How to reset your sleep schedule after the holidays
TORONTO -- Long nights and late mornings during the holidays often make returning to a regular sleep schedule difficult.
This common struggle is a phenomenon neurologist Dr. Brian Murray calls “social jet lag.”
“People on vacation for the holidays tend to sleep in because they’re often catching up on sleep that they lost over the prior months. They will sleep in more than they’d like and when they happen to adapt, the next work day is difficult,” said Murray in an interview with CTVNews.ca.
Murray leads the sleep laboratory at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. He says the reason why it’s easy to stay up late and difficult to wake up early is because of our internal body clock, which is also known as the circadian rhythm.
Murray says once this clock is set, it can be difficult to change.
“The body is used to routine, and when it's artificially disrupted by the social calendar then you’re fighting biology and your body will lose,” said Murray.
The best way to combat social jet lag is to maintain a regular sleep schedule at all times, said Murray.
But for those who are still struggling with their schedules, sleep expert Nancy Rothstein recommends starting a “sleep transition” to ease back into a nightly routine.
Rothstein is the founder of The Sleep Ambassador, a company that provides educational services on healthy sleeping habits. She recommends a sleep transition, which involves doing sleep-conducive activities one hour before bed.
“You can take the hour to do things like a bath, a shower, reading a book, putting the dishes away, or even having a conversation with someone. Just use that hour as a transition to sleep,” Rothstein said in a telephone interview with CTVNews.ca.
Rothstein also recommends avoiding technology before bed, which includes lights. She says lights can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm, adding that the ideal setting is a dark and quiet room.
Rothstein says it could take up to four weeks to change habits, but that can vary from person to person.
“You really need to listen to your body. Listen to your mind and the main thing to ask yourself is how do you feel in the morning? That’s the real tell sign if you’re getting good sleep or not,” said Rothstein.