Last updated on March 28th, 2018

Prioritising sleep may not be your first concern when starting college or university. But optimising your dorm room for the best sleep is vital to ensure a happy and productive student life.

Living in a dorm room is one of the most useful experiences you can have as a college student. Dorm rooms across the world are usually cheaper and more accessible than renting an apartment for your college needs, so why not consider the opportunity?

As someone who survived an entire year in a college dorm, I can tell you that it can be stressful at first. The problem that most students come across however is the inability to get some proper shuteye like they used to before. There are so many new factors to consider once you move into your new dorm room, not the least of which is how to deal with your new roommate and actually sleep like a normal person.

I had to learn a lot about dorm life in a hard way because I had no prior knowledge of how things work in there, and I’m a light sleeper myself! So what are some of the most useful tips that can not only get you through your dorm life but make it more enjoyable in the process?

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Choose your spot

Being “that” person and claiming you have special sleeping needs isn’t as bad as it sounds. If you are a light sleeper and get paired up with someone who snores or goes to the bathroom in the middle of the night, you won’t have a great time.

Talk to your dorm management before moving in completely and explain that you would like to be paired up with someone with similar needs. Once you actually get to see your room, use the advantage of being the first person there to choose your bed wisely. If you have sleeping issues and can’t get comfortable for long periods of time, it will make a world of difference knowing that you chose your spot of your volition.

Talk to your room-mate

Your dorm roommate will be your best friend and worst enemy for the next year of your life. This means that you will share kitchen and bathroom supplies as well as college difficulties. Learning each other’s sleeping patterns is a good way to get off on a right foot. Even if you sleep well yourself, your roommate might have trouble sleeping before 2AM.

This means that compromises need to be made through communicating and mutual understanding. Tell your roommate about anything that you might need to sleep well, and listen to their own “requests” in return. Even if you don’t want to hang out together or go out for a drink, sleeping is an elementary activity that both of you need to provide for each other.

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How to sleep well: a dorm room checklist:

College dorms usually come in a pre-designed variety, meaning that there isn’t a lot you can do when it comes to rearranging your space. However, the little you can do can help you sleep a lot better and feel more comfortable in your new home.

Change the drapes into something “darkening”

Dorm drapes can sometimes be transparent and don’t block out light very well. This can be a problem if you are facing East and have no way of resisting the light in the morning.

Buy some greenery

Putting a couple of houseplants around your room can make the space feel more natural and comfortable to work in. Not all students like to study in joint libraries so make sure that you are also content when studying is concerned.

Move the furniture around a bit

If you don’t like the rotation or placement of your desks and beds, you can wiggle them around a bit to make it more comfortable or spacious. College dorms are designed for comfort but they also take other students into consideration and aim to provide maximum student capacity.

Get an alarm clock

If you and your roommate get up at similar hours, an alarm clock can help you both tremendously. Putting the clock in a space you can’t reach from your bed will stop you from hitting that “Snooze” button and actually get up when you have to.

Get some boxes and bags

The space beneath your bed is a perfect place to stash your belongings in. Students use this space to store their clothes, snacks and studying material. This can usually unclog your living space and let it breathe, providing a more comfortable experience for both you and your roommate.

Stock up on cleaning supplies

College dorm rooms can get dirty very fast due to their size and the fact that two or more people live in them. Stock up on any cleaning supplies you might need for your furniture, floors and bathroom. Living in a dust-free environment will make your breathing and sleeping much more comfortable as a result.

Limit your tech exposure                                                                          

Students are known for staying up late to either work or kill some time before feeling sleepy. However, exposing your eyes and brain to too much exposure before sleep can drastically affect the rest you get afterwards. It will take far longer for you to fall asleep and get the rest you so desperately need. Learn how to finish your work at least an hour before going to bed in order to adjust your sleeping cycle.

It can be difficult to lower the amount of screen exposure for students, especially when exams and projects need to be submitted. Learning how to manage your time to use daylight as best as possible is a lesson that comes with experience, so give yourself some time to get used to dorm life such as it is. Communicate the same to your roommate and try to help each other sleep better by turning off electronic devices an hour before sleeping.

Learn how to nap

Naps are the sharpest tool in your arsenal when it comes to dorm life. Your roommate might have lectures that leave you with an hour or two of free time until they come back to the room. This can give you the much-needed time to recharge your batteries before working on something important again.

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Some people don’t like the notion of napping through the day, but if you have a lot of work to do for college; this will be your only option if you want to stay awake and aware.

Take short naps that last about 30-60 minutes anytime you can, and if your roommate wants to do the same with you, even better! Synchronizing your napping patterns is a great way to deepen your friendship because it will show you that you actually care for each other’s wellbeing and productivity.

Don’t work yourself out

College can be a stressful period if you are not careful with the battles you choose. There will be a lot of extracurricular activities that you will want to participate in, from clubs to NGOs. Make sure to limit your side activities to a select few (one or two at the most).

Stretching yourself out too thin can have devastating consequences both for your mental and physical health as well as the sleeping patterns you employ. You will have a much harder time sleeping normally and getting good rest if you have a lot on your mind each day.

Your primary obligations should be the classes and projects you have to submit for them – not a book club or a volunteering activity you discovered recently. Do what is best for yourself and learn your limits before you become ill or too nervous to do anything about it. Your roommate can help you as a third-party and be the voice of reason that tells you when you need to get back on track – and you can do the same for them.

Give it some time

Getting used to dorm life is much like moving to a different city or changing your house – a lot of things will change in a short time. It’s important to stay open-minded and process ideas and thoughts as they come. Don’t overthink about what may happen a few months down the line and try to focus on the present.

Learning how to sleep outside your comfort zone will take some time and there will be some sleepless nights ahead of you. Take it from someone who spent a year of their life in a college dorm – it does get easier, and you will be stronger for it in the end.

The experience of sharing a small room with someone you’ve just met and studying for your degree is one of those times in life where you will feel fully aware and alive. Don’t let negative thoughts get in the way of you enjoying the dorm life you found yourself in.

About the Author
James Scott, experienced writer and co-founder of Essay Supply. He is a bit of a musician, a bit of a dreamer and a bit of an introvert. He also loves taking afternoon naps and jotting notes about his dreams.

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