Like the majority of college students out there, I used to consider sleep a luxury. I'd praise sleep as the greatest thing in the world, declaring that I loved it more than anything, but oddly enough, I never made it a priority. It's kind of like that new gadget you begged for yet never use or that "best" friend you rarely see. It never made the top of my to-do list and therefore I never got enough of it.
But, we are young. As college students we feel invincible. We believe we can take on the world without truly taking care of ourselves. We think we can play a college sport, serve as President of an on campus organization, join several other clubs, manage a social life and maintain a 4.0 GPA, without taking care of our bodies. We don't stop and think about what we need to do to keep up our physical and mental health. We just do what we want.
And yes, at the end of the day we get it done. But if we take a second to look in the mirror, we'd find that we look like Dracula's bride with smeared makeup, unkempt hair and bags under our eyes fresh off an emotional breakdown that consisted mostly of complaints about being tired.
Entering college, I was psyched about the fact that every night was like a sleepover with my best friends in the dorm. I could go to sleep at whatever time I pleased. I had to watch my two-hour block of "Friends" from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m., and after that, I could go to bed, hang out with my friends or work on homework with light from my laptop screen shining in my face. I also loved the fact that my classes didn't have to start at the same time every day like they did in high school. I'd schedule my classes at completely random times, just making sure I didn't have to get up early every day. No more did I have to wake up at 6:15 a.m. so that I could make it to school on time by 7:30 a.m. every morning.
I was eager to get involved with as many activities as I could on campus. It was training for softball in the morning, followed by class, then a club meeting or a Red Cross blood drive to plan. I'd squeeze in homework and studying when I could and of course, I would not miss out on a girls' night. But I'd whine and cry twice a week about how I never got enough sleep, despite the fact that I wasn't being proactive and making sleep a priority.
Then, in the summer between my sophomore and junior year, I began working for Sweet Dreamzzz, Inc., a Michigan nonprofit committed to improving the health, well-being and academic performance of at-risk youth by providing sleep education and bedtime essentials to these children and their families. As the public relations intern, I was in charge of all social media posts. I came up with the idea of posting daily sleep tips that matched a weekly sleep theme. And while I was hoping this would positively impact the lives of our followers, I didn't realize until recently, how much the information I was learning would change mine.
My summer working with Sweet Dreamzzz and the two years that have followed changed me from a girl with a typical college student outlook on sleep to a healthy sleeper and a die-hard sleep advocate.
I'm still young, and by no means the perfect sleeper, but my sleep habits are far better than what they were as a college freshman four years ago. I now work part-time as Sweet Dreamzzz, Inc.'s PR/Marketing Coordinator in addition to working on freelance writing opportunities. My bedtime is between 11-11:30 p.m. every night. In order to stick with a consistent bed/wake time schedule, I always make sure to get up each morning within an hour of my 7:30 a.m. Sweet Dreamzzz wake-up call on my days at home. This ensures I get a minimum of eight hours of sleep every night and it keeps my sleep schedule consistent for my body, a big component in staying healthy.
Additionally, I keep a good book on my nightstand so that I can relax before bed without all the excess light stimulation brought on by the TV, my laptop, and of course, that pesky cell phone. I find that when I love the book I keep close by, I am more than excited to jump in and lose myself in its pages rather than in the blue light of my iPhone's social media apps. An enchanting story is more fun than my newsfeed anyway.
Do I always put my phone down a half hour before bed and drift off to sleep only after finishing up a chapter in my book? No. Like I mentioned before, my sleep habits are still not perfect. Keeping a book by my bed means I'll read it 4-5 nights a week. My 11 o'clock bedtime is pretty consistent, but I still like nights out with my friends every once in a while or a late night movie with my family. If we all start trying to be conscious about the decisions we make about sleep, slowly but surely, we can rise to the challenge and change our sleep health for the better. And with healthy sleep, we will have a better chance of succeeding in all of our endeavors and we will feel better while doing it. No more looking in the mirror to find an emotional Dracula bride and no more falling asleep with homework in hand. With the right mindset we can get the sleep we desperately crave and succeed!