How ‘sleep syncing’ could be the answer to more (and better) rest each night

Tune your body to your natural circadian rhythms – and gain a healthier sleep pattern in return.

Do you tend to feel more tired in winter? You’re not alone. New research suggests that while humans do not hibernate, we may need more sleep during the colder months. So how do we ensure that we get it? Besides the usual, but important, areas of nutrition, hydration and exercise, the practice of “sleep syncing” may also have a key role to play.

Sleep syncing refers to aligning your sleep schedule with your natural circadian rhythms or with the sleep patterns of others, says Martin Seeley,a sleep expert and CEO of Mattress Next Day.

As you may know, your circadian rhythm (otherwise known as your sleep-wake cycle) is your internal body clock which follows a 24 hour cycle.It works to control hormone release such as melatonin and helps keep your body in a good routine. Therefore sleep syncing requires you to think about, and adapt, your daily routine to line-up with what your body naturally wants to do.

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 As Seeley explains, to sleep sync is to create a routine that ensures your body is sleeping and waking when it should be, giving your internal clock a gentle nudge. When done right, sleep syncing can help improve sleep quality, increase energy levels and help to maintain a healthy body. This is because when you sleep in sync with your natural circadian rhythm, you are more likely to experience deep, restorative sleep, which in turn can help you wake up feeling refreshed and alert, rather than groggy and lethargic.

However, patience is key when it comes to sleep syncing, as it may take some trial and error to find the sleep schedule that works best for you.

“Sleep syncing can be an effective way to improve your sleep quality and overall wellbeing, however it is important to note that everyone’s circadian rhythms and sleep needs are different, so what works for one person may not work for another,” Seeley notes.

How to sleep sync for better rest

Establish a consistent sleep schedule

As Seeley suggests: “Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends or days off, as this can help regulate your body’s internal clock and make it easier to fall asleep and wake up naturally.”

Get natural sunlight in the morning

“Waking up to natural light notifies our circadian rhythm that it’s time to get up,” he explains.“During the darker mornings, getting up can become increasingly more difficult: with the lack of light making it hard to wake up our internal body clock, you may find that your brain wants you to wake up,but your body doesn’t.”

However, you’re more likely to experience cognitive benefits such as improved concentration and memory when you wake up from light, rather than sound such as an alarm.

Avoid caffeine in the afternoon

Find yourself drinking excessive coffees during the day and then struggling to sleep at night? You may need to reduce your caffeine intake.

“Drinking too much caffeine too late in the day can leave you feeling wired well into the evening, and whilst this may be useful if you are heading to the gym or have evening plans, you may find it harder to drift off to sleep when it’s bedtime. Try to reduce the amount of coffee you have each day, and ensure your last one is early afternoon so the caffeine has time to leave your system before you head to bed,” Seeley notes.

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Avoid napping

Yes, we know it hurts to hear, but napping throughout the day is one of the worst things you can do for your sleep cycle, and can throw your routine completely off. Linked to “junk sleep” which describes bad quality sleep, patchy sleep, napping can actually do more worse than good. By avoiding napping you are also avoiding ‘lightmares’ aka daytime nightmares and have been linked to poor health, Seeley says.

Instead, to avoid junk sleep, the best thing you can do is get into a regular sleep routine and try your best to stick to it. So making sure you go to bed at the same time each night, and that it is at a decent hour so not too late, making sure you are getting the right amount of sleep, eight hours is advised. Avoid working late, drinking excessive alcohol or smoking. You need to be strict with yourself at night, so if you are tired and feel yourself falling asleep on the sofa, get yourself up, washed and into bed so you won’t be disturbed in the night.

Eat for your circadian rhythm

According to Seeley, circadian eating is a thing, and means that you are eating during certain hours of the day so as to not upset your digestive system or cause sleep problems. Try to avoid eating heavy meals in the evening or late at night.

“Ideally you should be starting your day with a good breakfast to fuel you throughout the day, a substantial lunch and a lighter dinner. This will allow your body to be comfortable when it’s time to sleep,” he adds. 

Images: Getty

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