Get the sleep of your dreams

By Jasmine Pourpak

Research-proven strategies can help people get better sleep-a critical issue for students as the semester ends and finals approach.

A study conducted by Phyllis Zee, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Northwestern University, describes a few adjustments that can be made to get better sleep.

First is the amount of noise in the bedroom. A quiet room makes for a better sleep environment than a noisy one. Televisions often contribute to the noise in a bedroom and can get in the way of a good night’s sleep.

Christine House, a junior majoring in public relations, said that is something with which she struggles.

“I sometimes wind down with the television on, but then it actually makes it harder for me to fall asleep,” she said.

If the noise is coming from outside your bedroom, it is a good idea to invest in earplugs or even a fan to drown out some of the outdoor noise.

The study also found that the amount of light in room also has an effect on sleep quality. A dark bedroom is better for sleeping than a bright one, according to Zee’s research, because light disrupts the body’s circadian rhythm, also known as an inner clock.

If a bedroom has many windows, investing in blackout curtains or wearing a sleep mask will help.

Zee’s research suggests that the temperature of your room is important, with 65-68 degrees being ideal.

Some of Zee’s suggestions are easier said than done. She suggests maintaining a regular sleep and wake schedule to regulate the body’s inner clock.

This means going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning-even on weekends.

If you are having problems falling asleep, avoid taking naps that exceed 15 minutes, because they can interfere with nighttime sleep, the study reported.

Many people feel groggy when first waking up, but exposing oneself to bright light can help with that. Opening blinds, pulling back shades and turning on all lights will help because light helps alleviate sleep inertia.

The study offered a few more suggestions:

Regular exercise makes falling asleep easier, but exercising right before bedtime can make it harder. It’s best to exercise at least a few hours before trying to sleep.

You’ll sleep better if you avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol close to bedtime. Stimulants that produce an alerting effect can remain in the body for up to 12 hours, and although many think of alcohol as a sedative, it actually disrupts sleep, causing nighttime awakenings, according to Zee’s study.

Establish a relaxing bedtime routine. Take a bubble bath, listen to soothing music or read a book. Give yourself a half-hour of relaxation before your bedtime.