Our bodies have an inherent need for a regular schedule, the most noticeable of which is sleep. When we don’t get enough sleep, we can see and feel a decline in our daily performance, creating a major sense of frustration. This is due to circadian rhythms, a bodily cycle that unconsciously manages our sleeping habits.
Normally, we can combat this issue by maintaining a routine where we sleep and wake at the same time every day. Once you’ve adapted to a schedule, you’ll find that your body controls the amount of sleep you need naturally without too much effort.
However, if you’re one of the brave few whose routine is constantly changing getting enough sleep can be a challenge. Shift work, especially in jobs where shifts regularly change from day to night and back again, poses as a struggle against our human nature. By using the strategies listed below it is possible to survive shifts in your sleep schedule.
First and foremost, try not to stress out about having to change your sleep schedule. The more anxiety you feel about not being asleep when you should, the more cortisol and adrenaline get released into your body, making it difficult to get some shuteye.
When to Drink Caffeine
Caffeine is a common go-to when you haven’t gotten enough sleep or are trying to stay awake longer. Remember, though, that caffeine is a stimulant, and will only keep you up as long as you continue to use it. Consuming excessive caffeine regularly will not only confuse your circadian rhythms, but can also cause damage to your kidneys and other organs and leave you with adverse withdrawal symptoms.
If you do choose to use caffeine, avoid having it less than eight hours before you plan to go to sleep. This way, the effects will wear off before you snooze.
A fantastic way to get to sleep is to tire oneself out by exercising. However, high intensity workouts near bedtime can actually exacerbate your sleeplessness as they increase heart rate and blood flow. Strenuous exercise is best left for after you wake up or mid-day (or night depending on your schedule).
Before bed, slow, relaxing movements are best, as they put your body into a more tranquil state. This might include stretching, yoga, or other forms of exercise that are not cardio-heavy.
Take a Bath
Including a pre-bedtime bath in your routine is an excellent method anyone trying to improve their sleep quality. Warm water increases the temperature of the body, bringing you closer to your sleeping state and allowing you to fall asleep faster. Adding soothing essential oils, such as lavender, can further the effects of the bath.
If your schedule commonly has you sleeping during the day, there may be some things you haven’t considered about your sleeping atmosphere. Most importantly, how much light enters your room while you’re sleeping? The body naturally senses when it is time to be awake based on daylight, making it more difficult to get the proper amount of rest when your routine requires you to be awake at night.
To remedy this issue, you can invest in blackout curtains for your windows. This will effectively keep the sun out and allow you to sleep just as well as you would at night.
Choose Your Sleep Aids Wisely
Although prescription sleep medication can be very effective, regular use will cause harm to your organs and can have some rather unpleasant side effects. If you’re constantly changing your sleep schedule because of shift work or other circumstances, look for more natural sleep promoters. Melatonin is a hormone naturally found in the brain, and taking supplements can make for an easier routine adjustment, as they tell the body that it’s time for sleep. Often used in tea, chamomile is known to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation, which helps you get to sleep faster. Talk to your doctor about other non-harmful sleep aids.