Trouble sleeping? Try resetting your sleep-wake cycle

Many people have trouble getting to sleep at night, but implementing a few simple techniques could be all it takes to improve the quality of your sleep and help you get to sleep faster drug-free.

trouble sleeping

Have you noticed how everyone is just so busy lately? No one seems to have time to fit in all the ‘priorities’ in their lives, like family, friends, work, study, exercise, and eating a good diet (and cooking food from scratch). And when people aren’t trying to tick things off the never-ending to-do list, they’re filling every waking second checking their Facebook/twitter/Instagram feeds or watching another cat video.

The importance of sleep

The result of all this busyness is that people are just not prioritising sleep. The fact is that the vast majority of humans need between 7-9 hours of sleep a night. And while there are a small percentage of people who need more or less sleep than this, these people are really the outliers. If you don’t get enough sleep, then you won’t be functioning at your best, even if you temporarily prop yourself up with caffeine. Research shows that not getting enough sleep night-after-night is associated with a whole host of health problems, including obesity, diabetes and depression.

Now, being realistic, many people do set out (or would love) to get 7-9 hours’ sleep, but it just doesn’t happen, often because they go to bed too late or they find it really difficult to get to sleep and lie awake for hours looking at the ceiling. If you find it difficult to fall asleep you may find yourself resorting to drugs like cannabis to get some much-needed rest. And while you might find cannabis helps you actually get to sleep, it can result in sleep of lower-quality which still leaves you getting up in the morning feeling exhausted.

You may also build up a tolerance, meaning you’ll need more-and-more to find that valuable shut-eye, and risk becoming dependent on the drug every time you go to bed.

What can I do to sleep better?

A better solution than using weed or other drugs is to create a good sleep-wake cycle for yourself. Many people’s natural circadian rhythms (or sleep-wake cycles) are not exactly 24 hours as most of us expect – they’re likely closer to 25 hours, which means your sleep-wake cycle basically has to be ‘reset’ every day. This means resetting your internal clock in the morning is very important. The key to doing this is getting outside and letting sunlight hit your face as soon as possible once you wake up – preferably for 15-20 minutes. Sunlight is important as it signals to your body to stop releasing melatonin (the sleep hormone). And if you can be physically active while you’re getting your morning sunlight, even better, as this will drive your cortisol and body temperature up, which will make you feel even more awake.

The second key to having a good sleep-wake cycle is getting yourself ready for sleep about 16 hours after you wake up. This means not looking at bright lights, such as computer screens, for an hour or so before going to bed, and even dimming the lights in the room you’re in, so your body will start producing melatonin. A good “going-to-bed” routine can also help give the body queues that it’s time to sleep – like brushing your teeth, having a hot shower, or reading a book.

The outcome of establishing a good sleep-wake cycle should be that you’ll find it easier to get to sleep (drug free), sleep much more deeply and end up waking up in the morning more alert and refreshed.

For more information on how cannabis can affect your sleep, check out our bulletin on cannabis and sleep.

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