I love a good snooze. Entering my beloved dream world constitutes my most consistent day-to-day goal. But it can be challenging finding a good enough chunk of time to get some shut-eye when burdened with essays, exams, emails, essays and more essays. Yet, no matter how hard I try to secure the doctor-recommended eight hours of sleep, my energy levels somehow manage to only allow me six, on average. And no matter how content I am with my zzz’s, people still tell me I need eight hours to succeed. Empirically, they’re right. Studies show time and again that adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep. But it’s also important for students to individualize their sleeping habits, as this can greatly impact overall well-being.

For example, when I get too much sleep, I’m often much more tired throughout the day and find myself in need of a nap. Too little sleep, and I’m struggling to stay alert. Six hours seems to be perfect for me, which is to say students struggling with sleep-related stress should learn how their bodies react to over- or under-sleeping. Apps like the Sleep Cycle alarm clock are perfect for storing and organizing data like sleep quality and hours slept. This kind of tool can help students better understand their sleep-related needs and better acquaint themselves with their own biological clocks.

Honestly, it’s tough having a non-traditional sleep schedule. When society decides to wake up at 8 a.m. and go to sleep after 10 p.m., it can be difficult operating on a different circadian rhythm. What’s even more fascinating is the wide array of slumber patterns that coexist on campus. One of my friends, for example, goes to bed at 10 p.m. every night and wakes up at 6 a.m., without fail, each morning. He then eats breakfast, exercises for a bit and finishes up any remaining schoolwork. One of my roommates, on the other hand, lives each day as an independent entity, separate from the other days in the week. I remember finding him one early morning wide awake after getting up at 2:30 a.m., going to the local mosque for the Islamic dawn-time prayer and going on a run by the Huron River. Needless to say, he crashed at around 9 a.m. In his own words, “as long as you make up your sleep at some point, you’re good.”

Being around different sleeping styles makes me question why I’m such a night owl. I think it’s because I value nighttime differently than the daytime. In the daytime, I can see how much of the day is left depending on the angle of the sun and the lengths of the shadows. This creates an hourglass effect for me. No matter what time of day it is, I feel like there’s still much more to do before that ever-oncoming sunset. The day is always fleeting, and unless I can “carpe diem,” I’m left worrying about what’s still on the to-do list.

But nighttime is different. It’s more quiet, more stable, more blissfully abundant in opportunities. In the night, my mind shifts into productivity mode. Creativity flows through my fingers and ink flows as I make calligraphy. Words connect in coveted eloquence as I write papers I had procrastinated. There are fewer people active on social media, fewer mass emails being sent and fewer interruptions to my focus. The only downside? It’s so hard to find an open restaurant in the middle of the night to work at.

Nighttime is also filled with fewer requirements and greater discretion on how I can use my time. I have a nightly routine that really helps maximize my happiness. Happiness is an odd variable, because it can’t be quickly quantified, like hours spent working or sleeping. Based on my experiences, however, going to sleep happier, even if that means fewer minutes of sleep, keeps my stress levels low. Each night, I finish my homework, watch some Netflix with my roomies and make my best efforts to pray the night “salah,” one of the five Islamic daily prayers. Praying, for me, is a form of meditation. It’s integral to ensuring I go to sleep clear-headed and focused on what I find important.

With exams right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to maximize healthiness and happiness through individualized sleeping styles. In my case, there are some nights when an extra 30 minutes of sleep seems to outweigh praying “salah.” However, those extra 30 minutes don’t offer me the same meditative and relaxing utility I get from praying. In this instance, I’m breaking free from the cookie-cutter approach to sleep in order to get a better night’s rest by praying, even if it means sleeping for a bit less. I encourage students to critically think about the days they feel more rested or happier and how their style and duration of sleep influences this so everyone can make individualized, informed decisions when it’s time to hit the hay.

Ibrahim Ijaz can be reached at iijaz@umich.edu.

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