Absolutely important: drink a TON of water. Grab a water bottle (I have an insulated bottle with a sealable nipple that is a true life saver in the hot summers) and always have it full. Try to drink at least 3 full bottles each day and don’t worry about having to pee constantly. That will diminish with time.
Eat protein before bed. Anything sugary or loaded with carbs can cause your blood sugar to plummet at night, which can make for restless, non-REM sleep, which sucks ass. Eat a slice of turkey with cheese or do my favorite and eat string cheese before bed. Keeping your BGs stable will be a life saver. Works great for fear of flying too! Trust me.
I do hypnosis and before anyone hates on me, try it. If you’d like, I have a generic one for sleep that I can Dropbox to you if you want to give it a shot. It has changed so many aspects of my life for the better that I recommend it whenever someone asks. Meditation is also great, as our friend The Redditorist said, but personally hypnosis works best for me. Try both and see what works for you.
Sleep hygiene. Most people laugh when you say this but it works. People tend to sleep better when their room is cooler (65-72*F), darker, and quiet. Some need white noise to fall asleep so buy a little white noise machine to help you. I like to fall asleep listening to rain which I find to be the most relaxing thing in the world. Only problem with Los Angeles is we don’t get a lot of it, so I use the Sleepmaker app for iPhone (it’s free) and chose whichever type of rain and duration I want. Sleep like a baby.
Try not to let stress get to you. You’re studying for the MCAT which is intense and requires so much brain space it’s scary. Let it all go at night to fall asleep, either through visualization or meditation or whatever you’ve now found works for you. I visualize all the thoughts, events, and stressors of my day just running off of me and into my mattress, where it dissolves into nothingness. Less stress will also make you a healthier person over all, which is a big plus.
Don’t ever hit snooze. This one is more about self-discipline than the other suggestions above but you can do it. I never hit snooze because what happens is that you wake up and then fall even more deeply asleep than before (sometimes even hitting REM but out of order in your sleep cycle). This really screws up your circadian rhythm and most likely is why you feel like crap all the time. Don’t hit snooze. Just don’t.
Exercise. As Bosmerica said below, become physically exhausted and the mental side will follow. If you’re not into evening workouts then try something mid morning, afternoon, or whenever that really wipes you out. When I do circus training, boxing, or dancing I am thoroughly tired and sleep like a baby. My preferred time to workout (personally) is in the morning (7am+) but you may be different. Find what works for you and run with it (pun intended).
Using all the tools above (and those great suggestions below) start going to bed earlier. Since you say you normally go to sleep between midnight and o’dark something, try for 11:45pm to start. Do that for a few weeks and then drop it to 11:30pm. If possible, wake up every day at the same time. 7am is the best time of day for me and my body will wake me up within the 7am hour without even setting an alarm. This took years but eventually, with time, it will become habit if you stick with it. Promise.
Dim the lights in your home/apartment in the evening, which encourages your brain to recognize it’s sleepy time. Ever been camping and thought “Man, I could fall asleep right now” and then you check your phone, only to see its 8pm? That’s what I mean. The darker it is before bed, the better it is for you.
Keep at it. It will get better with time and dedication. With all the tools you now have, the key part in this equation is YOU. If you implement what you’ve learned you will benefit. Pick and chose but do something. Half-assing things won’t generate the changes you’re looking for so go out there and DO it. Good luck and know we’re rooting for you!
1. Of course I look familiar. I was here just last week cleaning your carpets, painting your shutters, or delivering your new refrigerator.
2. Hey, thanks for letting me use the bathroom when I was working in your yard last week. While I was in there, I unlatched the back window to make my return a little easier.
3. Love those flowers. That tells me you have taste… and taste means there are nice things inside. Those yard toys your kids leave out always make me wonder what type of gaming system they have.
4. Yes, I really do look for newspapers piled up on the driveway. And I might leave a pizza flyer in your front door to see how long it takes you to remove it..
5. If it snows while you’re out of town, get a neighbor to create car and foot tracks into the house. Virgin drifts in the driveway are a dead giveaway.
6. If decorative glass is part of your front entrance, don’t let your alarm company install the control pad where I can see if it’s set. That makes it too easy.
7. A good security company alarms the window over the sink. And the windows on the second floor, which often access the master bedroom – and your jewelry. It’s not a bad idea to put motion detectors up there too.
8. It’s raining, you’re fumbling with your umbrella, and you forget to lock your door – understandable. But understand this: I don’t take a day off because of bad weather.
9. I always knock first. If you answer, I’ll ask for directions somewhere or offer to clean your gutters. (Don’t take me up on it.)
10. Do you really think I won’t look in your sock drawer? I always check dresser drawers, the bedside table, and the medicine cabinet.