What is sleeping late?
By ‘sleeping late’ is meant delaying sleep till a late hour at night. It is a common unhealthy habit that may be attributed to certain medical conditions. Sleeping late triggers a disorder of the circadian rhythm (an internal body clock that organizes the body’s biological functions). Normally, the circadian rhythm is such that humans sleep at night and stay awake during the daytime. The disorder of that rhythm leads to irregularities in the production of melatonin (a hormone that helps organize sleep and is affected by exposure to the sun). Typically, the melatonin levels become low when the body is exposed to the sunlight, but increase at night, thus helping the body to sleep.
Benefits of good sleep:
The first and foremost benefit of good sleep is promoting health in many ways; it is quintessential to a healthy lifestyle. The benefits include:
- Greater energy during daytime.
- Helping the body combat infections, by reinforcing the immunological defensive response.
- Reducing the risk of hypertension and heart attacks.
- Reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes, be helping the body maintain balanced levels of blood sugar.
- Weight control: it helps the body organize the hormones controlling appetite and metabolism.
- Mental health: it helps reduce depression, stress, and anxiety.
- Cognitive skills: it helps improve the ability to think, remember and concentrate.
- Better wakefulness; and hence reducing the risk of injuries and accidents.
Best time to sleep:
When it comes to sleep time, there is no one-size-fits-all. It varies from one person to another, depending on the quantity and quality of bedtime. A person who gets good sleep can wake up and get out of bed easily, without having to use an alarm clock, as well as having a regular bedtime.
Causes of sleeping late:
- Delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD) (inability to sleep till 2:00 or 3:00 a.m.).
- Nature of work (especially in cases of night shifts).
- Psychological disorders (e.g., stress, anxiety, or depression).
- Screens: watching TV or using social networking sites till late at night.
- Excessive free time, which makes the person seek activities to fill it up, causing them to sleep late.
- Caffeine consumption (in such beverages as coffee and tea) at night.
- Travel-associated jet lag: a circadian disorder causing disturbance of the sleep and wake times.
- Sleep Apnea: causing waking up multiple times at night.
- Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD): periodic movements of the limbs while asleep, causing the person to wake up.
- Non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder (N24).
Harms and risks of sleeping late:
- Falling asleep during daytime and working hours.
- Sleep difficulty, or excessive sleeping.
- Low energy.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Ill temper and nervousness.
- Workplace injuries.
- Grave mistakes at work.
- Traffic accidents are caused by falling asleep while driving.
The long-term risks associated with sleeping late include:
- Recurring infections (e.g., flu, influenza, etc.).
- Increased risk of cancer.
- High blood cholesterol level.
- Heart diseases.
Tips for a good night’s sleep:
- Make sure the bedroom is appropriate for good sleep: an appropriate atmosphere helps sleep well and uninterruptedly.
- Use the bed for sleeping only—no TV watching, no phone calls, and no eating.
- Where applicable, keep the screens and electronics (e.g. TV, computer, smartphone, etc.) away from the bedroom.
- Remove clocks from your bedroom, to avoid keeping track of time while trying to get into sleep.
- Make sure the bedroom is dark—curtains and linens may be used to prevent the light.
- Make sure you have a calm sleep environment and use blackout curtains to prevent the light.
- Keep the phone away from the bedroom and use an answering machine.
- Make sure the bedroom is not too warm—too warm environments are not good for sleeping.
- Make sure the bedroom is well ventilated, and, where applicable, keep the windows open.
- Avoid using chemicals (e.g. air fresheners and varnish) in the bedroom.
- Avoid mental stimulants (e.g., watching TV) right before going to bed.
- Sleep on a mattress that is both thick, sturdy, and comfortable, and use a soft pillow that does not irritate the skin and helps achieve a good skeletal alignment by supporting the neck and backbone appropriately.
- Use bedsheets that are 100% cotton, to avoid skin rash, and wash them regularly.
- Wear comfortable, soft, and loose sleep cloths.
- Aromatic oils (e.g., lavender oil and rose oil) may be used—their scents are light and soothing.
- Go to bed when you fall asleep or feel tired. If you fail to sleep within 20 minutes, leave your bedroom and do a mild activity.
It takes some time for the body to shift from the daily activity mode to the sleep mode. It is advisable to engage in a pre-sleep routine for 20-30 minutes before going to bed, to get a sound sleep. To do so, the following guidelines are advisable:
- Set a fixed bedtime schedule, to train the body clock (circadian rhythm).
- Maintain a fixed bedtime (for example, 10:00PM – 06:00AM).
- Wake up at the same time every day, regardless of the quantity of sleep.
- Avoid too much sleep on vacations and weekends.
- Avoid naps, especially late in the afternoon or in the evening.
- Follow a fixed pre-sleep routine (e.g., taking a warm bath) 30 minutes before going to bed.
- Read before going to bed (but not a bed).
- Avoid eating two hours before going to bed.
- Avoid spicy foods (they may cause acid reflux or burn in the stomach).
- Limit the consumption of fluid two hours before going to bed (to avoid sleep interruptions at night to go to the toilet).
- Avoid caffeine (in such beverages as tea and coffee) late in the day.
- Exercise late in the day, but no less than four hours before bedtime.
- Avoid staying in the bed while thinking about the next day’s changes or reflecting on the future.
- Do breathing and relaxation exercises—they help eliminate stress and relax.