Temporary setbacks common with sleep improvement programs

Q:  After struggling with insomnia for several years, I have been using the Sleep Training System with excellent results (over 90% sleep efficiency) until recently.  After I returned from a cross-country trip, jet lag seems to have totally thrown me for a loop.  Now I have regressed back to tossing and turning for what seems like hours.  Is it unusual for jet lag to cause such issues?  What can I do to prevent this in the future?

A:  First, excellent news on your progress.  And yes, you are right about jet lag causing issues for many people.  You are not alone in this regard.  Even the one hour switching to or from daylight savings time can be disruptive for some.

Jet lag and DST issues involve changes to our circadian rhythms, one of the key internal components controlling sleep.  For most people making such adjustments is usually a fairly straightforward process, but it can be more challenging if you are prone to insomnia.

Generally, most people take about a day to adjust to each hour of time difference.  So if you were to cross 7 time zones, it would take on average about a week to more fully adjust to your new time.  And of course such adjustments are made successfully by literally thousands of travelers every day around the globe.

To help re-calibrate or entrain your circadian rhythm, it’s important to stay with your usual schedule in the new time.  Especially important is a consistent wake time, because this is your fixed point each day to both reset your circadian rhythm and synchronize it to your homeostatic sleep drive.

Also important is to expose yourself to bright light first thing upon awakening.  Natural sunlight is best for this purpose, but normally any bright lighting will work.  Then, as your bedtime approaches, try to reduce or modulate your exposure to bright light.  This will have the effect of stimulating the natural production of melatonin, which helps support better sleep.

In addition, before bed use a relaxing routine to help transition yourself to a calm and restful state conducive to falling asleep.

Some people try to phase such time adjustments in advance, by changing their sleep schedule in 15 minute increments starting about a week before the change.

But in your case, perhaps most important is to be confident you have proven to yourself that the methods in the STS work, and you have proven to yourself that you can in fact sleep well.  90% sleep efficiency is strong evidence!  So when those negative sleep thoughts come, choose to let them go and instead dwell on these proven facts.  By cutting off insomnia’s negative fuel, sleep tends to improve naturally.

Temporary setbacks in sleep improvement for a myriad of reasons are actually common and normal.  If it’s not jet lag, it could be DST or some stressful event.  These kinds of things happen to us all, including normal sleepers.  The key is to stay with the program, and continue using the methods.  Make them part of your normal, everyday lifestyle.

When temporary sleep setbacks occur, we adjust.  We let go the stress and anxiety, and better sleep inevitably returns.  It will for you too.

Explore posts in the same categories: Health, Insomnia, sleep

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