Theo, a 15-year-old high school student, was nodding off at class.
His busy schedule takes up a lot of his time, and unfortunately, it has been cutting into his sleeping hours.
Between tests, reports and projects, Theo also trains after school hours for the karate varsity team.
With so much to do, it become a challenge for him to balance his time.
As a result, Theo’s academic performance started to suffer.
With him napping frequently and his grades dipping steadily, his teachers became concerned.
Ms. Guillen, the school principal, finally talked to Theo’s parents about what was going on.
She said, “Theo is a brilliant boy, but I’m a bit worried that he’s struggling to cope with his studies and he’s so sleepy all the time.”
Theo’s parents shared that their son has been having trouble sleeping at night.
According to them, Theo has been feeling more and more pressured by deadlines and tests, not to mention having to train for the upcoming interschool tournament.
A Disheartening Trend
Theo’s case is hardly an isolated one.
With classes starting early in the morning, most students his age end up sleep deprived.
A study entitled Sleep Schedules And Daytime Functioning in adolescents from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts found that a group of about 3,000 teenagers had the same problem as Theo.
They discovered that students starting class early in the morning before 7:30 am would doze off when the researchers pulled them out of class at 8:30 am.
It is safe to say that this is not a healthy trend, and it has been going on for decades now.
Sleep expert Doctor Matthew Walker discusses this in his book Why We Sleep.
According to him, high school students who start class before 8:15 am might as well wake up in the middle of the night.
Furthermore, he points out that schools in the U.S. used to start class by 9:00 am 100 years ago.
So, Theo’s problem was to basically find a way around these unfortunate circumstances and get more sleep at night.
It was the only way to pull up his grades and keep him from getting sleepy in class.
Ms. Guillen recommended that Theo’s parents see a friend of hers who worked at the Sleep Centre of their local hospital.
With the help of his parents and their sleep specialist, Theo was able to work out a better schedule that will allow him to get enough rest.
On top of that, he also started practicing certain habits to help him get to sleep faster.
While Theo benefited from these tips, pretty much anyone in high school or older can use them too.
Try them out starting tonight and see if it does not improve the quality of your sleep as well:
1. Make A Sleep Schedule And Stick To It
Laying down the proper groundwork is half the battle when it comes to sleeping soundly.
Most people who have trouble drifting off to sleep at night usually do not follow a general bedtime schedule.
Like with the other members of the animal kingdom, we are designed to function based on a routine.
But the problem is that we are the only species that deprive ourselves of sleep on purpose.
This is why you should not brush off the importance of setting up a sleep schedule that gives you enough time to rest at night.
The more you make a habit of ending your day right, the better you will wire your body and mind to sleep right away.
When babies and small children have a consistent sleeping schedule, they fall asleep effortlessly.
It is easy for them because they are trained to expect their bedtime at a certain point in the day.
The thing is adults are no different.
Now that you are all grown up, it is up to you to create this structure for yourself.
Decide on a time to wake up every day, then set aside enough hours to sleep before then.
If you want to be up by 7:00 am, be in bed by 10:30 pm the night before so you are out by 11 pm.
When you plan your day around a deadline, your body will learn to fall into this rhythm.
Granted that it takes a bit of time to do this, you will fall asleep quickly once you have settled into your schedule.
The good news is that once you have gotten this out of the way, the next tips take way less time to implement.
2. Get Into A Healthy Bedtime Routine
Before the gruelling lifestyle of the industrial age came into the picture, our ancestors were used to following their natural circadian rhythm.
Now that everything changed, you need to create a set of rituals that tie into your regular bedtime schedule.
Like babies and small children, you can also set up similar cues to signal that it is time to sleep.
For instance, reading is a good habit to practice, much like how kids settle in with a bedtime story.
An academic study conducted in the UK shows that reading at night is an effective stress-reducing activity which makes it easier for you to take your mind off things.
Other people like to play some music to relax instead although it is slightly less effective than picking up a book.
Nonetheless, it can still help you decompress after a long day and get you to sleep.
3. Do A Bedroom Audit
Is your bedroom a place conducive for rest?
Or is it a source of worry and distraction?
If you answered yes to the latter, remove everything in your bedroom that can detract from a peaceful sleep.
A lot of people do not realize how important this is, so paying attention to the details will get you to sleep faster.
First off, make sure your bedroom is in the 60-70 F range as this is the ideal temperature to help you relax.
Of course, your bed also plays a huge role in helping you sleep peacefully.
Check your mattress, blankets and pillows so that they provide the comfort you need.
Also, the best bedroom is a dark one.
Light disrupts the production of melatonin, a sleep hormone that makes you drowsy.
Keep the windows covered and lights switched off when it is time to sleep.
While you are at it, remove anything noisy from your bedroom that might disturb you in the middle of the night.
This includes your TV, computer or mobile devices which brings us to the next tip…
4. Make Your Bed An Electronics-Free Zone
You probably heard this one before.
But it is for a good reason.
Like I said earlier, your body stops producing melatonin when exposed to bright light.
This is doubly so with the blue light that screens typically emit.
One of the best things you can do is switch off all screens 2-3 hours before you hit the sack.
Your body and mind need time to unplug from the day’s distractions.
You cannot just switch off the minute before your head touches the pillow.
Otherwise, you are just cheating yourself out of precious time that could have been spent sleeping.
5. Cut Down On Stimulants And Other Substances
Certain drinks are a no-no when it comes to sleeping well at night.
This includes coffee for obvious reasons as well as liquor.
While caffeine keeps you awake, you might think alcohol has the opposite effect and help you relax.
Sure, knocking back a few drinks will make you drowsy but the quality of your sleep will not be as great.
We cycle back and forth between REM and non-REM sleep and alcohol disrupts this process.
As such, you need to give your system enough time to process any coffee or alcohol present to enjoy quality sleep at night.
By the way, the same goes for sugary snacks or heavy meals.
It will take you longer to sleep if your body is busy digesting.
6. A Warm Bath Works Wonders
One benefit of going to bed squeaky clean is that it acts as a natural sedative.
Your body temperature goes up during a hot shower.
Ideally it should not be higher than 104 F and longer than 20 minutes. which then goes down when you go back into your bedroom.
This drop triggers a change in your system which tells you that it is time to sleep.
Do this about an hour before sleeping.
This way, you have enough time for your body to shift gears.
As your breathing and heart rate goes down, it will be easier to fall asleep.
7. Get Out Of Bed
There are times when you just can’t go to sleep for one reason or another.
In such cases, staying in bed and forcing yourself to fall asleep is counterproductive.
The best thing to do is get up and do something else, but NOT in the bedroom.
Listen to music, read a book or answer a crossword puzzle, then come back to bed when you feel sleepy.
The important thing is to associate your bed with relaxation, and not a place to engage in any stressful activities.
8. Load Up On Melatonin
While coffee, booze and sugary treats are a no-no, there are snacks that can actually help you sleep.
Try some of these melatonin-rich foods about 45 minutes to an hour before sleeping:
– Other fruits like apples, avocado, dried prunes, grapes and goji berries
– Oatmeal-based snacks like cookies and porridge
– Warm or almond milk
– Nuts like almonds, peanuts, walnuts, cashews and pistachio
– Whole wheat toast with jam, peanut butter or almond butter
– A turkey or chicken sandwich
– Cheese with toast, crackers or fruits
– Green veggies like spinach, broccoli and asparagus in soup
Remember, light is the operative word. Don’t fill up too much or you’ll be stressing your metabolic functions which will make it harder for you to sleep.
9. Quiet Your Mind
Like Theo, many of us spend sleepless nights with our minds going a hundred a mile an hour over things that concern us.
Whether it is taxes, bills, your job, the kids, your pets, a big project you are working on, or a visit to the in-laws, there are always things occupying your thoughts.
The trick is to learn how to block these when you are about to sleep.
After all, thinking about them at night does not help since you are in no position to deal with them at that moment.
Awareness is key
When you catch yourself going into worry mode, you need to consciously step in and shut down those thoughts.
Take comfort in the fact that most of our thoughts are actually inconsequential.
They are often not as bad as your mind makes them out to be.
Instead get into the conscious habit of switching off that mental static at night.
10. Visualize And Meditate
If you have a hard time keeping out distracting thoughts, you can train your mind through a couple of relaxing mental exercises.
For instance, meditation teaches you to disengage from negative thinking and focus on the present moment instead.
A 2012 study at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in India documented this phenomenon and proved how effective its role is in sleeping more soundly.
You can do this by sitting upright with your eyes closed and thinking about nothing else other than your breathing.
It also helps to focus on the sensations your body is feeling, such as your heartbeat and the weight of your feet on the floor.
As for visualization, this also keeps your mind off your troubles by replacing them with something pleasant.
Use your mind’s eye to picture a relaxing image, like being at the beach and watching the waves gently crash into the shore.
You can either do visualization as a standalone exercise or combine it as part of a meditation routine.
Either way, you will be taking the fast track to sleep and avoid getting stuck in a bottleneck of unproductive thoughts.
The more you apply these tips in your daily bedtime routine, the quicker you will perfect the fine art of falling asleep on demand.
Like any other skill, effective snoozing can be learned – so you should start practicing as early as tonight!
7 Day Mind Balancing Plan by Mark Williams is a complete Sleep restoration for a better and more productive life Program.
Mark teaches his mind balancing sleep method to experience increased energy, greater motivation and unlock your brains true potential for greatness and through the power of sleep.