Welcome to the world of the “living dead.” Wherever you go, stimulant jacked up “zombies” running on fumes have you surrounded and could cause catastrophic harm. These “zombies” pose a real threat to your safety, but the risk is not one of aggression but of accident proneness.
If you wish to survive the “zombie apocalypse” first look into the mirror. Do you have red eyes with puffy lids and dark circles, pale skin, shallow breath, a droopy mouth and a hanging head? You may have already been infected but fortunately it is not too late. You can still be saved.
Modern society has somehow forgotten just how vital deep, rejuvenating, restful sleep is. In fact when people are struggling with stress or most types of mental issues, sleep disturbance is very often one of the core problems. Fatigue (often caused by sleep deprivation) is the number one cause of road and workplace accidents.
Good sleep often requires a routine that prepares the mind and the body the right way for sleep. Just like you should prepare your work environment for optimal performance, it is critical that you also follow key principles to develop sound sleeping patterns. You need to prepare your mental and physical environment for sleep.
Although there are some people that can go to sleep almost at any time with very little effort, there are many others who really struggle.
On the mental side, sleep disturbance occurs most often because people are feeling stressed and unable to let go of their worries and concerns. On the physical side, poor sleep is mostly related to poor bed time practices. Environmental modifications are where we will begin.
The first rule is to make your room as dark and as quiet as possible and it tends to help if it is slightly cool. Having a window open at least a little also allows fresh air to circulate and tends to increase comfort. At least half an hour before bed, reduce light exposure.
Use low light emitting lamps or a dimmer switch if you have one. You are starting to tell your body that it is time to start winding down. What this means is also avoid using big bright lights, like the bathroom light, directly before bed. All your major night-time procedures like brushing your teeth should be done at least half an hour before bed, or if feasible, in low light.
The next major issue are your devices. The half hour rule applies here too. Don’t bring your phone, tablet, or laptop to bed as these are all highly stimulating devices. They can also cause distractions, interruptions and highly irritating buzzes and jingles. There should be no television for at least half an hour before bed and you should definitely avoid watching television in bed.
Bed Activities: Your bed should be for sleep and sex only. The only other possibly acceptable activity might be some easy reading by lamplight for a short period of time before retiring. Once you start watching television in bed, eating, working in bed and so on, you start to confuse the mind as to the purpose of the bed. It starts to move away from being a clear trigger for sleep.
The Body Clock: Abundant amounts of research have demonstrated that we have a body clock. We are supposed to go to bed when it is dark and awaken with the increasing of light. This reality can make it very difficult for shift workers and travellers. Although imperfect, the same rules apply.
If you need to sleep during the day, make your room as dark as you can and if possible, aim to simulate gentle light starting to gain in intensity over a half hour period as it is time to wake. One possible way to accomplish this is with specialized lamps that have that feature that simulate gradual increasing of light like a sunrise.
Amount: Few people ever seem to agree on how much sleep they should have. Based on general guidelines and my experience with assisting others, unless somehow superhuman, 6 hours is the bare minimum you should have. 7 hours seems to work well for many and 8 hours has always been the general belief and is fine too.
The issue with 8 hours is, of course, in today’s busy world, people struggle with setting aside that much time and it may not be necessary either. Unless a teenager, any more than 8 hours and you run the risk of oversleeping and suffering with additional fatigue during the day.
Teenagers, due to their rapid growth can have up to 9 hours and for most, they tend to have a cycle where they are most alert later in the evening and would benefit from getting up later in the day. This of course is not always possible. However, I have come across High Schools where students start around 11am and finish around 5pm and those students tend to be more productive, happier and enjoy school more.
Trying to trick the system: Some people believe in the idea of playing ‘catch-up’ sleep on the weekends. This is not advisable. The occasional sleep in after a hectic week may be okay, but the sleep cycle generally craves consistency through the whole week. One of the reasons a lot of people tend to hate Mondays is because they are feeling groggy after two days of an altered sleep cycle.
Establishing a New Routine: When creating a new routine, there is only one thing you can control and that is the wake up time. Therefore, it is important to set the same wake up time for each day and work backwards from there.
Example: Assuming you have set a time for 7a.m., and the goal is 8 hours, then you should be in bed at 11p.m and winding down by at least 10:30p.m.
The rules for training a new cycle: For those who have trouble getting to sleep, this is critical. Even though the goal is for 11p.m. bedtime, initially you will not go to bed until you are sleepy. If you are not sleepy until 2a.m. do not go to bed until that time.
With each successive night as you crave more sleep, you should start to feel sleepier earlier and you can work your way backwards to the 11p.m. bedtime goal. Once set, aim to maintain it during the whole week.
Waking Up: Knowing that the bed is for sleep and sex only, what should you do if you are struggling to get to sleep or waking up for extended periods during the night? Don’t stay in bed. If you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, leave the bed but avoid all major stimulation. Remain under low to no light and do a simple task only.
Easy reading, light cleaning, any task you find boring or mindfulness practice are good options. Only return to bed when you are sleepy. If you return and after 20 minutes you are struggling to sleep again, do the same thing again.
At first, this can be difficult, but because you will get up at the same time each day, your body is going to crave catching up on sleep with each additional night. Now go get some much needed sleep!
Got a tip I missed when it comes to fatigue and sleeplessness? Add it to the comment section below.