Challenge Yourself: 14 Days to Fix Your Body Clock
February 26, 2016
Sleep is like a good lover. It’s your peace, your refuge, your oblivion. Being able to put one whole day behind you brings intoxicating bliss. Finally you can shut your eyes on the world, throw your worries out the window, and drift away. As Ernest Hemingway puts it, the thing to love about sleep is that our lives have the tendency to fall apart when we’re awake.
Unfortunately, not all of us can pull all-nighters as quick as the other lucky ones. Sleep cycles vary because of work shifts, lifestyle, sources of stress, or medical conditions such as insomnia or sleep apnea.
Sleep is a challenge for a lot of people around the world. In fact, due to its grave effects, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared insufficient sleep as a public health problem. Most sleep-related unhealthy behaviors like unintentionally falling asleep and snoring are results of lack of sleep, and these are the things you would want to veer away from.
If you are having troubles sleeping, then you may have already attempted on easy ways to reset your sleeping patterns. But hey, let’s put a little more fun into that!
Aside from being faithful to a sleep schedule, there are more ways to reset your circadian rhythm or body clock. For all you know, having a few lifestyle changes are all it takes for you to reset your body clock. Here is a 14-day challenge towards re-tuning your sleeping cycle.
Day 1: Turn off to doze off
Electronic devices are keeping this generation up all night. A survey by NBC News has revealed that 95% of people use some kind of device—smartphone, computer, TV—within an hour before bedtime. One in five adults even sends work-related emails before bedtime.
The blue light coming from all these devices is an alerting agent. Light makes your brain think that it is day time, so instead of dozing off, it fights to stay awake, making sleep a challenge.
Put your phone on silent mode and remove all notifications. You can program it so that it rings only for emergency and important calls. Get yourself a real alarm clock so you won’t have an excuse to sleep next to your phone.
Day 2: You snooze, you lose
Hitting the snooze button on your alarm will not only ruin your sleep, it will also screw up your entire day. Sleeping in between alarms will only make the body more tired because those extra minutes are less restful.
Help reset your sleep cycle by setting the alarm at the time when you really want to wake up and in the process get more restful sleep. Slowly, abandon the alarm and let your body complete the sleep-wake up process without a ringtone that jolts you to get up.
Day 3: Avoid all caffeine
You probably already know this, but keep doing it anyway. Caffeine is a stimulant that helps you remain alert, that’s why it is best taken in the morning. Avoid caffeine 4 to 6 hours before bedtime. We’re not just talking about coffee but also tea, soda, and chocolates.
Day 4: No smoking, no alcohol
Just like caffeine, smoking and alcohol will also hamper your way towards getting a better sleep. Nicotine is a stimulant that will keep you alert, so keep yourself from making that puff. Alcohol is a depressant and will tire you but it will depress everything in your system, causing disrupted sleep.
Day 5: No heavy meals before bedtime
Weight gain is not only the consequence of eating before bedtime. Going to bed immediately after a big meal can disrupt your sleep because of the bloated feeling. Heartburn may also be triggered by fatty and spicy foods, waking you up in the middle of the night. Food rich in carbohydrates and protein such as whole grain toast or low fat yogurt are recommended according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Day 6: Create a dark, sleep environment
The presence of light disrupts your normal circadian rhythm. The room light during usual sleeping hours suppresses melatonin levels by 50% and shortens melatonin duration by about 90 minutes compared to dim light exposure. Melatonin is the biochemical produced by the brain when it is dark to regulate sleep-wake cycle.
Create a dark, sleeping environment by painting your room walls a darker shade, putting dark drapes, and turn off all your light-emitting gadgets. You may also wear those eye masks to block off light.
Day 7: Check up on your bed and bed accessories
Do yourself a favor and invest in quality bed accessories for better sleep. With advancements in technology these days, your bed and pillows are no exception to these innovations. The Senso Memory Plus Ultima Plus Traditional Pillow infused with Hydragel beads to help absorb heat and can lower temperature up to 2°C, for a more cool comfortable sleep at night.
Day 8: Keep your room cool
Sleeping in a cool room is good for you, according to science. Dr. Christopher Winter, Medical Director at Charlottesville Neurology & Sleep Medicine, recommends that one way to sleep better is to keep bedroom temperature between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit. He explains that our body temperatures peak and decline over the course of 24 hours, cooling off while we are asleep. This means that keeping your room cool will help you get into a deep sleep faster.
Day 9: Take a warm bath
Your body naturally drops temperature as you sleep. Simulate this shift by taking a warm shower and let your body temperature rise and then fall as you cool off from the shower, making you feel a little sleepy in the process.
Day 10: Take a daily stretch
As cited in the journal of Mental Health and Physical Activity, daily exercise has been proven to aid in getting better sleep. It found that 150 minutes of exercise a week or at least 20 minutes a day can help improve the quality of sleep and reduce daytime sleepiness. Start doing mild physical activities every day and the result will be beyond a good night sleep but an overall health as well.
Day 11: Start skipping naps
Napping is generally considered good to stay alert during the day. But if you are trying to fix your body clock, skip afternoon naps. A long nap or a nap taken too late in the day may affect the length and quality of nighttime sleep. So forget napping and do other activities to keep you feeling alert during the day like walking around the office and doing mild stretches.
Day 12: Keep still and breathe
Stop tossing and turning in your bed because that will only frustrate you. Find a good and comfortable position. Don’t move your eyes a lot and keep still. Relax and breathe deeply and slowly. This will help your body cool down, simulating the point of relaxation to help you sleep faster.
Day 13: Stick to a sleep-wake schedule
The circadian rhythm or your internal clock tells your body when to sleep and wake up. A lot of the things going on in your body depend on this sleep-wake cycle. This why if you sleep out of schedule, you end up feeling groggy the next day. So start setting a regular sleep-wake routine and stick to it, even on weekends. While you can’t always control when to fall asleep, you can always decide what time to wake up. Start with that.
Day 14: See a doctor
If at the Day 14, there’s still no progress on your quality of sleep as it continues to affect your work and other activities, then it is time to see a doctor. If you think you already did everything to reset your sleep cycle and nothing worked, you might have to seek professional help.
Sleeping is a wonderful thing, but sadly, not everyone gets to enjoy it. About 35% of people suffer the effects in health and daily activities due to poor sleep quality, according to the National Health Foundation. You don’t want to be in that group, do you?
To experience better sleep, you must understand that it is at that point when your body is in total submission — no pressure, stress, and tension, and that your body deserves to have it. With all these said, are you ready to take the 14-day challenge?