Can’t get yourself out of the ‘laze zone’? Simple, your aunt would say – you need more sleep. Well, what if you’ve been sleeping more than usual, and still can’t shake off that heavy sense of fatigue?
You’re not alone.
Scientific research amply showcases that fatigue is rooted in many core factors, and sleep deprivation is merely one of them. Fatigue, whatever its cause might be for you, will take your life for a toss.
National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) estimates that 7% of road accidents are caused because of fatigue. Also, 1 in 5 Americans are affected by fatigue, the financial impact (lower workplace productivity) of which is estimated at $100 billion annually.
On a personal level, fatigue makes you cranky, demotivated and unproductive. Thankfully, there’s a lot you can do to improve the real quality of your sleep, keep fatigue and tiredness at bay, and get more done, every day.
Are you sleeping for the right duration?
The general belief that adults need 8 hours of sleep to maintain healthy lifestyles is, well, a bit of an oversimplification. 8 hours – that’s what works for most people. It’s reasonably likely that it won’t work for you.
During sleep, the average human goes through multiple sleep cycles, of primarily two kinds of sleep – non-REM (shallow sleep) and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) or deep sleep. It’s better to wake up between two sleep cycles rather than in the middle of a cycle. The duration of a sleep cycle for a human varies between 90 and 110 minutes.
It’s easy to understand why 8 hours could be lower or higher than your ideal sleeping duration. Use a sleep tracker application to measure your ideal sleep duration. Or, keep on adjusting your sleep durations by 15 minutes (continue with a duration for a week) until you find your sweet sleep duration.
Heard the phrase ‘body clock’? It’s closely tied to your sleep cycles and how you can tune your body to wake between REM sleep cycles. More on this, and many more methods for improving sleep quality, in the next sections.
How to tune your body’s internal clock
1. Follow sleep-discipline
Sleep researchers agree – sleeping and waking at the same time, even during weekends, helps set a sort of internal clock in your body, scientifically known as circadian rhythm. This rhythm affects your body, your brain, and your hormones, regulating when you feel like sleeping or waking up.
When you regulate the circadian rhythm, your body becomes naturally tuned to the idea of expecting sleep at a certain hour, and to wake up fresh and eager at a specific hour in the morning.
Try to follow this clock as regularly as possible because it takes time for it to take control of your sleep routine.
Natural light has an important role to play in setting the internal clock on a healthy sleep-wake cycle. If you can ask your partner to part the curtains, so that daylight seeps into your room before you awake, nothing like it.
Also, make it a point to take sun-breaks during the day (at least twice) if you work mostly within the confined of a closed office space.
2. Reduce exposure to blue light after evenings
Exposure to a lot of light can have negative effects on your ability to sleep well. Light impacts the body’s circadian rhythm, makes the brain believe that it’s daylight, and regulates body hormones such that the amount of melatonin is reduced, which in turn reduces the body’s inclination to sleep.
Blue light is the worst offender, and sadly, that’s what comes out of all your electronic devices.
Because of the modern lifestyle, it might not be entirely practical for you to let go of electronic devices after evening. Try these options:
- Use an app such as f.lux, which blocks out blue light from electronic device screens
- Use spectacles with lenses that block out blue light
- Reduce the brightness of your laptop and television screens
- Try out screen protectors to filter out the harsh light, if you just can’t keep devices out of your pre-sleep routine
3. Avoid consuming chemicals that impede sleep
Nicotine, caffeine, alcohol – all these are known defaulters, as far as your sleep quality is concerned.
Caffeine, for instance, is a stimulant that is almost certain to keep you awake. It’s not only in coffee; caffeine is present in tea, colas, chocolates, and even some pain reliever medicines. Smokers should refrain from consuming tobacco products post evening.
People believe that alcohol helps them relax and fall asleep quicker than otherwise. This may be true, but the implications are bad for sleep quality. Alcohol makes you wake up more often during the night.
Limit your alcohol consumption to less than two drinks, if you are a regular drinker. Or, better still, don’t drink at all!
4. Nurture a healthy pre-sleep regimen
The transition from your wakeful hours to sleep hours can massively improve sleep quality and help you wake up fresh and alert. Try these options:
- Engage yourself with a good book
- Stay away from your electronic gadgets for at least one hour prior to sleep
- Try out relaxation exercises to help your brain stop overthinking on personal problems
- If you’re troubled by thoughts, write them down and put the notes away
- Take a bath because sudden change in body temperature induces drowsiness
- Instead of coffee, drink a cup or two of warm herbal tea
5. Make your bedroom’s environment conducive for sleep
Improper room ambience can not only delay the onset of sleep, but also cause you to wake often. On the contrary, salubrious room environment promotes sound sleep.
Here are some tips:
- Maintain a dark, quiet and cool environment
- Use high quality curtains that block out outside light
- Use a white noise appliance to shut off your brain from paying attention to outside noises
- Use an eye mask if you’re unable to ensure complete darkness (because of your partner’s preferences, for instance)
- Keep the room well ventilated, and the temperature regulated between 60 and 75°F
- Get yourself a comfortable mattress, and change the bed linen often
- Keep the wall-clock’s face away from yourself, and replace it with a quieter clock if the tick-tock is too loud
6. Use power naps judiciously, if at all
The idea of short day-time naps works well for many individuals. However, if you’ve been waking up groggy in spite of sleeping adequately, chances are that your regular power naps are to blame.
In a research study, participants who took power naps felt sleepy throughout the day, after taking their daytime naps.
7. Understanding your meds and their impact on sleep
The meds you take could have a major impact on how well you sleep and how well you wake up. Here are a couple of important pointers to keep in mind:
Avoid sleeping pills. Your sleep issues don’t warrant the use of sleeping pills. These medicines are known to interfere with your deep sleep (REM) and create several long-term health problems. A 2012 study published in BMJ Open goes as far as suggesting that people taking sleeping pills are at 4 times likelier to die as compared to those who don’t take these pills!
Know when to take your medicines. Some medicines tend to make you feel drowsy. Well, drowsiness isn’t the equivalent of sleepy.
So, refrain from deciding based on your opinions. Instead, consult with your doctor, as to when you should take specific medicines, if you are also facing sleep issues. Even if you are taking beauty-related medicines, or weight loss medicines.
8. Good food habits for good sleep
Your dietary habits have a strong role to play in deciding how well you sleep and how fresh you are on waking. Here are some dependable food practices:
Never skip your breakfast. Without fuel, your body will be lethargic, and you’ll just carry it through your sleep and to the next day. Also, skipping breakfast invariably causes overeating during dinners, which gives your body a tough time trying to find rejuvenating sleep.
Eat judiciously after evenings. Research shows that people who eat reasonably fulfilling dinners after 8.30 pm have trouble digesting the food. Their body keeps on working to digest the food even while they’re asleep, which takes the sleep quality for a toss. Try as hard as possible to eat light and early dinners.
Eat melatonin-rich food. Melatonin is the hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness in humans. Your lifestyle and diet choices could help you build up melatonin, which in turn induces sleep. Tart cherry juice is a time tested, science backed, and proven effective drink to consume a couple of hours prior to sleeping.
The bottom line
Sleeping too much is not enough. Sleeping adequately and waking up with a feeling of enthusiasm and freshness is more important.
The quality of your life depends on how you feel throughout the day, and that’s where you need to realize your responsibility of taking your sleep seriously.
So if you find yourself sleeping too much but still feeling exhausted, it’s time to work on your daily habits and tune your internal body clock.
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