By: Summer Mengarelli
You manage to be ready for bed by eleven, and optimistically set your alarm to a couple of hours before your first morning class. Lying in bed, you plan what you will accomplish in your extra time: maybe cook breakfast, enjoy your Keurig coffee in a mug instead of a travel cup, read a novel, get a headstart on some homework, or solve all of life’s greatest questions. However, you can’t fall asleep, and eventually roll over into that inevitably uncomfortable position that’s necessary to keep your phone plugged in while you scroll through Twitter. Later you drift off, but when your alarm jolts you awake in the morning you reset it, or maybe just snooze it repeatedly until you absolutely have to get ready for class. Sound familiar?
Here’s the catch, though: I am not sure that we all need to try to get up early every day. Yes, research shows that early risers are more productive and yes, there are far too many articles reminding us that CEOs get up early, and yes, obviously, that must be the key to their success — that, and a robust diet of capitalistic greed and blatant disregard for the welfare of the common worker. As worthy of emulation as this sounds, I would much rather get an extra hour of sleep.
There are a lot of reasons why early rising may be difficult for a college student: You may have a job that necessitates going to bed late, or your days might be so full of classes and other activities that the only time you have to study is late in the evening. Or maybe you’re one of the ever-decreasing number of college students who still have the time and energy for a social life after class. Most of us get up relatively early for class at least a few days a week, and I fault no one for sleeping in on the other days. However, if you are looking to increase your productivity in the mornings, or simply want time before class to relax and prepare for the day, here are a few tips that are more practical for college students.
Try to regulate your schedule. If you have an 8:30 a.m. class on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, try to get up at the same time on Tuesday and Thursday, even if you don’t have class until later. This may mean that you’re not getting up any earlier on the days of your morning class, but even that extra time on Tuesdays and Thursdays will allow you to get more done.
Wake up when you’re already sleeping lightly. You go through periods of REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM sleep throughout your sleep cycle, and it’s a lot easier to wake up during non-REM cycles. Apps such as Pillow and Sleep Time can help track your sleep cycles. They function similarly: You open the app, set the time you need to be up, and leave your phone on the side of the bed as you sleep. The app will wake you up sometime before the time you set, whenever you are in the lightest phase of the sleep cycle, and will also provide statistics such as how many cycles you experienced and how long you slept.
Place your alarm across the room. This worked for me for awhile, until I got an Echo Dot and discovered the joy of yelling at Alexa to snooze from across the room. If you are using a sleep app like the ones listed above, this won’t work for you either, since you need to keep your phone beside you and the app will function as your alarm, anyway. However, in any other circumstance, this often-repeated tip is likely to decrease the amount of times you snooze before you get out of bed for good.
Have a reason to get up. Even if you have a list of things you would like to do in the morning, often when the alarm goes off you can talk yourself into sleeping more anyway. It may be helpful, especially when you’re developing the habit of getting up earlier, to schedule things in the morning. I take a 7:30 a.m. yoga class most Saturdays, and it is not only a really nice way to start the weekend, but also a way to insure that I don’t sleep in too much and throw off my schedule for the coming week. You could try an early-morning coffee date with a friend once a week, or set a time in the morning to go to the gym with someone who will encourage you to stick to that time.