How to Reset Your Sleep Cycle When You Live With Insomnia
Starting From Behind
“You don’t have the same sleep reserves built up,” says Tracy Chisholm, PsyD, a behavioral sleep medicine psychologist at the Portland VA Medical Center. “You’re likely to have an even harder time recovering from additional sleep disruptions because you were already struggling to operate on less than a full tank.”
You’re also more likely to dwell on the sleep you’re losing, which can trigger a negative feedback loop. “In other words, you worry about it more,” says Chisholm. “And guess what definitely does not help improve your sleep? Worry. This can become a vicious cycle.”
Preparing for Disruptions
There are practical steps you can take to help prevent or cope with sleep loss in situations that are out of your control. You can also try adjusting your mindset.
“Many times, people go into scenarios like travel assuming they’ll have difficulties with their sleep, but sometimes a change in environment can actually help you sleep better,” says Ina Djonlagic, MD, a neurologist and sleep medicine specialist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Here’s how to get back on track when certain situations mess with your sleep schedule.
Travel and Time Changes
Different time zones, strange beds in strange rooms, environments that aren’t comfortable — there are a host of ways travel can keep you from getting your ZZZs. Try these tips before your trip:
Head off jet lag. Slowly adjust your sleep schedule at home before you leave.
“About a week or two before you depart, start shifting your bedtime and wake time in small increments, to more closely match your destination time zone,” says Chisholm.
Living With a Newborn Baby
Babies spare no one from sleep disruption. You’re at the mercy of your newborn’s sleep-wake cycle, which won’t be the same as yours. “Babies have much shorter sleep cycles than adults — 50 to 60 minutes, as opposed to our 90- to 110-minute cycles,” says Chisholm. Babies also need to eat every 2 to 3 hours.
The key is to get good sleep when you can and know things will gradually get better. You can try to:
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