Meet JulianJulian travels the world for work and his work affects his sleep. His bedtime changes dramatically and he struggles with routine. Julian uses caffeine and alcohol to regulate his sleep pattern, and is often stressed about work, family and finances. This is a prime example of jet lag.
In order to sleep better, Julian should try to create regularity in his sleep environment, no matter where he is in the world. He could use a foldable pillow to make sure his sleep surface is comfortable and consistent, as well as taking a familiar object with him on his travels, such as a family photograph or his partner’s perfume. This will help to prevent the first night effect, where we struggle to sleep in a strange place straight away because we don’t feel safe. If we feel relaxed, we are less likely to suffer from this.
Julian should also invest in a portable light box, so he can expose himself to sunlight when he needs to be awake. This will convince his body that it’s daytime, and stop him from feeling lethargic.
Julian has two options on how to handle global time changes and its effect on his sleep cycle.
Option one: For less than four days, he should remain on UK time. If needs be, he can catch up on sleep with naps, but they should be either less than 40 minutes or more than two hours long.
Option two: If Julian is staying in a country for more than four days, he should shift onto this time. Before travelling east, he should begin to go to bed earlier a few days before his journey. If he is travelling west, he should go to bed slightly later. If possible, he should book flights that land in the early evening, and then aim to be in bed by 10pm. Upon waking, he needs to expose himself to plenty of sunlight.
When Julian returns home he must retain his routine. He should use his lightbox, use naps where needed, and also try not to arrange early morning or late night meetings, which can be harmful to his sleep cycle.
Julian should always adhere to the Golden Hour rule, winding down using relaxation techniques to ensure he is ready for sleep. If he needs to work throughout the evening, he must still allow himself an hour before going to bed.
If Julian struggles, we recommend the “The” technique. He should close his eyes and visualise a light at the end of a tunnel. He should breathe slowly and mindfully, and repeat the world “the” over and over again. This neutral word helps to stop thoughts from popping into our minds, giving our brains time to drop off.
Julian could also use soothing sounds to help him drift off to sleep. A white noise machine or relaxation sounds album would be perfect.
Julian’s programme is focused around avoiding jet lag and creating the optimal environment for sleep. Due to his work situation, he cannot be overly strict with his routine every night.
8pm: Any exercise, meals or work should be completed by this time. His body will now be able to produce melatonin.
9pm – The Golden Hour: Julian should take a warm bath or shower to commence his wind down routine, followed by a snack such as non-sugary cereal or oatcakes and cheese. He could also try magnesium supplements, which can help to regulate his body clock. Meditation and yoga could also be considered, as they will lower his heart rate and help him to forget daily stresses.
10pm – Bedtime: Julian should try to go to bed at this time. If he doesn’t fall asleep within half an hour, he should get up and start the process again. As the week progresses he can adjust his bedtime to later, ensuring that the Golden Hour is adhered to. If he wakes during the night, he could use the “Song Line” technique, where we take a line of a song and repeat it over and over. This will give his mind the space to welcome in sleep.
7am – Wake Up: Julian should aim to wake up at this time every morning, which will help him become accustomed to the host country’s time zone. He should eat breakfast within half an hour of waking. Throughout the day, he should avoid alcohol and stop having caffeine after 3pm. In terms of work, he shouldn’t have meetings before 10.00am, and if he becomes tired, he should have a nap that doesn’t last for longer than 40 minutes.
Julian should try to stick to his programme no matter where he is in the world. As with all routines, things can get worse before they get better, and in Julian’s case, it may take a period of six to eight weeks for improvement.
If you want to monitor your own sleep patterns and habits then why not complete a sleep diary by downloading one here.