In an ideal world, you would come home from work, have dinner, spend some time with your family, and go to bed at almost the same time every day. But it isn’t always that simple.
If you have irregular working hours, are a busy parent, or have sleeping issues you could find yourself with a terrible sleep schedule. Similarly, if you are a struggling entrepreneur, your daily routine is unpredictable making your sleep cycle erratic which reduces the quality of your sleep.
How do we fix it? Well, here are five tips and a little information about the sleep cycle to help you get good quality sleep every night.
Why is a regular sleep cycle important?
Our bodies function according to a clock – the biological clock. That is why we have a fixed time for most biological processes, like feeling hungry, going to the bathroom, and going to sleep. If you fail to regulate your sleep cycle properly, your biological clock will be thrown off and your overall health will suffer.
While some lifestyle changes can help you get better sleep, certain disorders (like sleep apnea) are not amenable to these changes. If you suspect you have sleep apnea, consider seeing a doctor and inquiring about a CPAP machine, which helps patients get better sleep.
For now, let’s take a look at some simple steps that can help you sleep like a baby each night!
Tips to fix your sleep cycle
1. Have a consistent bedtime.
We mentioned before that our body is set on a biological clock, and it loves routine. It is necessary to have a consistent bedtime to make sure that we don’t disrupt our body’s natural instincts and bodily processes.
Choose a bedtime that you think you can keep up within the long-term and then gradually work towards it.
You can start by bringing your current bedtime back by 15-20 minutes each day. In around 2 weeks, your body will get used to it, and you will have a scheduled bedtime.
You should also try to avoid taking naps during the day. Although a nap is supposed to be an energy booster, if you are napping for longer periods, it could be difficult for you to sleep at night.
2. Adjust your exposure to light.
Light has a significant impact on our circadian rhythm (a 24-hour cycle of our body’s internal clock). Low light levels or darkness can make you feel sleepy while bright light awakens your mind.
This phenomenon can be used to your advantage. When you get up in the day, try to get sunlight through your window or by going outside for a while. This will tell your brain that the day has officially begun and you are not allowed to sleep.
Likewise, use soft lights when you get home in the evening, and decrease the light levels when approaching bedtime. This includes limiting your screen time — try to avoid facing the TV, laptop, or your mobile for at least an hour before going to sleep.
3. Exercise regularly.
Exercise is great for your mental and physical health. You might think it would make your body tired, but it actually allows you to spend extra energy (and aggression) in a safe manner and feel relaxed.
This doesn’t mean you should go and get a gym membership today. Start with a brisk walk or jog in the morning, with light stretching or a few pushups.
However, a workout usually wakes the body up, so it is recommended you do it in the morning. Still, if your busy work schedule forces you to exercise in the evening, try not to go hard on yourself 2-3 hours before sleeping.
4. Do not eat just before going to bed.
The most harmful of eating habits are having a full meal just before going to bed. Our body takes longer to digest heavy meals, which disturbs the entire night’s sleep, making us burp or experience heartburn while we lay down trying to sleep.
So, try to eat earlier in the evening and make a habit of ending your food intake 2 hours before sleeping.
It is also a great idea to avoid smoking and drinking coffee or alcoholic drinks. All of these can make it difficult to fall asleep.
5. Allow your mind to wind down.
When it’s bedtime, create a serene and comfortable environment for yourself. This could mean having a warm bath and ensuring the room temperature is at an optimum level. Or it could mean listening to light relaxing music, forgetting the stress, saying your prayers, or reading your favorite book (a physical book – remember, no gadgets).
As the mind starts to wind down, you’ll feel your eyelids getting heavier. And before you know it, you’ll be sleeping like a baby!