100 milligrams of coffee a week, according to dietician Lesli Bonci. The Caffeine Junky can also try replacing that caffeine with exercise, which can have the same stimulant effects, as well as releasing endorphins that allow him to feel more focused."
For more information on how you can improve your sleep, check out the website for The Sleep Help Institute at sleephelp.org!
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