Time For Bed

A Guide On How To Get Your Sleeping Pattern Back On Track

If you ask any student about the state of their sleep pattern, you are unlikely to yield an overwhelmingly positive response. Whether it’s to meet an urgent deadline or to squeeze another round in at the bar, a good night’s sleep tends to be the first thing we sacrifice, despite the myriad ways it adversely affects our day to day lives. From missing a glaring error in an essay because you weren’t quite on the ball, to snapping at a pal for no particular reason, we are not quite ourselves when running on a sleep deficit.

When I graduated I thought the days of staying up till 4am for no reason then spending the following day wondering why I was tired might become a thing of the past. And, in a way, I was right. My sleep pattern is now considerably worse.

I have ended up working a night shift job, where I’m in from 7 at night till 7 in the morning. This has its obvious cons (constant tiredness, a complete social life shutdown every four days) and some surprising pros (a work pattern of four days on, four days off gives you quite a lot of free time, and means you can plan your life months in advance), but the main thing I’ve learned from it is how, and how not, to tackle getting out of a bad sleeping pattern.

The main mistake, and we’ve all tried this at least once, is stay up for more than 24 hours to try to “reset” your body clock. Lifehack: it doesn’t work. You crash by about 6pm and end up twice as fucked as you were before. If you do manage to make it through all day, you’ll end up sleeping for around 15 hours the next day and be back where you started.

No, what seems to work for me is a shortened sleep – maybe four or five hours – from when you finally drift off naturally. Once you shake off the initial wave of overwhelming tiredness, try to do something that will induce sleep later on – I find that a run or even a long walk will get you in a position where you might sleep before 5am the next morning. When I finish my last shift at 8am, I’ll try to get up at 1 or 2 on my first day off, go for a run and make plans for the evening so I don’t end up sitting around the flat conserving energy. With any luck, I end up tired before 1am and can get back to something approaching an ordinary sleep cycle.

Failing that, the surest way to make yourself crash out early is to start drinking. An all-day session at the pub on the back of four hours’ sleep will almost certainly lead to you collapsed on your bed by 11 – and what could possibly be a better or healthier idea than that?

[Ally Shaw –@radalias]

Image: New Scientist

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