Most of us sleep at night and are active during the day.
However, some individuals travel a lot or have an irregular working schedule with night shifts. This wrecks their sleep and puts them in a state of constant sleep deprivation.
If you’re one of these people, you know how challenging it might be to get the proper amount of sleep without feeling groggy afterward.
The good news is, you can improve the situation by switching your internal body clock and starting fresh.
Want to know how? Then continue reading this article!
So, What’s Hiding Behind the Term ‘Internal Clock’?
‘Internal clock’ refers to your body’s circadian rhythm. It’s a complex system that regulates your sleep-wake cycle, hormonal balance throughout the day, and some aspects of cellular metabolism. The master clock is located in your hypothalamus gland, right behind your eyes, to be precise. That’s why the morning light and evening darkness are the primary regulators of your body’s rhythm.
Typically, for most people, a circadian cycle lasts around 24 hours with slight shifts towards either late or early hours.
Other things that might influence the work of your internal clock are:
- the level of physical activity;
- your diet and the timing of meals;
- diseases and illnesses;
- hormonal fluctuations.
While some of these conditions require medical assistance to be treated, others are feasible enough for you to use them in your daily life to fix your circadian rhythm.
So, without further ado, here’s what you can try.
#1 Use Light in Your Favor
Let’s begin with the easiest thing to implement.
Since light is the natural regulator of circadian rhythms, you can use it to fix your sleep-wake cycle.
Here are some recommendations to try:
- Expose yourself to the morning light. The yoga practice called ‘Surya namaskar’ basically translates as ‘Sun salutation,’ so if you’re into yoga, you may want to include this ritual into your morning routine. Or, at least try to let sun rays into your room every morning. If your windows are facing North, or if you live far from the equator, a high-luminosity lamp with programmed settings will do as well.
- Avoid screens. Our gadgets also emit light, but this type of light can do more harm than good. Blue spectrum light from screens can affect your sleep by inhibiting melatonin production. Also, it makes your eyes tired, which can result in headaches.
- Create a dark environment. While sunlight wakes you up, darkness can set you for sleep. Thus, if you live in areas with high light pollution, install blackout curtains or use a good old sleep mask.
Interesting fact: blind people don’t see the light, so they might develop a rare condition called non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder, which affects their circadian rhythms and the overall well-being.
#2 Go Camping
If you have free time and are enthusiastic about seeing some spectacular scenery, you can try another way to reset your circadian clock, which is camping. Basically, it’s a more advanced method of light manipulation, and it creates perfect conditions to start over, due to:
- the absence of laptops, computers and other screens;
- exposure to natural sunlight during the day;
- moderate to high physical activity;
- fresh air and lots of soothing landscapes to please your eyes and nervous system.
In fact, camping for just a weekend can reset your body clock and balance melatonin production. This means that once you’re back to your normal life, you will be able to fall asleep and wake up in tune with your body rhythms.
Circadian rhythm disorders contribute to a host of illnesses, including obesity, diabetes, kidney problems, and chances of getting heart disease. Thus, resetting the clock in a natural environment can do you a big favor.
#3 Establish a Sleep Routine
Sometimes, you can just go slow and steady, and your body clock will adjust by itself. The easiest way to take small steps is to establish your sleep routine and follow it daily.
So, here’s what you need to do:
- Shift your bedtime. If you’re going to sleep far past midnight, try to get your timing back to normal by shifting it 30 minutes back every 2-3 days. This typically works well if you need to move your sleep schedule within 2-3 hours.
- Make your sleep hours fixed. After your sleep schedule has returned to normal, stick to it and follow through. Also, you may want to track your sleep for a while in order to define your sleep needs — which typically is 7-9 hours for an adult — and build your daily regimen around these needs.
- Avoid sleeping over. The urge to stay in bed for longer is especially strong on the weekends or after a night out. The thing is, even one single night of irregular sleep can backfire on you for the next couple of days. So, if possible, try to avoid this scenario.
Also, you may want to come up with a relaxing activity before sleep. Hot shower, drinking tea, reading, or whatever makes you happy will create positive associations in the brain and thus help you fall asleep faster.
#4 Adjust Your Meal Timing
Food is another important regulator of the sleep-wake cycle. Some animals become more alert when there’s food available and typically have naptime after a hunt.
Turns out, adjusting meal times is working for humans as well and may reset your biological clock, especially if you’ve got a jet lag.
To prevent yourself from suffering when in a different time zone, try to starve yourself before a long flight (4+ hours) and eat an hour or two before you go to sleep.
The science behind this is that your gut has the second body clock, which regulates your alertness and sleepiness related to food intake.
Remember that sleepy feeling after a packed dinner? This is it.
So, next time you have a long-haul flight, skip packing the food with you and don’t order a meal on board. Instead, try this hack.
#5 Pull an All-Nighter
Finally, if you’ve been up for too long, sometimes it’s better to completely give up sleep until the next evening. In this case, you can go to bed at an earlier time and manage to get enough sleep, which will help you put your schedule back to normal.
In case you have a long day ahead, here are some tips that will help you survive:
- Drink coffee. Yes, you probably know that this will work. The thing is, you need to strategically schedule your coffee shots to allow the caffeine to metabolize. The best way to do this is to have your last Americano at least 6-8 hours before bedtime. Or, drink a cup of water right after your cup of coffee in order to help caffeine flush out from your body faster.
- Schedule a nap. Typically, our circadian clock has two most significant activity dips. The first one happens during the night, while we sleep. The second one starts between 1-4 pm and is known as a ‘post-lunch dip.’ To survive the second drop in alertness, schedule a power nap. Make sure it doesn’t last more than 40 minutes so that you could get back to full-night rest in the evening without any problems.