Most people take a decent night’s sleep for granted. However, for some people, the slightest of interruptions to their internal clock can lead to a cycle of lost sleep and chronic fatigue. If you’re someone whose sleep cycle has strayed off track, there are some relatively simple things you can try in order to reset your internal clock. Whether you work shifts, you’re suffering from jet-lag or you’re losing sleep through worry, you don’t need to accept lost sleep as a way of life.
Eradicate unnecessary light at night
Whilst you probably already sleep in a darkened room with minimal light, gradually reducing light levels during the few hours before bedtime can relax you – and prepare your internal body clock for sleep. It’s a good idea to stop watching TV at least an hour before bedtime, and turn harsh, overhead lighting off in favour of mood lighting provided by lamps. If you work night shifts, and you travel back home in daylight, it might be a good idea to wear sunglasses until you’re tucked up safely in bed.
Choose meal times carefully
It is rarely a good idea to eat a main meal just before going to bed, as this can lead to heartburn, indigestion and a general feeling of being bloated. Try to get yourself into a routine of mealtimes that suits your own lifestyle and work commitments – and stick to it wherever possible. It’s important that you maintain this eating schedule at the weekends and during your days away from work.
Don’t force things
Too many people lie in bed for hours trying to fall asleep. However, this can often be counter-productive, as it increases stress and anxiety. If you only sleep for four hours a night, start by going to bed for four hours. If you have to be up for work as 7AM, aim to get to sleep by 3AM. You can then gradually bring your bedtime forward in order to get more sleep over time. Resist the temptation to take daytime snoozes, as this could affect your ability to drop off at bedtime. Your goal should be at least seven hours of quality sleep every night.
Try the latest technology
Trying to ascertain exactly what is causing disruptions to your sleep cycle can be very difficult when you’re lapsing in and out of consciousness. However, by using a sleep monitor, you’ll be able to identify the times of night when you become unsettled or wake up. These times may then be linked to other issues, such as the level of traffic outside, the time at which the sun rises or issues related to your home. A sleep tracker can come in the form of a smart phone app, a headband or a specially designed wrist watch.
Rule out the obvious
Before you start to explore the possibilities of sleep therapy and the more complex solutions to sleep deprivation, you should first rule out some of the more common barriers to a good night’s sleep. For instance, your mattress may not be providing your body with the support it needs. If your bedroom is affected by street lighting, you may find that investing in a set of blackout curtains will improve your sleep cycle almost immediately. And if you live in a particularly noisy building or neighbourhood, wearing earplugs at night be drown out the worst of the ambient noise.
A good night’s sleep is critical to your general health and well-being. Setting your body clock requires consistency and a healthy lifestyle, but you may need sleep tracking technology in order to identify the root causes of your sleeping problems. Only then will you be able to make the necessary changes required to get your body clock back on track.