Video, Images and Written Feature by Isabella L., Concordia Applied Journalism
We all have experienced this at one point: a sleepless night, where you struggle to fall asleep no matter how much you would like to. High school students are especially experiencing this more and more often, as stress, anxiety, and depression are all factors that lead to insomnia.
It’s extremely harmful to our bodies, however, if we let symptoms go on for weeks. Our memory starts becoming spotty, we are constantly fatigued, our blood pressure starts to rise, and we are at risk for other mental illnesses. How can we cure it?
According to Dr. Alice Fok-Trela, a certified psychologist working at Concordia, we first need to start implementing a strict sleep schedule. And this doesn’t just include the weekdays, but the weekends too.
"Now if you sleep at 11 and wake up at 6 or 7 [from Monday to Friday], and on the weekends you suddenly sleep at 3 in the morning, it throws your brain off," says Dr. Alice. "So we really want to maintain a regular sleep schedule even on the weekends."
We can’t use weekends as a time to ‘catch-up’ on sleep, she explains. In fact, studies have shown that we cannot ‘catch-up’ on sleep as we think we can. The missed hours of sleep during the week will still damage our body nevertheless, and just because you slept more on weekends, it does not mean your body recovered from the damage you did it to during the weekdays.
“It’s really about slowly readjusting [your circadian rhythm," explains Dr. Alice. "Either its about going to bed earlier or by adjusting sleep hygiene.”
Now sometimes you might find yourself trying to sleep, even when you’re going to bed earlier. If this happens, experts advise us to let our mind drift. It is okay if you don’t fall asleep, because eventually at some point, you will. Dr. Alice calls this "sleep restriction"
“Don’t try to force yourself to sleep. Don’t try to lie in bed worrying about unable to sleep," she advises. "Let the sleep come naturally. With sleep restriction, we just basically tell people sometimes it doesn’t matter if you don’t fall asleep, because you’ll just be a bit more tired tomorrow and it will be easier for you to fall asleep the next night,” reassures Dr. Alice.
Another thing is to not force yourself into someone else’s rhythm. Teenagers, especially, have a much different circadian rhythm than adults and younger children. We tend to sleep later but also wake up later.
"It [circadium rhythm] varies from person to person…” says Dr. Alice, “for teenagers, so long as you get 8 to 10 hours of sleep, when it happens is not as important as how long it happens. Most people have a natural sleep cycle, so it's always easier if you honor that cycle rather than fight it.”
In the broad view the most important cure for insomnia is just your determination to change and set a proper sleep schedule. Don’t be lazy and oversleep on weekends, because this will only result in a messed up circadian rhythm. However, if your body has already established a certain rhythm of sleeping at 12 AM and waking at 8 AM, don’t try to force it into your parents’ rhythm.
While establishing your sleep schedule, here are some simple home remedies for better sleep:
Isabella L. is a student of Concordia Applied Journalism