Can’t Sleep?

Consequences of Lack of Sleep

Lack of sleep can result in difficulty paying attention, irritability, impaired judgment, memory problems and overeating. Not sleeping can make functioning as a student really difficult and getting enough good sleep can be especially challenging for students. “Sleep Hygiene” is used to describe good sleep habits. Many of us don’t pay attention to our sleep habits, but they are essential.

Here are some tips to help you improve sleep quality and quantity.

  • Modify Personal Habits

--Fix a bedtime and an awakening time. The body gets used to falling asleep at a certain time, but only if this is relatively fixed. This can be especially challenging for students, but if you are having problems with sleep, give it a try!

--Don’t Nap. Or make sure you don’t nap more than 20-30 minutes.

--Get regular exercise, but not right before bed.  Regular exercise improves sleep, but strenuous exercise within two hours of bedtime can interfere with sleep.

--Avoid caffeine & alcohol for 4-6 hours before bed.

--Avoid heavy, spicy, or sugary foods 4-6 hours before bedtime. These foods can make it more difficult to stay asleep.

  • Change Your Sleeping Environment

--Use comfortable bedding and a cool room temperature.

--Block out distracting noise.

--Sleep in a darkened environment.

--Only use your bed for the three S’s: Sleep, Sex and Sickness

  • Get Ready for Bed

--Have a light snack before bed.

--Use relaxation techniques like yoga or deep breathing exercises.

--Don’t worry in bed.

--If you’ve been in bed for more than 30 minutes, get up go somewhere else and do a relaxing activity until you feel tired.

--Establish a regular pre-sleep ritual. A warm bath or a few minutes of reading can help you to sleep.

--Get into your favorite sleeping position. If you don't fall asleep within 15-30 minutes, get up, go into another room, and read until sleepy.

  • A word about electronics

--Using electronics or watching TV before bedtime is often energizing and can make it more difficult to sleep. Also, the light from screens can suppress melatonin, a natural hormone that makes you sleepy.

  • Other Factors

--Several physical factors are known to upset sleep, including headaches, other pain, acid reflux, sleep apnea, and menstruation.

--Many medications can cause insomnia.

--Mental health concerns like depression and anxiety, as well as alcohol or substance abuse can cause sleep problems.

  • Get Help

If your sleep problems continue or are interfering significantly with your well-being:

--make a free and confidential appointment with a counselor at the Counseling Center by calling 410-455-2472,


--make an appointment for a physical check up at University Health Services (UHS): 410-455-2542.

This resource was adapted from the UC San Diego Just in Case sleep resource.