This includes getting to bed right away when you start to feel tired. Let your sleep cycle work for you, not against you. Trust the system: your body gets tired automatically, and it only doesn’t work when you interfere. As detailed earlier, whenever you force yourself to stay awake, you are forcing your system to adapt by finding the energy somewhere, and often this requires dumping some cortisol in your system. Then you’re not sleepy and you’ll stay awake much longer. Listen to your body! Catch the sleep wave the first time.
Don’t ignore the urge to sleep
We ignore our bodies’ cries for sleep, just as we ignore our children’s cries for sleep. When infants get tired, they tell us. They rub their eyes or yawn. We think they are cute and wait for the clock to tell us when it’s time to put them to bed. By then they have had to dump cortisol in their little bodies to keep themselves awake for us. And then we are upset because they are running around like maniacs. Cute, isn’t it?
We made it happen. We did it to them. We do it to ourselves too. So learn to listen well, and when you hear yourself getting sleepy, respond instantly.
You might prepare for bed before it’s time to fall asleep so that your preparations don’t wake you up. Brush your teeth before you are tired. Incidentally, peppermint oil (as opposed to peppermint leaf) can be stimulating, and is an ingredient in many toothpastes because we all seem to like that minty stimulation in our mouths. Whatever it is that you feel you need to do before bed, do it early so you aren’t forced to choose between sleep and doing what you need to do before bed.
Make your daytime active
Be sure that your daytime is active. Lack of physical activity during the day leads to significantly poorer quality sleep at night. Napping during the day can erode your drive for sleep as well.
Stick to your routine
Successfully creating a solid sleep routine means that you stick to your routine all the time. You can’t plan on disrupting the routine every weekend and expect it to work fine during the week. You may not like keeping such a set schedule, and that’s fine. You don’t have to like it or not like it. Rhythms and routines are just the way your body works! If you are unwilling to keep a set sleep schedule, you have to also be willing to pay the price, because the price will come whether or not you are ready for it. It may be poorer health, less creativity, disrupted relationships or emotional exhaustion. Keeping a solid sleep routine as a priority for several months will show you what you’ve been missing—and you will more easily find the time (and brainpower) to do what you want to do in the daytime!
Create an environment that can help bring on sleepiness
If dim light melatonin onset is part of sleepiness, make sure the environment supports that happening: for example, turn of all the overhead lights at 8 pm. Turn off the TV and the computer. Read a book with lamplight instead.
Do the same things in the same order every night.
Teach your body through behaviors that this is the time to start moving toward sleep. Don’t give up after three days. Do the same thing over and over for weeks. Your body needs to hear a lot of repetition before it starts to get it.
For heaven’s sake, get to bed early!
Don’t believe you can’t start thinking about bed until at least 10:30 pm. The same thing that’s true for children is true for adults—if you are having trouble with sleep, try getting there earlier. Sometimes you just need more sleep in order to have better quality sleep.
Another reason to get to bed early is that your body is connected to the sun, and your circadian rhythm (including that of your internal organs) is also connected to the sun—and NOT to your late-night TV schedule. What this means is that some internal organ functioning will either happen or not happen depending on whether or not you are asleep. For example, your adrenal system does most of its rejuvenation for two hours starting about 11 pm.
If you suffer from chronic exhaustion, you know your adrenal glands are suffering
If you are staying up until 11:30 or midnight, you are significantly interfering with any adrenal rest. If your gallbladder’s circadian rhythm is to release toxins into the excretory system before midnight, and you are still awake, then the toxins go into your liver instead. This can create a bigger load for the liver to process when it needs to be processing other things. If it happens every night, you can imagine the problematic impact that poor, worn-out liver might have on your health.