Stress is riding high these days, to say the least. With people spending too much time in isolation, and worrying about the future, it’s no wonder insomnia is commonplace.
According to an Express Scripts report (prescription benefit plan provider) medications for anxiety, depression, and insomnia skyrocketed by 21% between February and March alone. Reports of people waking up in the middle of the night, sleeping too much, or experiencing horrific nightmares have also increased.
As it turns out, when people lose control of a schedule, their circadian rhythm gets misaligned. Normally, this is a biological clock that tells you when to wake up and fall asleep, but if your days have become melded together, or you have breakfast at 3am, you’re bound to experience sleeping problems soon.
Here are five things you can do to get, or stay, on track:
Keep a schedule
If you’re fortunate enough to have a job, and maintain some resemblance of a schedule, consider yourself lucky. Perhaps your 9-5 forces you to wake up at a set time at least five days a week.
However, your weekends also count. If you’re going to bed at 4 in the morning all weekend, come Monday, you’re in a world of hurt.
The same goes on the other side of the spectrum. If you’re out of a job, it might seem logical to just sleep until whenever. The fact that this is an easy trap to fall into eludes most. After all, you likely won’t be out of a job forever. When the time comes, you want to have an easier time adjusting to a regimen again.
So either way, whatever your situation, try setting a time you can commit to. Perhaps 11, or midnight to give yourself some sense of staying up, without perpetuating too much damage.
Likewise, set your alarm to go off before you need to attend a meeting, tend to children, or handle any other responsibilities. For example, if you have to tend to your children by 8, wake up at 7:30 to give yourself time to brush your teeth, make coffee, use the restroom, and get a few mindful minutes before the day begins.
Invest in blackout curtains
Ranging in price from roughly $25 to $60, blackout curtains are a game changer. Designed to block out as much light as possible, these curtains make it easier to fall asleep without the glare of headlights shining through your window.
Not to mention, they’re known for blocking out noise, trapping heat during winter, and being around since WWII.
The science behind it is simple: Our cells recognize light and use it to wake up. The more light we block at night, the better, and deeper, we sleep.
So get yourself a pack of blackout curtains and never look back. Just do yourself a favor and set a few extra alarms just in case it gets harder to wake up each morning (more on this later).
Lay off the junk food
Food doesn’t have moral value. A cookie isn’t bad — having 30 is.
That being said, some foods do work with your body for nutritional value, while others are more for the soul than anything else. After all, no one is expecting to gain nutritional value from mac and cheese, right?
So if you want to improve your sleep, improving your diet is a logical step.
We’ve all had nights when going to sleep with a tummy ache kept us awake for much of the night. Maybe dinner didn’t sit well, or you had a bit too much food.
Foods high in sugar or caffeine have also been known to wreak havoc on sleeping schedules, since they cause changes to blood sugar and energy levels.
Instead, reach for foods that are better for your waistline. A slice of pizza here and there won’t affect you in the long term, as long as it’s paired with plenty of nutritious foods throughout the day.
Some easy swaps would be cucumbers and hummus instead of queso and chips, or a slice of raisin cinnamon toast instead of a cinnamon roll.
Consider a light therapy alarm clock
Touching on the blackout curtains, sometimes it’s difficult to wake up. Maybe the thought of spending another day inside is making you uneasy, or you’re simply struggling to handle mornings since you’re not getting enough sleep. Whatever the case, some light therapy might help.
These smart alarm clocks work with light and sound to both lull you to sleep at night, and gently awaken you in the morning.
The soft amber light and nature sounds provide the ideal combination for sleepiness. And in the morning, the clock slowly increases light over a period of 20-30 minutes before the alarm goes off. When it does, it uses bird or river sounds to coax you out of bed. No more startling awake.
No screens an hour before bed
This is an oldie, but a goodie. The light from smart devices such as phones or tablets tend to awaken the body — even if you’re using night-shift settings. The blue light they emit suppress melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle.
So as tempting it is to watch another episode, one more YouTube video, or scroll your social media feed for just five more minutes, go ahead and set a reminder an hour before bed. Apple’s Screen Time can help with this; just ask Siri if you need help.
— By Jennifer Mendez
Jennifer Mendez is a content creator and Lynnwood resident who specializes in copy, graphic design and photography for her clients. Whenever she’s not creating something, she’s exploring new places to eat in the area.