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How To Optimize Your Sleep Cycle for Maximum ZzZzZ’s



In college I regularly skipped out on my Zs to cram for tests, get projects done, go out with friends…you name it. I feel proud to say that while I back-burnered sleep, I balanced my social and academic lives perfectly. I don’t brag often, but that’s something I’m proud of. I did decent with my health as well, but knew that I cared more about my grades than getting a full 8 hours of sleep on many occasions.

After graduating, starting my “grown up” job and getting a whole new routine, I realized sleep was more important than ever before.

It wasn’t a super easy, organic realization either. There was a period where I was struggling in most areas of my health, including not really sleeping through the night anymore. It was months of tossing and turning and feeling like shit pretty much every day, or at least most days of the week, before I realized something had to be wrong.

My turning point was realizing I was having panic attacks while I was sleeping. Which I didn’t even know could happen, honestly. I’ve always been an anxious person. Always. But my symptoms EXPLODED when I was catapulted into adulthood and the number 1 place that was affected was my sleep and relaxation. I would start hyperventilating and twitching in that “half sleep” time about 10-15 minutes into laying down because it was the only time I was letting my guard down mentally enough to LET myself have a panic attack.

After consulting with a professional, I learned how important sleep really is. Anxiety is something that will affect everyone, no matter what, throughout their lives. It might be on a smaller scale than what I’ve experienced, or even on a bigger one than mine in some cases, but it’s important to know that controlling your sleep is the number one priority when it comes to controlling that anxiety. It seems like the best approach to this aspect of your health is to make it a priority before it’s a problem, so even if you haven’t experienced any type of sleep issues due to life changes or anxiety issues make sure you’re at least paying attention to your body and sleep habits so you can cut off any bigger problems before they become a bigger issue for you.

Here are some tips and tricks I’ve picked up on or been advised to use to get better sleep and support a healthier lifestyle:

Not all noise is bad noise. I’m a really annoying roommate. I’m the bitch that comes out of her room 10 times a night and slowly turns the TV volume down to like, -15. For some reason I’ve always been a SUPER light sleeper and my room is very close to the living room where my night owl roommate likes to hang out and watch movies late at night. This along with my crybaby cat who moans outside my door all night REALLY effed up my sleeping for a few months. On a whim one night when I was at my whit’s end I downloaded the app Ambio. It has sleep noises, many to choose from, along with timers to shut off the noise by a certain time or change the volume. I’m a white noise kind of kid but they also have options that simulate ocean waves coming and going or forest sounds. Check it out here! This is great to block off noise you think might disturb your slumber.

Routines are your friend! I’ve learned that doing the same list of things every night at the same time no matter if I want to or not really helps force my body into sleeping mode. I usually do all the boring bedtime stuff an hour before bed like wash my face, brush my teeth, blah blah. Then I get into bed and journal for about 10 minutes followed by some type of reading. Surprisingly, I normally get too sleepy to keep my eyes open 10 or 15 minutes into my reading. I know this makes me sound like a complete grandma but it really works! Sometimes I hate it because my roommate rents a really awesome Redbox I want to watch or my cat is being super cute and playful and I don’t want to stop playing with her, but I really try hard to make myself keep the routine, and it normally really pays off.

Sleepytime? I know sometimes sleep aids can get really risky. However, I’ve tried a few teas here and there that promote a sound sleep and some of them have really lived up to their hype. My two favorites are Tazo’s Rest Tea and Yogi’s Bedtime Tea. I usually sip during the journaling/reading while lounging on my bed. On days where you’re super, super exhausted and you just know you’re going to need an awesome night’s sleep, these really make sure you’re not waking up and getting uncomfortable during your 8 hours. Make sure to check with your doc if you think it’s necessary. A lot of bedtime teas use valerian root which CAN be bad for you in large doses.

Technology is not your friend. I notice a HUGE different in my quality of sleep if I’m binge watching Netflix right before bed for a few hours. After a bit of research I learned it is best for us to cut off all screen time (that’s TV, computer, tablets,  AND phones) at LEAST a half hour before bed. There is something with the light and your brainwaves that affects your quality of sleep. I know it’s annoying not to be texting your bae within seconds of falling asleep but give it a try for like…a week and see how effective it is, I promise it works!

Make your bed comfy…for YOU. I feel like your bed is a place to really splurge for comfort and make yourself feel relaxed. You want $200 sheets? If that makes you sleep through the night, why not? I learned sleeping with only 1 pillow does it for me, weird because I have about 10 on my bed. I just shove the rest around or on the floor during my slumber. Make sure you make your bed is what you need it to be for you to sleep well.

Do any of you CC’ers have awesome sleep secrets? Share them with me below so I can add them to my bedtime routine!

[Lead image via Piotr Marcinski/Shutterstock]

    Becca is a college senior studying English lit, French, and marketing in Naperville, Illinois. She loves a warm cup of tea and a great book, and a puppy wouldn't hurt either. She hopes to one day work in the publishing industry.