How To Fix Your Sleep Cycle for a Smooth Semester

School's back in session, and if you're anything like most people, your sleep schedule is out of whack from a winter break spent with family and friends.
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By Emily Chapman from

School's back in session, and if you're anything like most people, your sleep schedule is out of whack from a winter break spent with family and friends. However, getting back in the sleepy swing of things will help you readjust to school, quit feeling tired, and get more work done--it's a worthwhile thing to invest in.

The best way to begin a sleep cycle reset is by setting a schedule: have a consistent time you try to go to bed and try to wake up. If your earliest class is at 2:30 in the afternoon, you don't actually have to sleep that late. (It's true!) If you get up earlier, you can do more early-morning homework and have your afternoons and evenings free for things you actually like. Think of it this way: in the evenings, you're choosing between homework and friends. In the morning, you're choosing between homework and more sleep than you need.

As this article points out, the consensus is still that most adults need 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep a night. When in doubt, go with less: even adjusting your sleep schedule by a half hour can make you feel much more energetic than you would otherwise. The key is not to go to bed at 3 and crawl out of it at 7 in the morning--try for bed at midnight and waking up at 8:30.

As you're readjusting to classes, you're going to want to take naps because you're tired. Don't. Long naps will keep you up when you are actually trying to sleep, and that just messes up your sleep schedule even more than you already have. If you're so tired that you need to go to bed at 10 for the first few weeks of school, that's fine--it's much better than passing out at 5 and only getting three hours of sleep. If you're still having trouble falling asleep, try an exercise routine in the morning. A study showed that women who exercised for as little as 30 minutes in the morning had an easier time falling asleep than those who did not.

The next step is making sure you've got a nice place to sleep once you really are tired. If you know your roommate is loud, start the semester off by reminding them about your sleep schedule. Hopefully that will work, but if not invest in some ear plugs or a white noise app for your iPod. If you want something more fun, the delightfully-titled Get High Now has provided an audio file intended to send you into a trance. If nothing else, it will take your mind off being unable to sleep.

Of course, you'll want something worth waking up for. If you're tired of cell phone alarms, try iTunes Alarm for the Mac. Linux users can find alarm clocks here, and Windows users can try their luck with the blandly-named Alarm Clock. For those interested in actual alarm clocks, we recommend the Star Wars-themed lamp/clock combo from ThinkGeek.

With these tips, and a healthy avoidance of caffeine and alcohol right before bed, you should soon be back on an even, if sleepy, keel. Better sleep will reduce your likelihood of falling ill, give you time for better work, and allow you to spend more time with your friends--it's worth investing in.

Got any sleep tips we didn't cover? Let us know in the comments!

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