Our Body Clocks are not something we often think about. When we do, it is often a complaint that after a week of getting up for class, we can’t enjoy a lie in on Saturday morning because our body clock wakes us up like it’s a school morning. However, this year in particular, when so much has changed, perhaps including our night and morning routines, we should be thinking about it more, and our body clocks should not be something we complain about, but live alongside.
You might think how you sleep comes from when you set your alarm clock and how many episodes of the show you're binging you decide to watch on Netflix, but our natural body clocks come from all the way back to our evolutionary predecessors living a more natural routine of night and day. Researchers have even gone as far as to call the modern refusal to follow our body clocks as arrogant. So next time you think, ‘I just can’t function in the morning, so I won’t try,’ or ‘I’m a night owl, so studying at 2am is no big deal’, remember that although your daily routine might be leading you this way, you’re disagreeing with the history of how the human body is built to function.
There are a few indicators to look out for. Between 9am and midday is, biologically speaking, the time when you should be most alert, so if you need coffee or energy drinks to get you up in the morning, then you’re not getting enough sleep. You can fake it in some ways - caffeine might help you feel more alert – but the lack of sleep can cause irritability and impulsiveness which the caffeine won’t be able to hide. Even if that second cup of coffee means you feel alert while driving, if you find yourself taking risks on the road or getting overly irritated by the morning traffic, then you’re experiencing a lack of sleep.
Lots of us end the day by scrolling through the social media apps on our phone in bed, but the light emitted from the screens can help destroy the sleep hormones our body is creating.
Some of the facts that we can follow to try and get a proper night’s sleep will come as a surprise. For instance, research suggests that our last tea or coffee should be before 2 o’clock in the afternoon! Most of us love tea or coffee across the day, and boiling the kettle late into the evening might be a tricky habit to get out of, but others should be easier. Lowering the lights as the evening goes on, and refraining from attention grabbing habits like gaming late into the night, is a good start, while putting away our smart phones can also help. Lots of us end the day by scrolling through the social media apps on our phone in bed, but the light emitted from the screens can help destroy the sleep hormones our body is creating. Anyway, the distraction this provides isn’t conducive to drifting off. Think about it: as you try and empty your mind to drift off peacefully to sleep, what’s the use of scanning through twitter to find out everything that is happening in the world?
Avoid consuming alcohol before bed if you want a good night’s sleep. Alcohol can often make us feel sleepy, but it will also affect our quality of sleep. Though it won’t keep us awake, it affects our usual transitioning between light sleep and deep sleep, meaning you might still wake up exhausted. Our body temperatures go down when we sleep, but if your bedroom or even just your duvet is too warm, then this won’t be allowed to happen. Avoid a cluttered mind. Lying in bed, it can be easy for our minds to wander, and although we may doze off from time to time, often unknown to ourselves, we can feel like we are lying there for hours. Experts say it is better to get up and do a puzzle or something similar to distract the mind rather than lie there endlessly.
This might sound like a lot, with plenty of sacrifice, but the key is to just live rhythmically (even if this has made that difficult). Don’t try and keep yourself awake in the evenings and don’t do the things that will affect your natural ability to fall asleep. Anything you can do to help yourself go to bed tired and wake up fresh in the morning will ensure you stay alert throughout the day.