Sleep. We love it, we hate it, and we have a tumultuous relationship with it. Some of us had naps forced on us as children. Night owls struggle with sleeping enough for their next day. Morning larks don’t understand why some of us just can’t wake up at 5 am every day.
The most important aspect of sleep is consistency. Recent sleep studies have shown that it’s not about when you go to sleep every night. It’s about when you wake up every morning. Keeping the same wakeup time helps to regulate your circadian rhythm so you can keep up with your daily routines.
Why is sleep important?
In the past, my sleep schedule has been all over the place. While a college student and deep in my depression, my days and nights reversed. I would stay up all night playing video games and watching movies, desperate to escape my reality and avoid other people. Then I would sleep all day and end up missing classes, meetings, and tests. I would occasionally pull all-nighters before big tests, not realizing I was already jeopardizing my brain’s ability to retain information.
Even as a young professional working in office jobs, I still struggled to maintain a steady sleep schedule. On the weekends, exhausted and out of energy, I would sleep in past noon and get frustrated when I didn’t have the time to do what I wanted to do. Then on Sunday evenings, I wouldn’t feel tired at all from having slept 12 to 14 hours the previous night. I would have trouble falling asleep and the entire cycle would repeat itself.
Sleep is crucial to maintain our brain, which is the command center for our bodies. It regulates our bodily functions and our hormones, which affect our physical and mental well-being. Did you know that every night while we sleep, our brains get flushed to get rid of toxins that have built up over the day? This cleaning may clear out harmful proteins that could eventually cause Alzheimer’s disease.
Benefits of sleep:
- Improve focus
- Better learning and retain more memory
- Better physical and emotional health
- Allows the immune system to work its best
Sleep isn’t just nice to have. It’s a need for our bodies to keep them in the best condition possible.
Learn How to Sleep Consistently
The first thing to do is to decide when you want to wake up every day. You’ll be waking up at this time on days when you are not working too. For example, pick a time so that you can do what you need to do before leaving for work
If your desired wakeup time is more than half an hour away from your actual wakeup time, it’ll be too difficult to jump to the new time. You can slowly move your alarm time by 15 minutes for one week at a time. As an example, you might currently wake up at 8:30 am, but you want to wake up at 7 am. Change your alarm to 8:15 am for one week, then 8 am for the next, and so on. This method is the gentlest way to nudge your circadian rhythm and avoid tiring yourself too much.
If you know how much sleep is best for you, plan your bedtime for the time you want to wake up. Here is what is crucial: listen to your body. We often get caught up on our phones and computers in the evening to realize how tired we are. We need to be more mindful of how our body feels and how we feel. If you’re yawning, or your eyelids are drooping, or you’re struggling to stay awake while you’re on your phone, this is a sign that you need to go to sleep. It’s ok to go to sleep before or after your planned bedtime.
You might go to bed and realize that your mind has decided not to follow suit. If you’ve lain in bed for thirty minutes and you’re still not falling asleep, it’s ok to leave your bed. Find something relaxing to do until you feel tired again. You should avoid any electronics, as the blue light emitted signals our brain that it is daylight.
A well-spent day brings happy sleep.Leonardo da Vinci
Once you start thinking about sleep as something therapeutic and helpful for your life, you won’t think of it as something annoying that you have to get out of the way. Embrace it and find ways to make going to bed more enjoyable. Buy the best sheets so that you feel luxurious as you snuggle into bed. Use pajamas and clothing meant for sleeping. Regular daytime clothing can be rough to the skin and won’t provide the most comfortable setting for sleep. Spritz lavender on your pillow or use an oil diffuser. Put on some white noise or nature sounds to lull you to sleep.
Most important of all, commit to waking up at the same time every day. You will start feeling your mood and health improve.