By Taylor CraigIn school, you rely on your brain — a lot. But if you’re not getting enough sleep, your brain has a hard time processing and retaining information, which can lead to lower test scores and grades. Use these tips to get a good night’s sleep so you can recharge your brain like a brand new cell phone. 1. Cut the caffeine Many students survive on caffeine. It can perform miracles when you need to stay awake to write a paper or for a late-night cram session. Caffeine works by blocking adenosine receptors in your brain, which tell your body when it’s tired, which causes you to stay awake. To rest your brain, you should limit your caffeine intake. Stay away from these caffeinated drinks and foods a few hours before bed: Coffee (duh) Caffeinated tea (black and green teas have a lot of caffeine, fruit and herbal teas usually don’t) Sodas and energy drinks Hot chocolate Dark chocolate and candy 2. Create a bedtime routine Having a bedtime routine is a good way to train your brain and body for sleep. Your routine should include calm, de-stressing activities. My routine includes a shower, a warm cup of decaf tea, and my favorite book. Maintaining a nightly schedule can be hard for students, but if you’re willing to put in the effort, you can significantly improve your ability to fall asleep as well as the quality of your sleep. 3. Unplug Phone and computer screens have been proven to have a harmful effect on sleeping patterns. The colors and brightness of the screen trick your brain into thinking it’s still daytime, which delays the brain’s release of melatonin, making it harder for you to fall asleep. So stop using your phone and laptop at least one hour before you go to bed. Instead, use this extra time to catch up on reading, listen to soothing music, or do some relaxing yoga. 4. Practice deep breathing It’s been suggested that using the numbers four, seven, and eight as part of a breathing exercise can help you to fall asleep faster and get a good night’s rest. If you’re experiencing sleep deprivation, try this: Turn off all the lights and lay in your bed Fully relax your body Place your tongue on the gums behind your front teeth Inhale through your nose for four seconds Hold it in for seven seconds Exhale through your mouth for eight seconds 5. Write it out Venting your stress on paper can help you feel more in control and relaxed, which is ideal for falling asleep. Devoting just five minutes to writing down your thoughts or worries before bed can help you wind down from the day. Not a single care in the world? Then just write down what you did that day. 6. Lay off the naps There are a few demographics that especially love naps: kindergartners, old people, and high school and college students. With the stress of school and an active social life, naps are like an oasis in the desert. But beware, naps longer than 30 minutes will disrupt your body’s natural sleep cycle. The ideal nap is between 20 and 30 minutes. To resist the urge to fall asleep during the day: Go outside. The natural light will remind your brain that it’s daytime. Do some light exercise. Take the stairs or go for a short walk. Drink water. A hydrated body is a happy body! Hang out with friends. You’re less likely to fall asleep with people around. Listen to some upbeat tunes. Get that blood pumping with some fun music. 7. Exercise Exercise isn’t only ideal for keeping in shape and staying healthy, but it’s great for tiring out your mind and body. After a 45-minute gym session, you’ll not only find it easier to fall asleep, but you’ll also wake up feeling more alive and refreshed. Who knows, you may not even need that caffeine fix! 8. Make your room a fortress of solitude Make your room a place of rest and relaxation. Don’t do homework or stressful activities in your room. Keep those exclusive to common areas and the library. Here are five ways to make your room a fortress of solitude: Dim the lights by draping fabric over the light fixture (WARNING: make sure the fabric is not touching the light and is at least four inches away from any source of heat or electricity. Accidental fire is not relaxing). Keep your room clean and free of clutter. Your mom would be proud. Decorate with neutrals. Hot pink rules, but is not conducive to a good night’s sleep. Keep your room around 65 degrees. Cool is ideal for deep sleep. Make your bed every morning. Nothing is more relaxing than crawling into a cozy made bed! 9. Sleep naked During the sleep cycle, your body’s temperature will naturally drop, which is necessary for optimal sleep. Warm, fuzzy pajamas can prevent your body from reaching its ideal temperature, causing you to wake up in the middle of the night, leading to sleep deprivation. So, sleep naked (#bumperstickerideas)! Now that your brain is recharged like a brand new cell phone, use it to apply for scholarships. About the author Taylor is a senior at Tarleton State University. She is a member of the Presidential Honors Program and the president of the Tarleton Scholars Society. She is majoring in communications, with an emphasis in communicating in relationships, and a minor in psychology. She loves Jesus, wears too much flannel, and is obsessed with The Lord of the Rings.