Mindfulness & Sleep

Mindfulness Resources

We all have unique things that stress us out daily.  Mindfulness can be one healthy way of dealing with and relieving that anxiety.  Dartmouth College has several programs to support the practice of mindfulness.  Students can also explore resources with the providers in our primary care and counseling, or check out the latest options at the Wellness Center. 

A few places to start:

Sleep Tips & Tricks

Sleep problems lasting more than a few weeks can affect mood, concentration, and quality of life. Dartmouth College Health Services offers a variety of resources for coping with sleep problems. You can use these resources on your own or call to schedule an appointment at Dick’s House for coaching on how to improve the quality of your sleep and to discuss any related concerns.

Sometimes a few small changes in sleep habits can really make a difference. Check out these tips:

  • Get up at about the same time every morning, including weekends. This is even more important for sleep regulation than going to bed at a regular time (which is still a good idea!).
  • Go to bed only when you are feeling sleepy. Use the bed for sleep and sex only. Don’t watch TV, work or read in bed. If you are not asleep after 20 minutes, get out of the bed. Go back to bed only when you feel sleepy again.
  • Limit caffeine to 1–2 beverages a day, no later than 4 hours before bedtime. Avoid using alcohol as a sleep aid (it will degrade the quality of your sleep). Don’t eat a heavy meal within 2 hours of bed, but try not to go to bed hungry.
  • Establish a relaxing pre-sleep routine before bed. Practice natural relaxation techniques (eg. deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation). The “Mind Shift” app may help if you tend to feel anxious at bedtime, or consider trying a boring podcast with the “Sleep with Me” app. Check out options for muscle relaxation, guided imagery, meditation and more from the Wellness Center.
  • Avoid electronics and screens for at least 30 minutes before bed. Try “F.lux” (a free app) on your computer to minimize blue light exposure which can interfere with sleep. Orange glasses can also help to block blue light and improve sleep.
  • Avoid lights and noise in your room if possible. Don’t let your phone or alarm clock face you (or position them on the other side of the room). Consider black out shades or an eye mask if light is a problem in your room. Maintain a comfortable room temperature. Consider a white noise app if noise is interfering with sleep (“White Noise Ambience Lite” and “Sleep Pillow Sounds” are both good apps with free versions). You can also consider ear plugs if ambient noise is a problem.
  • Regular physical exercise helps promote sleep and overall well-being but avoid vigorous exercise too close to bedtime. It is important to have light exposure during the first 1–2 hours that you are awake to support health circadian rhythm. Outdoor light is particularly helpful.

Solving Sleep Problems

If you are doing all these things and still having difficulty, consider these options:

The most effective long-term treatment for insomnia is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT-I).
CBT-I may benefit anyone who is experiencing regular insomnia, and those who just want to sleep better. It is aimed at changing sleep habits and clearing up misconceptions about sleep that perpetuate sleep difficulty.

The Student Wellness Center offers “Refresh”, an online sleep quality intervention designed for college students based on CBT-I.  Studies have demonstrated improved sleep quality and a reduction in depressive symptoms in college students who have participated in Refresh.  You can sign up to enroll in this CANVAS course and receive eight short modules with info, tips and practice ideas.   To sign up, email Refresh at Dartmouth. If you complete all eight modules, you will be sent a free (and fun) pillowcase!

Another CBT-I program which you may find helpful is the “CBT-I Coach” app.  This free app is available in the App Store and may be used on a phone or other mobile device.  The app allows you to log a sleep diary and provides tailored tips to improve your sleep efficiency.  It also has built-in tools to help with relaxation and sleep habits.

Any of these programs work best when combined with in-person follow up.  Call the Health Service for an appointment to discuss how these strategies are working, and how you can optimize your sleep, or stop by the Student Wellness Center for more support.

If you are planning an appointment with a provider at the Health Service, it can be very helpful to understand your baseline sleep patterns to provide the best personal recommendations.  Consider completing a sleep diary prior to your appointment.