Psychologist and resident sleep expert at SIMBA, Hope Bastine, explains how...
For those of us that are early birds or night owls, the fear of having to recalibrate in a bid to go back to office or 9-5 life will no doubt be very real. With flexi-hours increasingly becoming the new norm, this could not be more well-received. But for some job types flexi-hours simply is not an option.
With that in mind, we’ve got to bite the bullet and come up with creative ways to adapt that both work to our unique chronotype and the working world.
Here are a few tips to help you adjust smoothly and productively.
Choose a mood enhancing alarm tone.
Our mood generally improves progressively throughout the day – and a happy employee generally means a more productive one.
If you’re a night owl however, getting up early can offset your mood more than if you’re an early bird.
For night owls, waking up with a jolt can trigger your stress-alter system and set you off on a grumpy start to the day. Set your alarm to your favourite reset song or a tone that gradually increases in decibels and pace that eases you more gently into the day ahead.
Adjust your sleep schedule toward the 9-5.
Let’s be honest, since lockdown many of us have been falling asleep later and later and waking up later too. Waking up at 9am when lockdown eventually loosens simply might not fly immediately!
Pick a goal time to wake up and go to bed and micro-adjust your schedule incrementally toward your goal time. Aim to give yourself 2 weeks and start with waking up 15 minutes earlier a day.
Create sleep pressure by reducing your sleep time.
If you are someone who needs 8 hours a day, make yourself tired by only sleeping 6 hours for about 3-4 days. It’s easier for us to stay up late than it is for us to wake up early so waking up earlier to make yourself tired is a simpler formula. After about 3 days you should create enough sleep pressure to then start going to bed a little bit earlier too. After about 3 days you should create enough sleep pressure to then start going to bed a little bit earlier too.
Then give yourself about 6 days to catch up on any lost sleep and adjust to your new schedule.
Prioritise more complex work towards the end of the day if you’re a night owl
For night owls, evening time is your optimal performance level so set up your diary
form your most complex level, higher functioning work toward the end of the day
Delay bedtime if you’re an early bird
Early birds are naturally going to feel tired in the evening but in order to adjust to the 9-5, push back bedtime by one hour so that you wake up an hour later.
From bore to snore
Especially important for night owls, you need to trick your body into thinking the evening is boring in order to make you feel sleepy.
Reduce the activity level and sensory stimulation in the evening earlier than usual by having the lights and volume low and engaging in more off-screen relaxing activities at least 1 hour before bedtime (but you may want to consider up to 2 hours before bed).
If you have kids, getting their sleep routine back on track is likely to lead to bedtime tantrums so this strategy of taking the excitement out of evenings, can also be useful.
Banning screen time is essential to this - you may need to consider turning off the WIFI in the evening. Make sure the evening is about quality time together as a family so re-establishing the dinner (with a no-phone zone), bath and bedtime story routine can also help to soothe them towards sleep.
Keep your bedroom totally dark
Early birds need to light and noise control their sleep environment more conscientiously, especially in the summer when the sun rises and the birds chirp earlier. Invest in blackout blinds or earplugs to control your sleep environment.
Create a sleep space sanctuary
Night owls are more likely to suffer from the ‘Sunday Night Insomnia’ when there’s a perceived added pressure to feel you must perform at your best on Monday morning when you’re sleep deprived.
Try to make your bedroom environment and bedtime the most enticing space and time and save all your favourite relaxing activities until the end of the day to make it a place you want to be rather than a space to avoid.
Ensure you have a mattress that properly supports your spine and keeps you cool, like a Simba Hybrid Pro, to reduce overheating so that your immune system can operate at optimal temperature and to reduce pain, discomfort, and anxiety.
If you’re really struggling, I’d also recommend The Orbit™ weighted blanket designed to help tackle sleepless nights caused by stress and a racing mind by harnessing the science of ‘deep pressure therapy’. There is burgeoning evidence suggesting the benefits of being enveloped in a heavy cocoon can lower anxiety and stress levels thereby allowing us to settle down for a nice night’s sleep