Getting to sleep on a schedule can be tough. For most people, this involves getting up to get to work at 8 a.m., and keeping enough time at the end of the night to spend time with family, clean up the day’s clutter, catch up on your favorite TV shows, dive into a hobby, or just work on whatever odd projects you have.
For the majority of human beings, our internal clocks are set to a rhythm that has us hitting our mattresses at 10 p.m. and rolling over to the coffee pot at 6 a.m. bright and chipper (at least, after the coffee finishes brewing). But for a small percentage of people, their natural clock may be slightly off. Night owls tend to go to bed later, and wake up later. This leads to problems when trying to fit into a normal schedule, and while some do find success in fitting their round schedules into square time slots, most just suffer.
Of course, it’s not always just a night owl problem. If you find yourself suddenly in a different time zone, you too may begin to feel the pain of a shift in schedule.
So how can you adjust your internal clock to match your external one? Here are 3 simple tips that may help you get your sleep schedule on track.
Control your light exposure
Light is one of the biggest keys that tell us when it’s time to sleep and time to wake up. While most people think of daylight, researchers have found that exposure to almost any kind of bright light is enough to make our internal clocks go a little haywire. By controlling when and how much light you’re being exposed to a few hours before bed, you’ll be able to much more easily fall asleep right on time.
For those who find themselves with a later bedtime, try limiting the amount of TV or computer time you engage in. If you can, dim the lights a bit about an hour before you’re ready to go to sleep. Or, if you can’t dim the lights, try throwing on a pair of sunglasses to limit the amount of light your brain is receiving. If you tend to sleep in a moderately bright room (because of street lights, digital clocks, or even sharing a mattress with a partner who tends to read later in the evening), try investing in a sleep mask to block light while your body goes to sleep.
Exercise: it’s exhausting
You might think that exercising right before you go to sleep is the perfect way to get to bed a little earlier. After all, after a good workout your body feels exhausted!
Not quite. However, timing your exercise schedule right can help you get to sleep.
When you exercise, not only do you increase your heart rate, you also increase your body temperature. Even an hour or so after a good workout, your body maintains that higher temperature, but after about three to four hours, your body temperature starts to drop. That turns out to be the perfect time to go to sleep, as your body is naturally going into a resting state.
The right light snack
Eating a big meal right before you hit your mattress is probably not the best idea. Not only does your body use a lot of energy to digest it, you may also have to deal with everything from indigestion to heartburn (not pleasant to sleep through). However, it’s still ideal to go to sleep with at least a little something in your system so that you don’t have to deal with hunger pangs while you sleep.
Plus, the right mix of foods can actually help your body fall asleep faster while it digests.
Serotonin is the chemical in your brain that signals it’s time to sleep. Tryptophan (most famous as that chemical in turkey that causes after-dinner drowsiness), through several bodily processes, is an amino acid that turns into serotonin in the brain. Introduce a few carbs to help them move from body to brain, and you’ve got a great mix.
By eating something like some banana or mango with a glass of milk or a piece of bread shortly before bed, you may find yourself heading to dreamland a little faster.
Of course, it helps to have the right tools to help you fall asleep. If you think your mattress is causing you problems, consider upgrading to a Simmons ComforPedic mattress. Its memory foam and gel combination will help you stay cool and comfortable all night.