If you’re traveling or working weird, varied hours, your sleep can be disturbed, leading to fatigue, lack of concentration and other problems during your money-earning hours, or worse, during your vacation hours when you want the optimal enjoyment.
There are some tricks that can help you adapt to changing sleep hours and/or time zones.
If you’re traveling east, say to New York from California, for three days prior go to bed an hour earlier and get up an hour earlier to adjust your inner clock to your new time zone. If you’re going west in a reverse situation, then go to bed later and get up later. Of course, if you have to be at work or elsewhere at a certain time, this could be difficult. Still, it’s good to plan ahead and try adjusting your body’s sleep clock.
Use bright lights when you wake up. The body is still circadian: dark means sleep and light means awake. So when you get up, turn on all the lights and bathe yourself in brightness. Your body will adjust accordingly. Similarly, or reversely, when you go to bed, make sure it’s really, really dark — no TV, night lights or even radiance from a clock. Pitch dark will trigger your inner sleep desire.
This may sound crazy, but if you lie awake and can’t sleep when you go to bed at a normal hour (say 9, 10 or 11 p.m.), and then can only sleep for four hours or so while tossing and turning, go to bed at 2 a.m. and get up at 6 a.m. or whatever time-frames work for your life’s schedule. Eventually, your body will get the message and you’ll be able to sleep and awake at a “normal” hour again.
Try melatonin. Nature’s sleep hormone is available as a supplement, but limit it to 3 to 5 mg. pills. More can have an adverse effect. “More is not necessarily better,” says Phil Gehrman, PhD, CBSM, of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. “It can stay in your brain too long and cancel out any benefits you might get.”
If you have just temporary sleep challenges, consider yourself one of the lucky ones. Some 40 to 50 percent of Americans have sleep problems nightly, and for them, these cues and clues may work to some temporary benefit, but if your sleep is interrupted and shortchanged nightly, you really need to seek out a professional’s help. Don’t hesitate but seek help right away.