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Here’s how you’ve been messing up your sleep (and how you can fix it)

With the rainy season giving us days that are cloudy and cold, it’s been hard to fight off sleep during the day. Maybe you succumb to the occasional nap without caring what it might do to your sleep for the night. But did you know that napping is only one of the many ways that we mess up our sleep cycles?

Some days it’s easier to fall asleep and some days it’s harder. Maybe you had a long day and fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow. Maybe you’re stuck staring at the ceiling thinking about that risky text you just sent.

Sleep should be something we can do effortlessly. It is a major part of what keeps our bodies alive and functioning daily. The quality and length of our sleep the night before usually plays a major role in how the following day feels for us. You just close your eyes and that’s it, right? If only it were that simple…

Here are some ways that we disrupt our sleep and a few simple remedies to help you out.

Inconsistent sleep schedule

Waking up and going to bed at varying times every day confuses your body. This throws off your body’s natural alarm clock, also known as your circadian rhythm. Since you have no set time to get up or go to bed, your body is not sure when it is supposed to feel sleepy or awake.

Fix: One way to remedy this is to make sure that you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including on the weekends. This will train your body to know when it should start slowing down for the day and when it should have you up and ready for a new one. You can start by adjusting your sleep/wake-up times an hour or two (max.) at a time. First try to get yourself out of bed at your desired time then go to bed when you start feeling sleepy and adjust things from there.

Be wary of napping. If you already have difficulty at night, it probably isn’t the best idea to break up your sleep schedule even more by napping randomly throughout the day. Try not to nap too long or too late within the day to keep your sleep schedule on track.

Can’t sleep? Kakacellphone mo ‘yan.

Well, not necessarily just your cellphone, but any bright screen you may look at in general like tablets, laptop, and desktop screens too. The same blue and green light waves emitted by the sun are also emitted by the screens we look at. Naturally, these signal our eyes and brains to think we are in fact looking at the sun. It prompts our body to release cortisol, waking us up more when we should already be falling asleep.

Fix: A countermeasure you can take is to provide yourself with ample wind-down time before bed. Another thing that keeps us up at night is that our brain is still energized up until the moment we choose to try to fall asleep. Using your phone in bed, up until right before you close your eyes, is not an effective way to get some good night’s sleep. Our bodies cannot instantly switch from energized to sleepy the moment you lock your phone screen. Include wind down time into your daily routine. Put down your phone at least 30 minutes before your bedtime, peel your eyes off any and all screens you may look at throughout the day. Settle any messages and notifications before then. Let your eyes rest from your screens and feel your body relax.

Still can’t sleep? Get up and reset.

Lying awake at night and stressing about the fact that you can’t fall asleep will only continue to keep you up. Repeatedly doing this may also cause your brain to create an association with your bed and the stress you feel when it takes you a long time to fall asleep.

Fix: The solution? Don’t just lie in bed awake. Get up and do a soothing and quiet activity. Do some light stretching, maybe read a book by some dim (but sufficient) light, do some breathing exercises, or meditate. Try not to check the time as this might stress you out even more. After your extra wind-down time, go back to bed when you start feeling sleepy again.

If you still find yourself tossing and turning at night without being able to get a good night’s sleep, then here are some other ways that may help you at night. It’s usually best to work with your circadian rhythm and listen to your body’s natural sleep needs.

Get enough sunlight

The sun is a major player in our sleep cycle. The light waves help your body recognize that it’s time to be awake while the sun is out and about. The daylight will help you regularize your circadian rhythm. Pull up the blinds, open the window, and stand outside! Getting some vitamin D will also help you be more energized throughout the day, up until the nighttime comes and your body starts prompting you for bedtime with the setting of the sun.

Set the mood

Create the perfect sleep sanctuary for you. If it’s usually bright and noisy when you sleep, then you can’t expect to get much rest. It’s no use trying to go to bed when our senses are continuously being stimulated.

Make sure to use a dim night light if you need one. Use a mattress, pillows, and bedding that are comfortable for you but still provide enough support for your head and spine. Try to keep your bedroom temperature just right, maybe even leaning more towards the cooler side if you are comfortable with it. Keep noise to a minimum. You can even experiment with aromas and scents that can cue your body that it is now bedtime.

No heavy lifting/eating/smoking/drinking before bed

While moving your body for at least 30 minutes a day can actually help you sleep better at night, moving your body too much and too close to your sleeping time will only achieve the opposite results. Your body will be too pumped up to cool down enough for you to go to sleep at your desired time. Working out has a whole bunch of benefits for your body, just make sure to do it earlier in the day (or to do a more chilled-out routine if it’s close to bedtime).

Heavy eating and drinking may also disrupt your sleep if you do it too close before bed. As your body digests, you might find yourself waking up to do some midnight bathroom runs. Lying down after a big meal may also make you feel uncomfortable while your body digests the food. It’s also good to be aware of any food you eat that contains caffeine, like chocolate, for example. If you are sensitive to caffeine, it is best to avoid drinking and/or eating anything with caffeine too close to bedtime.

In the drinking realm, this also encapsulates alcoholic drinks. Now, you might think that an alcoholic nightcap is just what you need to drift off easily to sleep, but it may actually lead to very shallow sleep. As the effects of the alcohol simmer out, it might wake you up and disrupt your sleep.

The same effect may happen if you smoke before bed. As the effects of the nicotine begin to wear off, your body might wake you up, itching for another hit.

Minimize external stressors

Take the time to see what stresses you out in your day-to-day life and try thinking up ways on how you can deal with them. Sometimes we lay awake at night because we are worrying over many things that happened or might happen in the future. Learning how to remove these stressors completely, or at least finding a way to deal with them to lessen the effect they have on you, may help your brain get some peace and quiet as you try to fall asleep for the night.

Make sleep a priority

As it should be! Although, even when we know how important sleep is, it isn’t uncommon for us to sacrifice sleep in our quest to create more hours in a day. As part of crafting your sleep schedule, you also have to know when to call it quits for the day whether you finish your work or not. Neglecting your sleep will only leave you feeling listless throughout the next day, while diminishing your bodies health. Sure, you can also call caffeine to the rescue, but this is not a sustainable (or healthy) solution to your lack of sleep.

Keep a sleep journal

Having a journal to track down your sleep journey will help you identify which methods are working for you and which aren’t. You can reflect on what might have contributed to adding (or lessening) the quality of your sleep. Which routine leaves you waking up refreshed and ready to take on the day? Stick with that rather than the one that doesn’t let you part with your bed once the sun is up. You could also use this journal as a dream log too if you feel like it.

This is a very basic guide. If any deeper issues with your sleep continue for a prolonged amount of time, then you may want to consult a doctor to get more specific and personalized steps.

Remember: be patient with yourself. Give yourself and the methods time to do their magic, let yourself adjust and find what works best for you. As mentioned above, stressing about sleep too much will only result in less of it.

We are creatures of habit, do not underestimate the power of a good routine in trying to get those best quality z’s. Sweet dreams and don’t let the bed bugs bite!

 

Other POP! stories you might like:

5 easy ways beginners can start practicing mindfulness

Trouble sleeping? These simple strategies could help

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