OK. I have a problem. It is 2:00AM and I cannot sleep. When I was a kid, I could start dreaming in seconds despite the bright daylight and the blasted TV. Is it genetics? My father have the same problem too. Here is my typical routine:
9PM: I feel sleepy, but I’ll play some android games to relax.
10PM: Sigh, the sleepiness is gone. I’ll quickly check my emails and hit the pillow.
11PM: Scrolling through yahoo news…
11:30PM: Turning off the laptop. Eyes closed.
12AM: Why am I still awake?! Listening to music might help.
1AM: Checking new android apps.
1:30AM: I am getting really hungry. UGH.
2AM: I’ll do some sit-ups.
7AM: I cannot go back to sleep.
I guess 5 hours of sleep is not bad. However, my productivity is slow because of my lack of concentration, which stemmed from my poor sleep quality. Why can’t I go back to the days when I wake up feeling refreshed and energetic?
I need to find the culprit and a solution.
So I did some research into the circadian rhythm. Our internal clock is controlled by a structure called the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the hypothalamus. Basically this centre responds to light and dark signals and alter hormone levels in our body to increase our alertness and drowsiness, respectively. Melatonin is an important hormone in promoting sleep. In order to establish a regular cycle, it has been recommended to expose oneself to bright day light when awoken, and to darkness when sleeping.
It dawned on me that while technology and genetics are to blame, my habits is the real culprit. For one, I spend way too much time on screen and not enough in the sun. The brightness of my phone in contrast with the dark at night not only affects my sleep but also my vision. While all these years I have complained about poor sleep and compensating it with longer hours of sleep, I never set an action plan.
Now, I want to try an experiment to see just how powerful habits are in transforming my health. I pledge to step in the balcony or run outside for 20 minutes as I get up at 7:30AM. I pledge to not use screen past 8PM and to engage in some light exercise prior to sleep. This will be a major change for me as I tend to finish school work at night. I don’t want to make promises I cannot keep, so I will try this out for a week and see how it goes!
In the words of Barack Obama, “Change is never easy, but always possible.”