The sleep cycle is critical to our health and quality of life, sleep affords the body the time to support a healthy brain function and physical health. Experts say maintaining a consistent sleep schedule helps the body to expect sleep and this has a relaxing effect. A consistent schedule of sleep (go to bed and wake up at the same time each day) plus or minus 25minutes helps to regulate your body’s clock and improves the quality of sleep.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR BODY CLOCK
Many factors interplay to influence your body’s internal clock, this clock undergoes a 24hrs circadian rhythm controlled by two major processes; Firstly, is the pressure to sleep which builds up every additional hour that you are awake and peaks in the evening when the majority of people are asleep. The second process is your internal body clock, this synchronizes with environmental factors like light and darkness to send a signal to your brain to determine when you feel sleepy or awake.
While poor quality sleep has some deleterious health effects, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule will give the benefits of easier learning, sound decision making, better emotional intelligence and well-being, reduce risk of diseases, improve immune function and helps to boost good mood.
FIXING YOUR SLEEP SCHEDULE
While specific times may not matter, it is important to be consistent and have sufficient hours of sleep. Consistency is the key, keep to the same time and hours each day. For most of us, our work determines our wake time, and in this case, you need to determine how many hours of sleep you need to be at your best, and then calculate backward from your wake time to arrive at your ideal bedtime.
Your bedtime may vary sometimes, but it is advised not to allow it to vary more than one hour, once a week, this way you will maximize all the benefits of a consistent sleep schedule. Required sleep duration varies from person to person and changes as we grow older. The National sleep foundation 2015 gave the following recommendations:
- Newborns (0‐3 months) ‐ 14 ‐17 hours
- Infants (4‐11 months) ‐ 12 ‐ 15 hours
- Toddlers (1‐2 years) ‐ 11 ‐14 hours
- Preschoolers (3‐5 years) ‐ 10 ‐13 hours
- School‐aged (6‐13 years) ‐ 9‐11 hours
- Teenagers (14‐17 years) ‐ 8‐10 hours
- Young adults (18‐25 years) ‐ 7‐9 hours
- Adults (26‐64 years) ‐ 7‐9 hours
- Older adults (65 + years) ‐ 7‐8 hours
If you are consistently waking up tired and fatigued, it implies that you are not having a good quality sleep. Here are some proven tips to help you sleep better at night:
- Increase bright light exposure during the day,
- Reduce blue light exposure in the evening,
- Reduce irregular or long daytime naps limit to 20-30minutes,
- Try to sleep and wake at consistent times,
- Minimize taking mid-night snacks or eating late at night,
- Adequate exercise during the day,
- Don’t lean on caffeine.
Perhaps you do not have quality sleep and you wish to adopt a new sleep schedule, this won’t just happen overnight. Your body may require between 7 and 14 days to adjust to the new schedule, give yourself time to adjust, and then enjoy the benefits of a consistent sleep schedule.