April 25, 2014
By now you’re probably well aware of what sleep deprivation does to the body. Props to you if you’ve resolved to renounce your nocturnal ways! Yet somehow you still find yourself lying awake on your mattress for hours and hours trying to get some shut-eye, unable lull yourself to sleep on time. What gives?
It’s frustrating, but this problem can be fixed without having to resort to popping sleeping pills. Your body clock simply needs to be conditioned, or ‘reset’. Understand that if you’ve constantly been sleeping late night after night for so long, it won’t be so easy for your body to accept your ‘new’ schedule. You won’t have such an easy time breaking the bad sleeping habits you may have that cause it either.
This article is in no way a substitute for consultation with your doctor, but here are a couple of suggestions that should help you get your proper sleeping patterns back on track.
When we sleep late, our tendency is to sleep in until noon to make up for it. You will notice that you’ll still lack energy after oversleeping. The trick isn’t to overcompensate, but rather to persistently wake up at the same time every morning, even if you haven’t completed your 8 hours yet.
Pretty soon, your body will adjust, allowing you to have an earlier bedtime so you can naturally wake up earlier without an alarm. If you really need to make up for lost sleep, take a short nap early in the afternoon.
This may prove to be the most difficult thing to do in this list. Studies say that some of the most important things to avoid an hour or so before bedtime are gadgets. Light and dark tell our bodies when night and day is, so our eyes are very sensitive to the light the screens emit. The presence of the gadgets themselves stimulates the mind instead of relaxing it, effectively keeping you awake.
Similarly, don’t expose yourself to too much light in the evening. Bright lighting decreases the production of melatonin, the hormone which aids sleep. Yep, that’s also the key ingredient to sleeping pills. But why bother with melatonin supplements when you can get it naturally, without the side effects, by dimming the lights at night?
This trick is usually used prior to travelling to a different time zone to avoid jet lag, but it can also be applied to insomniacs. Don’t eat 12-16 hours prior to the time to you want to start your morning, and then set your body clock by eating a healthy breakfast right after. The nourishment will refresh your body and inform it that it’s the start of the day.
Eating at irregular times can really wreak havoc on our body clock. Have your meals at the same time every day so your body doesn’t get confused. Dinner should ideally be two-three hours before bed, enough time for your body to digest but not go too hungry again. If you involuntarily wake up in the middle of the night due to hunger, don’t reward your body with midnight snacks. Eat enough during the day and eventually your cravings will go away. Your biggest meal of the day should occur early in the afternoon.
You may find that alcohol helps you fall asleep quicker, but the quality of your sleep will be poor. Coffee and caffeinated sodas, on the other hand, will block certain chemical signals in your brain to keep you from being sleepy at all. If you can’t eliminate them altogether, drink them a few hours before bedtime to be safe.
It could take some patience, but stick to these rules and soon you’ll find yourself right back on track. Good luck and sweet dreams!