Sleep is always the first to go when it comes to choosing how to budget your time. We convince ourselves we can work with six hours, then push it down to four and then three. Soon, we wonder whether sleep is necessary at all. During dead week, you may find yourself needing to function on less and less sleep as the days go by. If you are anticipating a decrease in the amount of sleep you are going to get during dead week, we have a solution. Sleep hygiene is about making the few precious hours of sleep you get a night really count and ensuring you wake up well-rested and ready to ace your finals. Here are five recommendations for proper sleep to ensure optimal nighttime recovery from the trials of the day:
1. Avoid caffeine beyond the morning
Fun fact: Caffeine has a half-life of six hours. That means even if you drink a cup of coffee at 10 a.m., by 10 p.m., you still have 25 percent of the caffeine you consumed left in your body, which is highly detrimental to the quality of your sleep. Imagine if you had coffee in the afternoon, perhaps about 4 p.m.: You would still have 50 percent of the caffeine left in your body by the time you are ready to fall asleep! In most cases, it is best to just avoid caffeine altogether, but if you really need your morning fix, just try and keep it to the morning.
2. Avoid the computer at least a couple hours before you try to sleep
Our brains are not very skilled at distinguishing the light from a computer screen and that of the sun, so if you use your computer late at night before you go to bed, your mind will still feel like it is daytime. Most people are not used to going to bed during the day, so it is important to put the computer away when you know you are going to go to sleep soon. The same goes for phone and tablet screens, so if you need some sort of stimulation before bed, get it the old-fashioned way and pick up an actual book.
3. Reserve your bed exclusively for sleeping
Nothing feels better after a long day of studying or partying than just crashing on your mattress and drifting away. Unfortunately, it is difficult for your body to be soothed by your bed if you are already used to its comfort. Avoid lounging, doing work, dining or doing any other kind of activity on your bed that is not sleeping — saving yourself for the bed each day will ensure that the experience counts.
4. Get a half-hour of sunlight in the morning
This is usually a pretty easy task for UC Berkeley students who need to walk about 10 minutes outside to get from their rooms to their classes, but it is important to recognize nonetheless. To reset your inner clock, you need to feed your eyes some morning sunlight, and it cannot be through a window or through sunglasses. So embrace the outside world in the morning for at least half an hour in whatever way you want by cloud watching on Memorial Glade, taking a morning stroll up the Berkeley hills or doing homework under a tree instead of at your desk. This is not only good for optimizing your sleep, but the vitamin D from the sunlight has its own benefits as well!
5. Get seven to nine hours of sleep
You can work whatever tactic you want into your sleep routine to get the most out of the minimum, but there is no substitute for deep sleep. It is important that you give your body ample time to rest from day to day so it can stay alert and active throughout the day. While cutting out caffeine and getting some morning sunlight are still incredibly important to improve the quality of your sleep, you need to get some sleep to begin with to have something to optimize.