Sleep Remedies and Alarm Clocks: Tips to Sleep Better

Maya Barany, Writer

Picture the best night of sleep you’ve had in a while. The perfect morning where you feel immediately rested. That is what we are supposed to experience every single night. There is no such thing as good sleep, either you’re getting enough sleep or you’re not. With a couple of weeks of paying attention to our cues and going to sleep when our body tells us, we can improve our mental and physical well-being and increase our productively. In order to do this, we must understand our circadian rhythm and sleep cycles.  

Our rhythm deteriorates into a chaotic sleep schedule when we are sleep-deprived or wake up during deep sleep. If you struggle with these issues, an effective way to trick our bodies into feeling tired is to take a low dose of melatonin and stay away from blue light an hour before bed. LED lights and most screens use blue light.  

While it is marketed as a supplement, melatonin is a hormone, and is a part of a delicate balance tied to our sleep health and general wellbeing. The pineal gland, which releases melatonin into the bloodstream, is tied to our light cycles. When it is dark, melatonin helps give us the sensation of being tired. However, disturbed sleep schedules leave people unable to feel tired or fall asleep, leading them to take melatonin supplements. This is a complicated issue that many people overuse or use incorrectly. 

It is completely unrealistic to ask a teenager to wake up and go to sleep at the same time each day of the week, regardless of if they have work or school. However, keeping our times closer to a school or work schedule on the weekend is beneficial. Instead of staying up until 4am on the weekend, people should go to sleep a little earlier, reducing the need to “catch up.” Personally, taking a medium dose of melatonin early Sunday night works to reset my sleep schedule from the weekend.  

Intention matters. Our bodies adjust and prepare for our intended wake-up times. In a sleep study, a group of people who normally woke up at 6 am were told they had three extra hours of sleep. Instead, they were awoken at their normal time. Despite this, they reported feeling groggier. 

Our bodies hate alarm clocks so much that we actually start waking up a few minutes before it is set to go off. The irony is terrible; waking up in the cool quiet, expecting couple more hours of sleep in the cozy winter darkness, then seeing the clock reads 6:59. What many of us do next is unforgivable: we ignore the obvious green light to start our day and hit snooze, utterly destroying our natural surge of energy.  

The times we set our alarms also sets our body chemistry throughout the day, so setting a realistic alarm may help to prepare us for a good night’s sleep. Setting an alarm too ambitiously, and then hitting snooze seems to deeply disturb our bodies, as the hormones released while waking conflict with our desire for an extra 10 minutes of sleep. How can we avoid this? Find an alarm or alarm app without a snooze button.  

Setting a realistic wake-up time and sticking to it seems to be the way most of us run best. There are a multitude of alarm apps that are completely obnoxious, but as a last resort can help the chronic over-sleeper. The Mathe alarm is completely merciless. It will only shut off the horrific noise after you solve math problems: you can’t snooze, turn your phone off, or exit the app without its deadly synthetic tones. In one review, user LiviiiMoe describes it as an unforgiving machine without the “SLIGHTEST BIT OF CARE FOR YOUR MORTAL IDIOCY.” 

The second-best way to feel more rested (besides sleeping 8 hours, of course) is to have an efficient nap. A coffee nap has changed the game. Drink a cup of coffee before a strictly timed nap. The way this works is by decreasing our levels of andesine, which is a natural byproduct of our wakeful state. According to Harvard medicine, caffeine works by blocking adenosine receptors that decrease our cognition and send the urge to sleep. The lighter stages of sleep benefit short term alertness, while a full cycle of sleep is still needed at night, a scientifically optimized nap works best because it leaves our circadian rhythm intact.  

If you’re getting enough sleep at night, you should experience a natural boost of energy in the morning. Drinking caffeine so early leaves us a window to crash in about five hours on average and is more suited to early bedtime. So instead of drinking a caffeinated beverage in the morning, drinking coffee before a nap allows it to absorb into our bloodstream and fill the receptors of adenosine cleared during a light phase of sleep.  

For teenagers, many have a more complicated schedule than a traditional workday, involving sports, class, homework, and jobs, so for a schedule oriented to sleeping less and later in the night, a quick nap and/or caffeine in the afternoon gives us two chemical boosts: one from the moments after waking, and the second to give us another period of increased energy and executive functioning when needed. In a study by the International Clinical Neurophysiology Journal, a nap and 200 mg of caffeine was most successful in reducing afternoon drowsiness and increasing performance compared to other conditions, like napping and exposure to light, or not napping at all. For those who use caffeine and are medically safe to do so, having a coffee nap after school or work is amazing. It does not have to be a methodical ritual either, just down your poison of choice and nap for 15-25 minutes.  

With some tips and commitment to your routine, the days get exponentially better, and we all deserve that. Sleep well and stay safe. 

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