Ramadan has come and gone, and so, unfortunately, have our normal sleep patterns. The human body works according to an internal timekeeping system known as a circadian clock, which regulates the body’s natural “circadian rhythm,” our daily cycles of sleep and other bodily processes.
It can take time to get back on track when a change of habits occurs, but a few tips can get us back to our vital 8 hours a night. If you are feeling a bit below par and having trouble catching enough rest, a quick rebalance could have you back on track in the blink of an eye. The Sleep Foundation offers this advice:
Wake up every day at the same time
Keeping a regular sleep schedule will help reset your circadian rhythm. By going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day, your body will learn to adjust to the new rhythm. Even if you are unable to fall asleep at your desired time, make sure to set an alarm and wake up at the set time anyway. This will keep you on track.
Bright light therapy
Exposure to bright artificial lights can reorient circadian rhythms quite effectively. Timed exposure works particularly well for shift workers, or those whose job schedules include late night and/or early morning hours. Different light therapy devices are available, including light-boxes, desk lamps, and sunrise simulators.
In addition to the natural hormone produced in the pineal gland, melatonin is also available in supplement form. Melatonin supplements were not developed to treat insomnia, rather to help reschedule circadian rhythms when timed correctly.
Always consult with your doctor before taking any supplements.
Different meal times
Circadian rhythms regulate when we feel hungry and how we digest food. Some studies have found that advancing or delaying meals can alter how your circadian rhythm regulates these processes, causing you to feel alert and tired at different times than those you’ve become accustomed to.
Exercise and sleep share a somewhat symbiotic relationship. Proper exercise can improve sleep quality and duration, while a healthy sleep-wake cycle ensures more strength and endurance when you work out. However, exercise is also stimulating if you work out too close to bedtime.
If you find you don’t get enough sleep at night and want to reorient your circadian rhythm, try incorporating regular exercise into your routine. But as with all things related to the circadian rhythm, timing is important so do not exercise within 1-2 hours of your bedtime.
As a short-term energy booster, caffeine can be very effective. For best results, consume a moderate amount of caffeine for the first few hours when you’re awake, but stop consuming it at least 5-7 hours before bed.
If you continue having problems with your sleep schedule, consult with your doctor about the safest and healthiest measures that are right for your particular circadian goals.