How to quit the nocturnal life

Finding it difficult to wake up during daylight hours? Brigit Hirsch explains how to sort out your poor sleep schedule

Months of self-isolation have blurred the line between day and night. For Trinity students, it’s time to cast off sleepless hours of Tik Tok scrolling and, for the first time in months, stay awake while the sun shines at least until Dicey’s and Doyle’s are back to full capacity. Fixing a poor sleep schedule can maximise productivity and improve overall quality of life. The alternative is sporadic sleep habits and periods of sleep deprivation, which can heighten the risk of weight gain, diabetes, and depression. As a barista, I have picked up some tricks to help normalize waking up as early as 5am, and it’s not as painful as you might think. 

A bedtime routine is self-care

Fixing a poor sleep schedule starts with a commitment to a bedtime routine, but that doesn’t have to be a chore. A bedtime routine should be a relaxing time to wind down and forget the anxieties of the day. An hour before sleep, and ideally at the same time every night, dim all the main lights in your room and bathroom. Open the window or lower the heat because a cool environment is best for sleeping. It may be tempting to scroll through the Provost’s latest Twitter announcements about reopening college, but put away the screens. Turn off energetic music and podcasts and opt for white noise, an audio book, or silence while you brush your teeth. This is a fantastic time to stretch, practice deep breathing, or begin a skincare routine to combat maskne outbreaks. Journaling with sufficient but soft light is another non-stimulating activity that can clear your mind before sleep. Write away the day’s worries and start a to-do list for the following day to ensure that future tasks don’t keep you awake. 

“After six weeks of practice, this routine reportedly helps soldiers fall asleep, under any conditions, in one minute.”

The name sounds counterintuitive, but the military technique is a great way to fall asleep quickly once you close your eyes. Lay on your back and intentionally relax your muscles, going from from your head to your feet and focusing on areas with the most tension, like your jaw and shoulders. Inhale and exhale deeply throughout the process. After that, imagine a calming scene for ten seconds, such as a beach, a crackling fireplace on a rainy day, or naptime in a quiet corner of the Berkeley. After six weeks of practice, this routine reportedly helps soldiers fall asleep, under any conditions, in one minute. 

Use technology for good

In an ideal scenario, screens should be shut off an hour before bed. Their blue light can keep you awake, and it’s also said to be one of the addicting features of Facebook and Twitter, which are designed to keep users scrolling and alert for new Trinity News articles. If you need to be online right before sleep, set your device to grayscale, dim the screen, and turn on night mode. These techniques are also helpful around exam time or whenever you need to limit distractions.

Not all technology will thwart your sleep schedule. If your thoughts are at their loudest before bed, a white noise app or ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response), which is widely available on YouTube, might help. Apps that help with falling asleep, such as Calm, are increasingly popular. In addition, sleep tracking technology is often free on phones or in app stores and is usually included with Fitbits and similar devices. Tracking sleep doesn’t directly help to achieve deep sleep, but it provides beneficial information on when to set reminders to get ready for bed and how long you sleep. Setting and maintaining consistent sleep routines is the most crucial aspect of fixing a poor sleep schedule. 

All-day tips to prepare for deep sleep

Resetting a sleep schedule is an all-day commitment. It depends upon being tired at night and it starts when your alarm goes off in the morning. Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep — anything less than that impacts energy levels, mood, eating habits, and productivity. Sleeping in late, on the other hand, will prevent you from being tired at night. To combat oversleeping, set your alarm clock or phone across the room from your bed and encourage yourself to stay up from the first moment that you are awake by immediately looking at a to-do list, exercising, or waddling to the kitchen for a coffee. Working out and getting outside for fresh air, or even a student protest for a worthy cause, assists healthy sleepiness in the evening and sound sleep.

“Resetting a sleep schedule is an all-day commitment.”

Certain substances, including caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol can affect natural sleeping patterns. Don’t panic; you can still have those sweet, sweet Dublin espressos and socially distanced pints. However, it’s best to limit caffeine and nicotine to the morning and avoid drinking right before bed. The stimulating effects of coffee, tea, and smoking or vaping can last for several hours. A glass of red wine in the late evening can cause drowsiness, but it can also disrupt deep sleep during the night. 

Fixing a poor sleep schedule is a gradual process, and it’s important to set small goals and stick to good habits. With the right information, a solid routine, and mindfulness, it is possible to quit the nocturnal lifestyle. The next time a UCD student asks how you sleep at night, you’ll have something to say besides, “I go to Trinity”. 

Brigit Hirsch

Brigit Hirsch is the current Social Media Editor of Trinity News.