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How to Sleep Well in a College Dorm

A young woman asleep in bed.

Going to college changes many aspects of your life, from friends and eating habits to interests and extracurricular activities. It can also change your sleeping habits—often for the worse. Here’s how to get the sleep you need.

There are many reasons college affects your sleeping habits. It’s a drastic shift in your routine. You’re in a new place, doing new things, with new people. For many students, college is the first opportunity they have to dictate exactly what their routine is. Without mom or dad around to tell you when to go to sleep, it’s tempting to stay up all night.

If you share your space with a roommate, that can also seriously disrupt your sleep patterns. Even if you believe in the power of getting eight hours of sleep per night, your roommate might not. And if you’re a sensitive sleeper, how do you manage to get good shuteye when someone else is awake in the same room watching TV or studying?

We’ll show you how.

Develop a Routine

The first way to improve your sleep at college is to develop a routine. For many students, college is when routines go out the window. Most students set their class schedules and have the freedom to decide how they spend their downtime. It can be easy to fall into the trap of doing whatever you want, whenever you want to do it.

Living an unstructured life might sound fun, but it often negatively impacts your productivity and important habits, like sleep. If you don’t stick to at least a loose schedule, you might find yourself staying up all hours of the night, only to have to get up a few hours later to catch a class.

Once you’ve set your classes, develop a routine of what you want your week to look like. Be sure to include time for work, friends, and, yes, sleep. If you have a set time you go to bed and get up every day, you’ll be more likely to prioritize getting an adequate amount of sleep.

Work Out Sleep Etiquette with Your Roommate

Aside from your own ability to develop a routine, your roommate is the biggest impediment to developing healthy college sleep habits. She probably has an entirely different schedule and routine than you. So, how are you supposed to sleep with another person in your space, causing tons of distractions?

The best way to navigate sleep with a roommate is to set expectations. Set a cutoff time for visiting friends, so you don’t have to chase them out—or worse—try to sleep while they’re still around.

Commit to common courtesy. For example, agree that when one of you is trying to sleep, the other will switch to headphones and turn off any bright lights.

The layout of your dorm room will dictate the rules you set. The important thing is to have these conversations, so you can each respect the other’s needs.

Invest in Sleep Aids

Even if your roommate is extremely respectful, light sleepers might still find it difficult to fall asleep if there’s even a sliver of light or the subtlest sounds in their space. This is where sleep aids can help.

Earplugs or an eye mask can negate the effects of stray sounds and light, and make it easier for you to fall asleep.

If you try sleep aids and still struggle, though, you might want to speak to a doctor about medicines or supplements that could help you.

Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

The final way to get better sleep as a college student is to adopt the same sleep hygiene practices that help everyone. Turn off all screens 30 minutes before bed or do a small meditation to quiet your mind. Journal about your day or read a book.

Also, if you get plenty of exercise during the day, not only will it help you combat the Freshman 15, but it will also make you more tired.

Make Sleep a Priority

There are so many exciting things to do and see when you get to college, it can be hard to remember how important sleep is. But it’s important that you’re healthy, happy, and able to make the most of all your new experiences.

All of these suggestions can help while you’re at college and beyond. So, follow them any time you need to make your nights more restful and ensure you wake up recharged.

Hayley Milliman Hayley Milliman
Hayley is a former Teach for America teacher turned curriculum developer and writer. Over the past five years, she's written hundreds of articles on everything from education to personal finance to history. She's co-author of the book  Females. Read Full Bio »
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