Sleep schedule: How to fix it?
So, how have you been feeling lately? Irritable perhaps or just moody, feeling like you are plodding through the day, desperately wanting to grab a nap mid day or maybe feeling like you need to be hooked up to a caffeine drip?
Now a question for you is, how is your sleep schedule?
Irregular sleep schedules vs. modern day living
Scheduling our lives has become such an important part of living except we forget about the importance of a regular sleep schedule. In this age where most of us just don’t have the time to do everything we need because of the easy access to the plethora of social media sites that demand our attention, the importance of having a regular sleep schedule and enough of sleep fade into the background.
Why having a regular sleep schedule is important
Having irregular sleep schedules is considered an “inadequate sleep hygiene” behavior that also includes frequent and prolonged naps during the day, excessive intake of alcohol before bedtime and performing non-sleep-related activities while lying in bed – endlessly scrolling through Facebook, Instagram or Pintrest with promises of “just one more flick” sound familiar?
Did you know that altering your bedtime for just 1 night is sufficient to cause difficulties in initiating and maintaining sleep? Or, that a shift of just 2 hours in bedtime can reduce mental and psychological functioning?
A regular sleep schedule helps maintain your internal pacemaker (known as circadian rhythm) that has important interactions with different daily behaviors.
Studies have shown that a disturbance in our individual circadian rhythm can lead to changes in quality of sleep, which in turn may lead to:
- impaired vigilance
- decreased productivity
- negative health effects
o increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke
o irritability, anxiety, depression
o type 2 diabetes
In fact, there is a strong link between inadequate sleep and obesity in children and adults.
How can you fix your sleep schedule?
The quality of sleep we get depends not only in maintaining a good sleep schedule but our daily routines (and diet) to prepare for a good night’s sleep.
How about trying some of these tips to help fix your sleep schedule.
- Keep a sleep diary:
Jot down your routines for 2 weeks to help you understand how these may affect your sleep patterns.
- Be consistent
The way to any habit-forming behavior is to be consistent and I’m afraid it takes more than the well-known adage of “It takes just 21 days”. A study done in 2009 showed that it takes more than 2 months to form a new habit, specifically 66 days. Probably why most of my good intentions to form healthier habits have been unsuccessful so far!
So, make sure that you go to bed and wake up the same time each day, even on weekends and during vacations for 66 days and by the 67th day it should be all systems realigned and ready to go!
- Say no to stimulants
If you’re like me and love coffee just remember that having an after dinner cup of coffee (or any other beverage that contains caffeine) is not going to help you fall asleep and keep to your schedule. It takes about 5-10 hours for the amount of caffeine consumed to reduce by half.
o Chocolate and teas
Surprise! Chocolate and certain teas can also act as stimulants and may take at least 8 hours to fully leave your system. So have your chocolate fix more than 8 hours before your scheduled bedtime.
Exercising too late in the night (2-3 hours before bedtime) is not a good idea. It will keep you awake and disrupt your sleep.
- For an uninterrupted sleep
o Avoid alcohol before bed as it keeps you in the lighter stages of sleep and tends to wake you up once it loses its sedating effects.
o Large meals can cause indigestion and too much fluid leads to frequent urination interrupting sleep.
- Power naps can be beneficial but long naps (more than an hour) especially after 3 pm will make it harder to sleep at night. Take it from someone who loves her naps. I’m wide-awake past midnight when I should be in bed enjoying a good night’s sleep.
- Setting the scene
o Keep the bedroom free from distractions such as laptops, tablets, television and bright lights.
o Keeping your room cool has been shown to help improve sleep.
o The scent of lavender is known to reduce heart rate and blood pressure and encourage deeper sleep.
- Calm and relaxation before bed
o Taking a hot bath before bed helps relax your muscles and drops your body temperature, which can induce sleepiness.
o Calming music with a slow tempo can relax and calm your mind. In 2006, Stanford University researchers stated, “…listening to music seems to be able to change brain functioning to the same extent as medication.”
However, for this to work, you’ll need to devote at least 45 minutes of listening time. Some recommended types of music are ambient and/or nature music.
A helpful tip that I personally use especially when I find myself wide awake and unable to get to bed is to go on to YouTube and do a search for “sleep music” or “sleep meditation music”. Usually within a half-hour of listening, I’m ready for sleep.
o Reading is another method recommended to relax before bed but be a little careful with this. Reading a Stephen King or your favorite novel before bed may not be as helpful as it should be. Studies have shown that though listening to audiobooks may help, it didn’t fare as well as listening to classical music.
Remember that like all things in life, it will take some effort and time to fix your sleep schedule. Take your time, take small steps and before long you will reap the benefits of planning your sleep time as carefully as you do your other daily activities.