8 Tips to improve your sleep schedule
A good night's sleep is one of the essentials for living a healthy life. Lack of sleep and inability to fall asleep faster can lead to various problems, such as irritability, difficulty concentrating, and decreased productivity. The chances of suffering from health issues, such as obesity and heart diseases, also go up in the long run. People are more likely to experience these issues when their sleep schedule goes out of order due to conditions such as
- Working shifts (night shift/evening shift)
- Jet lag
- Traveling in different time zones
- Keeping late nights
The sleep-wake cycle is regulated by a 24-hour sleep-wake cycle called the circadian rhythm. If facing difficulty falling asleep faster or staying asleep, take steps directed at this rhythm. This can help improve the sleep schedule. Here are a few tips:
- Maximize the exposure to bright light during the day
The body secretes the hormone melatonin in response to darkness. Exposure to bright light suppresses its secretion. If a person works in shifts, they should try to get exposed to bright lights a few hours before their shift starts so that they can stay awake at work. If working normal shifts and still finding it difficult to sleep at night, then get exposed to bright sunlight first thing in the morning. During office breaks, try to take a short walk outdoors in bright light.
- Minimize the use of bright light during nighttime
Avoid using any blue-light emitting devices, such as laptops, smartphones, and TV screens, two hours before bedtime. Dim the lights in the bedroom. This increases the melatonin levels in the blood, which makes a person fall asleep easier and faster. If a person needs to wake up at night, they must ensure to move safely without switching on the bright light. Installing a dim light can solve this problem. Because dim lights are not bright, it does not affect the sleep cycle.
- Maintain a regular sleeping schedule
Set a time for sleeping and waking up and strictly follow these timings even on holidays and weekends. A regular schedule trains the body to have sufficient sleep during the night and stay active during the day.
- Avoid heavy meals and caffeinated products at night
Have a smaller meal at night compared to other meals of the day. Have the last meal of the day at least three hours before bedtime. Avoid eating spicy or oily food. Heavy meals and spicy and fatty foods can upset the abdomen and make it hard to sleep. Drinking coffee or a lot of alcohol four to six hours before bedtime can also make things worse. They tend to break the sleep in the middle of the night.
- Exercise daily
Thirty minutes of daily exercise can help reset the sleep clock. Try to get 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity at least five times a week. Remember to keep an interval of at least two to three hours between exercising and bedtime. Exercising close to bedtime can be overstimulating and have a negative effect.
Keep aside a particular time of the day for thinking about whatever happened during the day. This will help shed off all the worries and thoughts that could disturb sleep. A person could also try the following relaxation techniques:
- Deep breathing
- Stretching exercise
- Listening to soothing music
- Muscle relaxation technique
- Improve the sleep environment
Sometimes noises in the house (such as from TV) and neighborhood can also make it difficult to fall asleep. Discuss the problem with family members or roommates and ask them to lower the volume or use headphones/earphones during sleeping hours. Alternatively, a person can use earplugs to block outside sounds.
Adjust the temperature of the air conditioner to maintain a cool environment. Similarly, in cold weather, make use of heaters.
Sleep on a comfortable mattress. If the stiffness or lumpiness of the mattress or pillows is disturbing the sleep, it is time to get it replaced with a new one.
- Consult a sleep specialist
If the sleep pattern does not get better even after trying all these, it is recommended to consult a specialized doctor who diagnoses and treats sleep disorders. Sleep medicine specialists or sleep specialists will take a person’s complete history and identify if there is an underlying health issue or sleep disorder. They may order certain tests to arrive at the correct diagnosis.
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