Posted tagged ‘high school’

What to do if there’s not enough hours in a day to feel tired at bedtime

October 26, 2018

Q:  I normally sleep for about 8 hours, but don’t feel drowsy or ready for bed again for at least another 18 hours or so.  This is causing me problems as my natural wake time steadily gets later each day.  My only alternative seems to be less than 8 hours in bed and then I feel bad from lack of sleep.  Any solutions to break out of this pattern?

A:  Your description suggests your circadian rhythm is longer than 24 hours.

In your case, it would appear you are experiencing more like a 26-hour day.

A slower than normal circadian rhythm is actually common from about age 14 through 30, and one reason some high schools are moving to a later start time.

There are no easy answers in your situation.  Your best solution is probably to use substance-free CBT sleep training methods.

First, keep a very consistent wake time 7 days a week.  That does two things — regulates your circadian rhythm and synchronizes it to your homeostatic sleep drive.  Those are the two most important internal components controlling sleep.

If you keep a consistent wake time and don’t feel drowsy at bedtime, stay up — but do something relaxing to help you feel drowsy, then head to bed.  And keep that wake time no matter what.  Use an alarm if necessary as consistency is important.

To help yourself feel drowsy at your preferred bedtime, avoid caffeine later in the day, and try to get some good exercise most days.

You can also try a relaxing wind down period starting about an hour or so before your scheduled bedtime.  The idea is to begin conditioning yourself for the expectation of sleep after a certain interval.

Also, to help better reset your circadian rhythm for a new cycle, it’s important to expose yourself to bright light immediately upon awakening.  Natural sunlight is best but regular indoor lighting is fine for most people, providing it’s sufficiently bright.

Fortunately, by about age 30 most people’s circadian rhythm returns to a more normal 24 hours.

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I’m 15 and think I have insomnia. Should I take sleeping pills?

August 30, 2017

Q:  I’m 15 and I think I may have insomnia.  Sleep is a struggle for me, and it has been for many months now.  Even though I usually go to bed about 10 p.m., I often don’t fall asleep until about 3 a.m. no matter how hard I try.  Should I take sleeping pills?

A:  Most people go through times of sleeplessness for a variety of reasons, often having to do with stress.  Usually the stressful problem resolves or we adapt to it in some  way, and normal sleep returns.  But if this has been worrying you for many months now, then a checkup with your doctor is probably a good idea.  This will allow you to either treat or rule out the possibility of an underlying medical basis for your insomnia.

But don’t be surprised if you have none.  Most people with insomnia don’t.

Most insomnia is caused instead by some nonmedical combination of bad sleep habits and excessive worry about the idea of sleep.  If that’s the case with you, then sleeping pills won’t help.  Pills unnaturally force you to sleep — and they all have at least some side effects, possibly severe —  and leave the true root of the problem unaddressed.

You might try some basic CBT sleep training methods.  These include keeping a consistent sleep schedule 7 days a week.  Especially important is a consistent wake time.  Avoid napping or sleeping in, as these will in effect steal sleep from you at night.

Also avoid caffeine in any form (including colas and chocolate) after about mid-day.  Be sure to get some good exercise most days.  Basically, make an effort to tire yourself out both mentally and physically every day, and you will tend to naturally sleep better at night.

And rest assured it’s OK to let go the worry about sleep, which only tends to fuel insomnia.  “Trying” to sleep may be part of the problem — sleep really is more of a process of letting go, not a frontal assault.

If worry about sleep continues to be a problem, look into cognitive restructuring, another of the CBT core methods.  Like all CBT tools, it is completely drug-free and has no side effects.

Good luck and be confident you can sleep better without drugs.

Better sleep for college and high school students

September 16, 2011

Sleep problems for students in high school and college are surprisingly common, considering this age group generally does not face the same kinds of issues that come later with normal aging.  Fortunately there are a few simple guidelines that will generally help most young adults sleep better.

First, this age group faces the unique challenge of synchronizing a biological clock that often experiences a day that lasts much longer than 24 hours.   In fact, it’s common from about age 14 through 30 to experience more of a 28 to 30 hour day instead of a 24-hour day.  This means 11 p.m. may feel more like 7 or 8 p.m.  And 7 a.m. may feel more like 3 or 4 a.m.  Sure, those hours can make it tough to sleep! So resynchronizing your biological clock each day back to a 24-hour circadian rhythm is important.

Recalibrating to a 24-hour day is simple if you make a commitment to do this:  get up at the same time every day, consistently without fail, every day, as much as possible.  Use an alarm clock.  Get up and out of bed ASAP and expose yourself to bright light immediately, preferably indirect sunlight.  This gets your biological clock restarted in subtle but profound ways.  Do not allow yourself to sleep in on weekends or any other day.  Consistency is important.  Your sleep system thrives on this sort of regularity.

Second, set a consistent bed time.  We suggest for this age group to allow at least 8 even 9 hours to start, and see how you do. If you’re tossing and turning, cut that back a little by going to bed a little later (keep your wake-up time set) and see what happens. You’ll soon discover your best sleep timing.

Third, be sure to schedule some time for exercise every day.  Tire yourself out mentally and physically every day, and you’ll sleep better at night.

Fourth, try to avoid or at least minimize any caffeinated beverages or foods with caffeine (there are many, including chocolate) after lunch.

Fifth, allow yourself a relaxing wind-down period before bed.  This can be something like a relaxing bath, getting your clothes ready for morning, reading something enjoyable, just whatever you like doing and find relaxing so you can let stress go before bed.  Developing a consistent cool down routine every night helps prepare your mind and body for sleep.  Avoid any sort of stress during this wind-down time.

Think of it like this: your mind and body are like a finely-tuned machine designed to automatically get all the sleep you require. Then relax and let go the worry about sleep.

All of these ideas are part of cognitive behavioral therapy applied to insomnia.  For much more, including a comprehensive 6-week sleep training program, check out the Sleep Training System.

Good luck to all students.  Getting a good education is a great experience, a time to grow and learn and enjoy life.