Most, if not all people, have a routine for their day. Different portions of our days are devoted to specific tasks; running errands, going to school or work, eating, attending to other tasks, and sleeping at night. Of course, not everyone lives their life by this model, as some people have night shifts or classes at night and instead sleep at other points throughout their day. Sleep is very important and affects many aspects of our health, including our physical and mental health. Sleep disorders, however, have the opportunity to disrupt our sleep, leaving us feeling tired or not functioning to our best abilities when awake.
The amount of sleep that we need depends on our age. The younger you are, the more sleep you require for your wellbeing. Although teenagers and young adults do not need 10-13 hours of sleep as pre-schoolers do, they still need a good quality sleep. According to the American Psychiatric Association, teenagers need between 8-10 hours of sleep each night, while young adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Sometimes, sleeping for that long might seem impossible, especially as students, when we may find ourselves doing an assignment or reading at night.
By going to sleep very late, you are more likely to wake up at a later time of day, which shifts your circadian rhythm. According to the Sleep Foundation, circadian rhythm is an internal cycle in our body that includes our sleep-wake cycle. As you go to sleep later and wake up later, your sleep-wake cycle misaligns with your environment; so when it's the middle of the day, you might find yourself still asleep.
When the pandemic began, I saw my sleep-wake cycle get disrupted. I found myself going to sleep later, past midnight on most nights, resulting in me waking up at 11 a.m. or even later sometimes. This change in my sleep-cycle did not satisfy me, I knew that I had to make changes to improve my sleeping habits, and our sleep affects many aspects of our lives. Something that I had begun to indulge in during the pandemic was making and drinking coffee, and I realized that I had to pay attention to when I drank those beverages. If I had drunk them after 3 p.m. it was difficult for me to fall asleep before midnight. In addition to making sure I drank coffee before a certain time I also tried to cut down on how often I consumed coffee in general because I did not want to create a habit where I relied on this drink to feel awake and alert.
To go to sleep early I had to wake up earlier, in other words, I had to make myself get used to waking up at a certain time and then going to sleep at an acceptable time so that I can have a full night's rest of between 7-9 hours of sleep. Soon enough, I found myself going to bed earlier and waking up at a reasonable time, but the most significant change that I noticed was that I did not feel as tired as I did before.
Here are some tips to improve your sleep-wake cycle:
Sleep affects our mental and physical health. Our cognitive functioning and mood are typically better when we are completely rested. If we pay attention to our environment, we will be better equipped to make sure we get the rest that we need, and that includes knowing when to avoid certain stimulants. Sleep may not get the recognition that it deserves, but it is one of the most significant aspects of our overall health, and we should pay attention and make changes early on to our sleep-wake cycle to benefit ourselves.
Here are additional links for more information on sleep disorders: