“When do they turn the lights off?” I asked my bunkie on my first day in federal prison. “Wait, what? Are they off? Is this some joke?”

As a light sleeper, I admit that sleeping in a bright and loud environment in federal prison was challenging.

The challenge was more demanding because, like all new prisoners, I was stationed in the front of the Dorm next to the television rooms and counselors officers.

I realized that I would have to get used to it–ain’t no way to eliminate all these noises and disturbances! Look, I was in federal prison and would have to adjust. I figured others found a way. Why not me? Of course, I could, but I wanted to embrace some strategies to improve the situation.

1: Engage in Physical Activity To Get REALLY Good Sleep In Federal Prison:

This was a game-changer for me. Running long distances and lifting weights in prison (remember I had not exercised for years) exhausted me. Despite always being a light sleeper, the rigorous and daily exercise helped me sleep through any noise and distraction–I am telling you I hit the pillow at 7 PM, and it was game over. If you go to prison and want to sleep well, you MUST incorporate physical activity into your daily routine.

2: Establish a Consistent Routine, like Waking Early:

Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day helped me build a consistent, repeatable routine. Besides the benefits of waking early in federal prison, the earlier you awaken and get going, and the easier it will be to go to early and sleep through the noise. A lot of the trouble in prison happens in the evenings in the television room. Wake early, get to bed early, and avoid problems that happen late into the night.

3: Create a Sleep-Conducive Environment:

Despite the inevitable limitations of a prison setting, try to make your immediate sleeping area as comfortable as possible. Use earplugs to minimize noise disturbances. Consider using an eye mask to block out excessive light.

4: Practice Relaxation Techniques:

I never did this, but others I served time with did. Consider deep breathing exercises or meditation to reduce stress and remote sleep.

5: Minimize Stimulants and Electronic Devices:

“Dude, how do you expect to sleep? You just had coffee?” I used to say to a friend in prison. It seems obvious, but avoid consuming caffeine. Additionally, try to avoid watching television before bed. Read a book instead.

6: Adjust Well In Federal Prison:

When you surrender, you will be at the front of the Dorm. In time, however, presuming you adjust well, you can move to the back of the Dorm, as I did. The back of the Dorm, can be quieter and less bright.

I know these strategies won’t make you feel like you’re sleeping in your bed at home, but they will get you closer!

Justin Paperny