One bad night of sleep can lead to multiple bad nights in a row, so how do you get sleep back on track?
Before we dive into the ways to get sleep back on track, let’s look at how sleep works deep within our bodies.
The Circadian Rhythm
“A circadian rhythm, or circadian cycle, is a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep–wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours. It can refer to any process that originates within an organism and responds to the environment.” (Wikipedia.org)
Basically, the body cycles through its operations every 24 hours. When it’s light outside, your body tells your brain to wake up, and when it’s dark, it signals that your body needs to rest. This is how the body was made and has led our lifestyle for thousands of years. However, our world has changed dramatically. We have lights in our house, televisions, computers, and even jobs that keep us awake well past the point where we are supposed to sleep. And then there are supplements like caffeine that also throw off our circadian rhythm.
How Does Sleep Get Off Track?
When you are awake at odd times, perhaps for work, because of jet lag or taking care of a newborn, or maybe simply because of a late night, your body’s rhythm gets thrown off. The brain is unsure of when it’s time for bed. Now, it has already become more difficult to sleep the next night.
How To Get Sleep Back on Track
Now that we know why let’s look at the ways to get sleep back on track.
If you are switching sleep times for work.
If possible, figure out a new routine.
If you are working nights now, figure out the new routine and stick with it. For example, some medical workers will work nights and then days. Stick to the same amount of sleep during your off times and choose a wind-down routine that will help to signify sleep time to your brain and body.
If you are switching sleep times because of a newborn or some other ongoing reason.
If your sleep situation has changed and you cannot control the new routine, let’s look into naps. You will need to fill your body with the sleep it needs. Some people find it difficult to nap, but with training, you can actually learn to sleep anytime and anywhere. Once you master the art of naps, track how long you sleep.
Always be safe when napping – if you have OSA, read this blog about napping: Will Napping Help Sleep Apnea Patients?
If you are working to get sleep back on track after a one-off late night.
If this was just a one-off situation, go back to your normal bedtime and follow a wind-down routine. If you are in the habit of waking up at a certain time each night, try adding more outdoor activity each day (preferably during light time and then a quick walk during the evening) and wind down the exact same way. This will help your body to get back in line with nature and can strengthen that signal between brain and body that signifies your natural bedtime.
If you have any questions about sleep issues, please get in touch.