The first day of classes

This week, freshmen across the country will realize that college is a lot like high school. You sit in a room, listen to a teacher talk, then take a test on what the teacher said.

And yet, look a little deeper and you realize college is nothing like high school. At least it shouldn’t be.

You should be changing. You should be exploring your interests. You should be getting better at making friends. You should be developing habits that will help you for the rest of your life.

Last Friday I joked to our men’s soccer team that I could have gotten into Yale had I known in high school what I know now. We were talking about the importance of sleep, that it’s a foundation for good physical and mental health. In high school I was chronically sleep-deprived — too tired in class to pay attention. By my freshman year of college I’d developed some semblance of good sleep hygiene. I could finally pay attention, and my grades slowly improved each semester.

Let’s go over what good sleep hygiene is now, because by final exams it will be too late:

  • Go to bed before midnight. Sleep at least seven hours, preferably nine. I can’t think optimally without eight.
  • Make your room as dark as possible. Outside lights shouldn’t be shining in the window. Even the small red light on a TV can disturb sleep.
  • That means no phones or laptops in bed with you at night. Put it under the bed, or across the room, and don’t use them within an hour or two before bed. The blue light emission disrupts sleep rhythms.
  • Cool environments are good, as is white noise to block out sound. I always sleep with a fan on. My college roommate preferred earplugs.
  • Stop eating and drinking 2 hours before bed, then take small sips of water as needed. Most food contains large amounts of water, and your sleep is disrupted if you have to pee during the night.

Now, enjoy your first day of classes. It only comes once.

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