A person in a hammock outside

Settle into better sleep with three tips from a GatorWell expert

Experts at GatorWell, the University of Florida’s health promotion service, say consistency can bring sleep goals to fruition for students struggling to snooze. But it starts with time management.

“If a student is unable to manage their time effectively during the day, that usually leads to late-night cramming, which makes it hard to prioritize sleep and can cause stress – and stress is closely related to sleep,” said Roselind Brown, a health promotion specialist at GatorWell. “It’s all sort of tangled up with time management.”

Sleep is linked to memory, including how the brain consolidates and processes information, and impacts alertness and mood, she added.

“Prioritizing sleep is actually one of the easiest ways to be a successful student academically,” said Brown, who specializes in promoting sleep and time management for students. “If you’re not ready to make changes to your sleep habits, start thinking about how sleep can benefit you in your life, relationships, grades, health – all of that.”

Create a 15-minute relaxing bedtime routine.

Brown works with many students who are sleep-deprived not because they stay up late – but because once they’re in bed, they can’t fall asleep. A short bedtime routine to end the day on a positive note can help reduce time spent lying awake in bed, she said.

“I tell students to give themselves at least 15 to 20 minutes every single night to just have ‘me time,’” Brown said. “Time to relax, unwind and turn off electronic devices as best you can.”

Writing down thoughts can also help clear the mind just before sleep, GatorWell experts say.

Awake in bed for more than 15 minutes? Get up.

GatorWell health promotion specialists warn against trying to force sleep. Instead of being a diligent way to enforce a bedtime, forcing sleep creates anxiety around being in bed. But effective time management during the day is also key, Brown added.

“If you’re not managing your time during the day, you most likely can’t meet your bedtime, and if you do, you lay in bed stressed about anything that didn’t get done,” she said.

Go to bed in the same one-hour window each night.

Health promotion specialists at GatorWell recommend setting a consistent sleep schedule, which enables the body to settle into a natural rhythm that promotes alertness during the day and drowsiness at bedtime.

“Think of how difficult adjusting to daylight saving time is,” Brown said. “Your body really can have trouble adapting to just a one-hour change.”

But on days following a change in sleep schedule, GatorWell specialists say jump-starting the morning with an outdoor activity can help reset the body’s natural sleep rhythm.

Brown said that promoting healthy sleep habits at universities takes more than a few quick tips: It also relies on changing how students think about rest.

“For some students, and in higher education generally, it’s common for people to not sleep well,” she said. “Increasing awareness is an important part of promoting healthy sleep.”

Find more tips on time management and an example schedule, which includes a suggested timeframe for sleeping here.

For groups of ten or more students, Brown also recommended requesting sleep or time management presentations from GatorWell to help set and meet wellness goals.

Source: Roselind Brown, robrown@ufsa.ufl.edu