Do you sleep well? (part IV)

Go outside and have some exposure to the sun. This improves your sleeping quality, when your sleeping routine is broken.

Key takeaways:
– Sleeping routines can be broken for many reasons and this is normal;
– Getting back to sleeping routines require some efforts;
– It’s OK to have events that break routines;
– It may be an opportunity to form new routines when you are trying to fix broken routines.

I just spent two weeks in China for a research trip last month. Because of travel, my sleeping routines are broken. I arrived at the hotel at 1am. After checking in and put my things away in my room, it’s almost 2.30am. In Australian time, it’s actually 4.30am. I was bloody tired. After a quick shower, I went to bed but woke up at 6am! I didn’t want to but my bio-clock woke me up.

Sleeping routines are sometimes broken and this is normal. What matters is how to recover.

Scientific studies show that when routines are broken, it’s good and bad. Good because it’s an opportunity to shape up a new routine. Bad because you will feel tired; partly due to the efforts to make decisions (we just talked about this in our last blog) and partly due to the challenges to your physical situation. My travel broke my sleeping routines and put my body under stress to make more decisions and to perform even when I didn’t sleep well the night before.

So, how to recover from broken sleeping routines? A few tips:

First, wake up at the time you need to wake up. For my case, I needed to wake up at 8am, the latest. Be honest, this is hard and very tiring but you still need to do it.

Second, have as much sun exposure as possible on the day after and go outside. It’s a good idea to have a jog under the sun (not in the gym!) so you can tell you brain it’s 8am and your brain needs to re-set its bio-clock. If you can’t jog, then walking is also fine. Light exercises relax you and improves your sleep quality.

Third, go to bed at the right time. For my case, I needed to go to bed by 10pm, the latest. If you are going to adjust your bio-clock due to jet lag, then this is crucial. If you don’t have jet lag issues, then just try to go to bed the normal time you go to. A bit earlier is also fine.

Fourth, avoid alcohol, tea and coffee after 4pm on the day after. Otherwise, you will have shallow sleep because your body is tired but your brain is still being stimulated by alcohol and caffeine when you sleep.

These tips work for me, but may not entirely work for you, so I’d encourage you to experiment a bit. If you want to take this chance to shape up a new routine/habit, then start the new routine and be consistent for at least two weeks.

Dr. C. Richard Wu @

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