Urgent Support

How can I sleep better?

Supriya had been finding it very difficult to sleep well lately. She would toss and turn for hours but wouldn’t fall asleep. After having difficult nights, she would find herself worrying about not being able to sleep in subsequent days (what if today is just a repeat and I don’t fall asleep!). It had started having an impact on the way she felt. Throughout the day she would feel tired, low, and irritated. Concentrating during class had also become quite a task. She was beginning to feel really upset about her sleep cycle and lack of good sleep.

Initiation

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

Many of us as students have faced this at some point. Given the many transitions in life, plenty of impending stressful situations (the never-ending assignments and exams), interpersonal difficulties or even events that you’re excited about (fests!), it is natural that you may have found these to have had an impact on your sleep.

While sometimes sleep issues may be transient and can get better post the experience has passed, it can also continue to stay longer if not dealt with effectively. (for example: sleeping during the day to compensate for a difficult night, eventually making it a habit).

Coping mechanisms

Here are some small steps that you can start with to get more sleep and feel relaxed
Maintain a Sleep Diary

An effective way to begin is by maintaining a sleep diary for a couple of weeks. By filling in these details and documenting your habits, it'll be easier for you to notice patterns and identify what is helping/hindering your sleep, and begin making changes. You could use this outline to get started:

Day of the week Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
I went to bed at
It took me approximately ___ long to actually fall asleep
Number of hours I slept
I would say my sleep quality was
(on a scale of 1 to 5)
I was feeling ___ during the day (energetic, rested, irritated, dull, groggy, happy, alert, sleepy, etc.)
Before going to bed I:
  • Consumed caffeine
  • Exercised a lot in the evening / close to night time
  • Spent time on a screen (mobile, laptop, etc.)
Other possible reasons my sleep was disturbed (took a nap during the day / there were too many distractions / too many thoughts)
Build a conducive environment

After multiple nights of not being able to sleep peacefully, it is likely that your room and bed would become associated with the frustration you feel about not being able to sleep. The idea then is to re-associate the environment with successful attempts to sleep. This can be done by sticking to certain behaviours like:

  • Decide and stick to the same wake-up time
  • Avoid watching shows, reading, eating, playing games, and other activities on the bed that are not compatible with sleep
  • Go to bed only when you’re sleepy
  • If you're unable to sleep within around 15 to 20 minutes, get out of the bed and return only when you’re sleepy again or engage in other relaxation activities like listening to light music, practicing relaxation, etc. Additionally, avoid constantly watching the clock.
  • Avoid taking naps during the day
  • Avoid working till right before you attempt to go to sleep. Using mobile phones, computers, etc. will keep your brain more alert and awake, making it harder to rest.
  • You could also initiate a relaxing ritual before you go to bed like cleaning your surroundings or lighting an incense stick. (with reasonable precautions of course!)
Practice Relaxation

Feeling tense and anxious can be major hindrances in achieving good sleep. Different relaxation techniques can be used to address the same ranging from deep breathing, muscle relaxation, to meditations. See what works best for you!

Work on thoughts

Any sleep-related misconceptions or other worries that may be bothering you can make it harder to sleep. Be conscious of what's going through your mind when you’re struggling. Challenge any unhelpful beliefs to find more realistic versions. For example

I’m not going to fall asleep tonight just like all these days and I won’t be able to manage tomorrow.

A more realistic thought: I do fall asleep eventually and even though I am tired, I get through my days.

Maintain Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene refers to basic lifestyle factors that influence the quality of sleep. Some of these include:

  • Avoid stimulants like caffeine and nicotine and substances like alcohol too close to your sleep time.
  • Avoid very heavy meals at night.
  • Exercising regularly around late afternoon or early evening is known to be beneficial for a good sleep. But, avoid exercising too close to your bedtime as it may leave you feeling more energized, thus delaying sleep.
  • Avoid any distractions in your immediate environment and make it as comfortable as possible.

Habits that I have noticed are making it difficult for me to sleep:

The ones that I would like to start working on:

What I’ll do:

My personal bedtime routine that I will try and stick to:

Seek help

  • Also, your parents are just a phone call away. Don’t hold back from contacting them even if you just want to unburden!
  • If you're feeling lethargic, are not able to eat or sleep properly, are stressed, please approach the IIT Hospital
  • When your emotions get overwhelming or when you are simply confused about what is happening to you, talking to a counsellor at the Student Wellness Centre could give relief and provide guidance about what you can do.