Sometimes I don’t sleep well, affecting my performance at work the next day. What should I do?
1. If you have chronic insomnia, you should seek treatment from a specialist sleep doctor as soon as possible.
Insomnia can be defined as chronic if you experience insomnia at least three times a week for at least three months. However, some people will have recurrent episodes of insomnia lasting several weeks over the years, which can be defined as chronic insomnia even if each episode lasts for less than three months.
2. A whole night’s sleep comprises 4 to 6 naps. When people lie down, they will first fall into a light sleep and then move from light to deep, gradually entering a deep sleep.
In deep sleep, people cease to have any consciousness, making it difficult to wake up. After that, they will enter REM sleep, when the brain is close to the waking state, and we can quickly wake up from sleep. This process is like going down a slide, going up and down, then up and down again, and we experience it from four to six times a night.
3. Finding your sleep period and rhythm is the first and most crucial step to increasing your sleep motivation.
You can set your alarm clock to go off every day from Monday to Sunday and ensure you wake up at the same time every day. Stick to it for three weeks, and you’ll find yourself awake at the same time in the morning and sleepy by a specific time at night—this is your body’s circadian rhythm!
4. When you wake up every morning, the first action is to open the curtains to let the sunlight in, and when possible, always go outside to get some sunshine.
This is because sunlight not only stimulates the secretion of serotonin but also enters our retina through the eyes, which then passes through the optic nerve to the hypothalamus, stimulating it to synthesize more melatonin. Both serotonin and melatonin are essential drivers of sleep, as one makes you more awake during the day, and the other makes you sleep better at night.
5. Try not to take an afternoon nap.
This is because naps compensate for sleep deprivation, not for not getting good sleep. So if you are particularly sleepy that day, you can sleep for about 20 to 30 minutes after lunch. It can help us relieve fatigue and drowsiness and even help improve mental and memory status. But don’t nap for more than 30 minutes, as this leads to deep sleep when people feel even more sleepy if they are woken up.
6. Foods that are relatively high in tryptophan, such as beans, millet, yogurt, and seafood, can help sleep.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that synthesizes melatonin in the body through a series of chemical reactions. Melatonin is the most critical force in regulating circadian rhythms. The relationship between food and sleep is vital, as the gastrointestinal tract can be called the second brain of the human being.
7. Turn off household appliances that emit blue light, such as air purifiers, computers, mobile phone screens, and chargers, and keep the room as dark as possible.
This is because, in the spectrum, blue light significantly affects melatonin secretion, the most critical force in regulating circadian rhythms.
8. If you need to work at night and stare at your computer or mobile phone screen, we recommend a software called f.lux.
It automatically adjusts the colors of your computer and mobile phone screens according to your location and time zone.
9. You can adjust your room temperature between 22 to 25 degrees Celsius before bedtime, which is the optimal temperature for sleep and will make you feel more comfortable.
A cooler room temperature is suitable for sleeping, as a lower environmental temperature causes our core body temperature to drop, which triggers the sleep drive.
10. Download some ‘White Noise’ apps from the App Store.
If you sleep in a noisy environment and are often woken up, try playing ‘white noise, such as the sound of water, wind, rain, or the sea’s tides. It will make you feel in a natural, safe, and relatively relaxed environment.
11. If possible, use some appropriate natural scents in your bedroom that can relax your brain.
The scent of lavender, for example, has a relaxing and calming effect on people. So you can buy some lavender scent boxes or hangings and put them in your room to make it smell like lavender.
12. You can do something ritualistic between work, entertainment, and sleeping at night to calm yourself down and breathe well.
For example, you can take a stroll and adjust your breathing as you walk to calm yourself down. Or you can prepare for bed by soaking your feet, taking a bath, or wearing a facial mask. Alternatively, reading or listening to a book is also a good way.
13. Find a quiet place to sit down, slowly close your eyes and find a random word, such as ‘real,’ ‘quiet,’ ‘happiness,’ or even world peace. It doesn’t matter what word you choose, as long as you like it. Then repeat the word in your head without stopping for about 10 minutes. If your mind wanders off during this process, it doesn’t matter; go back to the original word again. Keep going for 10 to 15 minutes.
This method is straightforward yet effective. Studies have shown that doing this simple exercise over a long period can treat high blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety disorders, and even chronic pain.
14. Give yourself a hint: It doesn’t matter how many hours I’ll sleep. I’ll go to sleep if I’m sleepy or stay up if I’m not.
Insomnia won’t kill me, so don’t worry about losing an hour or two of sleep. Once you let go of this worry, you can exercise during the day, work well, and fall asleep easily at night.
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