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Getting back on track when your sleep has been out of whack

Learn tips for getting quality sleep and when it may be time to seek professional advice

Photo by Gregory Pappas on Unsplash
Photo by Gregory Pappas on Unsplash

Summer’s over and the kids are back in school. Most people work year-round, but the longer summer days coupled with kids on break, summer Fridays, and long weekends, can take a toll on our sleep habits. Getting back into the groove of things can take time, but getting a good night’s sleep is always important. If you’re having trouble getting back into a regular routine, try a few of these tips. 

Avoid caffeine in the afternoon

While it may seem obvious to most people to avoid caffeine before bed, many tired people try to get through the workday with extra caffeine. However, this only disrupts your sleep schedule even more. In general, caffeine should be avoided for about six hours before you go to bed, but it’s important to remember that this varies for each individual. Some people may need to cut off caffeine at noon in order to get a good night’s sleep. The most important thing is to monitor how your body responds. 

Find your light

It’s important to pay attention to the way light, both natural and artificial, affects your sleep-wake rhythm as well as the quality of your sleep. In the morning, sunlight can help wake you up, as it helps lower levels of melatonin, your body’s natural sleep hormone. Try to spend 20 minutes outdoors in the morning, without covering your eyes, this will strengthen your sleep ability and your sleep-wake rhythm.  The blue light emitted via the screens of televisions, computers, and cell phones mimics natural light and thus has a similar effect on melatonin. This is why it is advised to avoid using any sort of screen at least two hours before going to bed. 

Keep a regular sleep routine

Having a regular bedtime-wake time routine helps your body know when it is time to go to bed, which is why it’s helpful to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day – yes, that means even on weekends. When you begin going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, your body learns when it should be asleep and when it should be awake, making falling asleep at night and waking up in the morning much easier and maximizing sleep duration. 

Get up and move 

If you have been lying in bed for over 20-30 minutes or feel that you are struggling to fall asleep, it is best to ignore the old saying to count sheep. Don’t force sleep. Rather, get up, move to another room, and try to do something relaxing to calm your body and mind. When you feel tired, get back to bed and try to fall asleep again. Repeat if needed.  

When the sleep problem persists

While these tips will assist most people in improving their sleep habits, for some, the problems may persist. If you are regularly having problems sleeping at night, it may be best to keep track of your sleep, manually or using a wearable device to better understand your own sleep habits. If your sleep problems continue for more than two weeks and you are often fatigued during the day, you may be experiencing a bigger issue and it may be best to consult a sleep specialist.  

Sleep is one of the most important physiological behaviors that we can do for our health. Numerous health issues, from the common cold to chronic illnesses, including heart disease, hypertension and Type II diabetes, have been linked to a lack of sleep. Make sure that you are not ignoring this crucial and easy way to stay on top of your health by getting into a solid sleep routine sooner rather than later. 

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