By Matthew Hubbard

College is an exciting yet daunting experience. As living arrangements, sleep schedules, stress levels and diets are bound to change, losing sleep and gaining the freshman 15 — or 30 as it seemed for me — seems almost inevitable.
But there is still hope! Here are a few health and sleep tips to hopefully keep you on the straight and narrow:

1. Drink more water. Whoa! Hold on. Are you saying I can only drink water? Not at all! To reiterate, college is a whole new experience and it is very easy to get carried away with the cafeteria’s, the Grind, and even your dorm’s range of beverage options — especially with the caf being only a few steps from most dorms (McReynolds and Nichol Hall, you have my condolences). As tempting as these sugary drinks are, refraining from them will make a huge difference. Remember, moderation is key. Drinking water rather than other beverages not only cuts down on calorie intake, but also helps you feel more satisfied during meals. Therefore assisting with eating smaller portion sizes.

2. Exercise regularly. Really? I’m a college student! You think I have time to exercise? Ha! I thought the same thing when I started here. Now I’m not talking about ‘roid raging eight hours in the gym 300-pound Arnold Schwarzenegger powerlifting here. All I’m referring to is literally a 15-minute jog. Yes, indeed, all it takes is 15 minutes of cardio a day to help keep you healthy. Did you know that doing a moderate aerobic activity, such as jogging, can actually help with studying and retaining information? “Cardiovascular health is more important than any other single factor in preserving and improving learning and memory,” says Thomas Crook, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and memory researcher. In other words, not only is cardio exercise great for keeping the excess weight off, but also it is great for your brain health too.

3. Keep away from junk food. Seriously? Your tips are insufferable. Now, I never said these tips would necessarily be easy. But I promise you it is worth it. If you’re anything like me (for your sake I hope not), you like to keep snack foods around and grab a bag of chips while studying or watching TV. Well, don’t do it! These empty calories can easily start piling on, and before you know it, you have caught the deadly freshman 15 (dramatic music plays). In all seriousness, it is better to not even keep junk food in your dorm room.
Now that we’ve purged these bad foods from our souls and regrettably our stomachs (sob), we can focus on what foods we can snack on. Honestly, fruits, veggies and nuts are always the best choice. Not only are these foods low calorie, but also they are high in vitamins that can help our noggin during study time.

4. Get proper sleep. ...Sigh... I know, getting appropriate sleep while in college seems laughable. But consider this, if all your time is scheduled, setting a sleep scheduled should be achievable. Opposed to popular belief, pulling an all-night cram session is actually counter-productive. “Our findings suggest that getting an average amount of sleep, seven hours per day, may help maintain memory later in life and that clinical interventions based on sleep therapy should examined for the prevention of mental impairment,” says Elizabeth Devore, an instructor in medicine at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. In other words, it is far better to get more sleep than to get more studying in.
The best way to maintain a good night’s sleep while in college is to set up a sleep schedule — the TLC gives out free daily planners — and stick to it. Also, don’t drink caffeine within five hours of your intended sleep time (I learned this tip the hard way). Not only will you feel a lot better, but your grades will look a lot better, too.

Good luck freshmen on your first year! Remember these little tips and you’ll be on your way to a great school year.