Most of us can recall at least one or two occasions (if not many) in which we stayed up late when we knew we could sleep in the next morning. Oftentimes, these occasions would entail late night snacking and screen time.
For many this used to be a ‘special treat’ reserved to weekends and holidays. However, recent times have changed that, as many employees find themselves staying at home with little to no work for several days, weeks or even months. In the absence of regular work hours around which daily routines are set, the “weekend routine” can inadvertently take hold, Monday through Sunday,.
Whether you are about to head back to the office/ factory or work remotely from home, going back to having fixed or inflexible work hours can be challenging. The good news is that there are a few simple tips that can help you get back on the right track!
Send your brain the right signals
You will want to begin by tackling the two most important things that signal your brain that it’s time to be either awake or asleep. The first one being food. It’s not just an army that marches on its stomach, it’s also each and every one of us. Having breakfast in the first hour of waking up tells your brain that you are now ready to start your day. This important (and possibly maple-covered :-)) information leads to a change in the hormonal balance of your bloodstream, so the hormone that is responsible for making you sleepy decreases while another, associated with wakefulness, is elevated. In line with that, having a light meal no later than 3 hours before bedtime can help signal your brain that you are nearing your bedtime and has been shown to be associated with higher quality sleep. An increase in melatonin (the “sleep hormone”) will then gradually induce a feeling of sleepiness which will help you fall and remain asleep throughout the night.
The second element that bears a huge impact on your sleep/wake cycle is light. Both sunlight and artificial blue-light can change our level of wakefulness and energy. Once the light hits our eyes, this information travels to our brain which “decides” whether it is daytime or nighttime and therefore, whether it’s time to be alert or sleepy, respectively. So, much like with food, it is recommended to get a good dose of natural morning light within the first hour of waking up, preferably at least 30 minutes (and no sunglasses or much of the “light signal” won’t reach your eyes/brain!). During the evening, however, it is best to avoid or at least minimize your light exposure. Light exposure from most digital devices can “trick” the brain into believing it is daytime. Therefore, make sure to use the ‘night mode’ button on your smartphones and laptops, to limit harmful blue-light exposure during the 2 hours leading to your bedtime.
Slow and steady wins the race
Our final tip is - be consistent! Choose your bedtime and wake-up time and stick to it.
Seems easy enough right? Well, the catch is that “sticking to it” also includes the weekends. Now we know this is a tricky task… but especially in the first few weeks of going back to work, this can really help reset your body’s inner clock to what it once was.
Anything else I should take into account?
Make sure that your new routine allows for 7-9 hours of sleep per night (the exact amount varies from person to person).
According to the National Sleep Foundation, this is the amount of sleep most adults require to stay healthy and function at their best. Going back to a work routine can be a great opportunity to create better, healthier sleep habits that will help you feel more energetic, productive, and with increased sense of overall wellbeing.