Having uncontrollable sleep patterns can cripple your ability to live the way you’d like.
With students in particular, I find that issues with insomnia often arise. There is minimal effort required to scroll from one status update to the next, or to skip from one Netflix episode to the next, to the next, to the next.
We tend to blame technology for our sleep-related problems. I find the issue goes much deeper than we suspect.
I’ve struggled in the past with oversleeping. I’d sleep for a particularly long time one day, awaken, look at the clock, and decide my body must have been tired from the day before. But the oversleeping would continue for weeks, leaving me little time for preparation in the morning and a disrupted schedule on a daily basis.
My life was stressful enough; I didn’t need the added anxiety of a morning missed. Each day was full of its own tasks and meetings: working, sending out important letters, organizing, meeting with friends I hadn’t seen, finding time for my significant other. All of these were responsibilities I had to attend to—and there were a lot of them. I didn’t have time to set aside for, you know, all the stuff I wanted to do. To read a book, or something.
Anyway, being overwhelmed by the array of responsibilities I saw coming at me the following day, I would go to bed with an unwilling mentality, unprepared for the events ahead.
Many of my friends who struggle with insomnia face the same problem in a different form: they have tasks to complete, but don’t want to do them. It’s too much stress. “But I can’t just go to sleep,” they argue against themselves, and so instead find something to do ‘before’ their task work, half-convinced they’ll complete what they needed to do to begin with, then later finally pass out at 4 am.
Whether or not you struggle with sleep routines, you may be unmotivated by the day ahead. At night you lay down in bed and scroll through your phone, hoping enough status updates might numb or distract your mind long enough for you to forget tomorrow is coming. Or you wake up and, like me, find no physical energy to pull yourself out of bed—why would you, anyway?—and by doing so add to the stress you’re already experiencing.
The routine I’m about to suggest can benefit anyone in any situation. I encourage you to make two brief evaluations:
- Take note of what your schedule consists of. For me, it was work, letter writing, meetings, and organizing. Look at an actual schedule and see what you did in the last week.
- Consider your current top three goals. What are you focused on getting out of life right now? If you don’t have goals specified yet, what would they be? What are you passionate about? Who do you want to be?
- Evaluate: do you see an alignment between the two?
It hit me all at once. All of the things flooding my schedule—yes, they made me busy, but they also advanced me as a person. Work: I could earn money to put toward my education, allowing me to attain a degree and advance me toward a fulfilling career drawing closer every day. Letter writing: I was sending updates and fundraising information for an upcoming trip, one internship that will possibly determine my future. Meetings: every person I spent time with was someone I truly wanted to invest in and commune with.
In reality, everything on my schedule was something I actually did want to do.
If that’s not how yours lines up, fix it. Everything is a means to an end. If you want your schedule to work toward specific goals, modify it. You don’t want to go to work, for example—fine; but what can you be saving up for to motivate you? Your Tuesday/Thursday class is boring, sure--but can you use that opportunity to build new relationships on campus? Find anything you don’t want to do, and if it can’t be removed, bring purpose to it.
I think you’ll find, however, that the bulk of your schedule is filled with things that contribute toward your goals if you are a goal-oriented person. If that isn’t true for you, maybe it’s time for a change.
As soon as I recognized the purpose in each section of my schedule, my sleeping problem almost disappeared entirely. I was up on the dot the next morning, and have gotten out of bed at a reasonable time each morning since. Motivation makes a world of a difference.
So, then, the question stands: what are you working toward?