We all want a good sleep in order to be healthy and not feel like a zombie during the day. Life, unfortunately, is not that kind. In recent times, where we all spent a significant amount of time locked up in our homes, our sleep schedules have rearranged itself like a 2000-word jigsaw puzzle that we can’t put back together. Sleeping in on the weekends, work, stress, and traveling can impact our sleep cycle and throw it off its normal rhythm.
Not having a consistent sleep schedule can have harmful effects on your health and well-being. First, you must be aware of your current sleep schedule and circadian rhythm in order to start improving your sleep patterns. When your circadian rhythm is not in sync, it becomes more and more difficult to fall asleep and wake up at the right times. But just like any clock, the circadian clock can be reset.
All through the day, your internal clock swivels between sleep and wakefulness. This 24-hour sleep-wake cycle is what is called our circadian rhythm. Your internal clock resides in a part of the brain known as the hypothalamus. It responds to external cues that signal your body that it’s time to go to bed.
Having a normal sleep schedule means that you go to bed and wake up at a similar time every day. It helps your body clock sync up with when you want to feel awake and when you want to feel sleepy. But once your sleep cycle gets messed up, getting it back on track can be very challenging. Which is why you need some smart strategies that can help.
The following are some simple ways to get back on track to a healthy sleep schedule:
1. No Bright Lights
One of the best methods of fixing your sleep schedule is by lowering your exposure to light. When you’re exposed to light, your brain does not produce melatonin, the sleep hormone. This gives you the feeling of being awake and alert. Darkness signals your brain to produce melatonin, which makes you feel drowsy. In the morning, exposing yourself to light will help you wake up. So, open the curtains, take a walk, or just relax on the porch.
At night, put yourself to sleep by turning off or dimming bright lights. Stay away from glowing electronic screens from computers, smartphones, or television, as they can stimulate your brain for many hours.
2. Frankie says Relax!
Setting aside time to relax helps you sleep better. When you feel stressed or anxious, your body increases production of cortisol, the stress hormone. The higher cortisol you have, the more awake you feel. Creating a relaxing bedtime ritual reduces stress and also its negative effects on sleep.
Focus on more calming activities, like:
● Drinking caffeine-free tea
3. No more naps
If your sleep schedule has gone haywire, then it’s best to avoid napping during the day. Napping makes it difficult to return to sleep at night. Long naps also cause grogginess, which happens when you wake up from deep sleep. If you must nap, try not to sleep for more than 30 minutes. Also, the best time to nap is before 3 p.m. to avoid disrupting your nighttime sleep.
4. Healthy mind in a healthy body
One way to put your internal clock back to normal is to get regular exercise. Most of your tissues including the skeletal muscle are connected to your biological clock. So, when you exercise, your muscle responds by aligning your circadian rhythm. Workout also helps you sleep better by increasing melatonin production. Doing a 30-minute session of moderate aerobic exercise improves your sleep quality that same night. However, exercising regularly will give you the best results. Avoid exercising in the evening as it can overstimulate your body.
5. Avoid noise (Don’t go bump into the night)
Silence is very important to get a good night’s rest. Your brain does not stop processing sounds, even when you snooze. Loud, distracting noises do not help you fall asleep or stay asleep. Get rid of loud noises by keeping your television out of the bedroom and turning it off before bedtime. Turn off your cell phone or put it on “silent”. If you live in a noisy area, white noise is a good way to get some quality sleep.
White noise is a soothing, steady sound that covers up heavy environmental noise. White noise can be created by using a:
● air conditioner
● white noise app/playlist
6. Stay in your comfort zone
One of the most important requirements for a night of good sleep is a comfortable bed. Old mattresses and pillows lead to aches and pains and make it difficult for you to get quality sleep. The recommendation given by most experts is to replace your mattresses every 10 years and your pillows every two years. Also if you regularly wake up feeling stiff, then you should definitely get a new mattress or pillow.
How firm your mattresses and your pillows are is completely up to you. But if your mattress is saggy and your pillows are lumpy, it’s time to go bed shopping.
7. Nights are for sleeping not eating
Your circadian rhythm is affected by your eating habits. Make sure you finish your last meal of the day at least two to three hours before bed. This gives your body enough time to digest your meal. Eating dinner around the same time every day gets your body used to a routine. What you eat matters. Heavy, high-fat meals disrupt sleep because they have a longer digestion process. Avoid drinking caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, etc. Your last cup of caffeine should be before mid-afternoon.
Also, this may be a routine to some but avoid drinking alcohol before bed. It might make you drowsy, but it actually disrupts your circadian rhythm and makes it difficult for you to sleep well.
8. Make a routine
If you want to fix your sleep schedule, then first make one. Choose a time for going to bed and a time to wake up. Stick to these times every day, even on holidays. Avoid staying up or sleeping in as much as possible. Following a regular schedule helps your internal clock recognize and adapt to a new routine. Over time, falling asleep and waking up will become the easiest thing in the world.
Wish you a sound sleep!
Stay healthy, stay safe:)