Is it possible for night owls, prone to yawning their way through the morning, to change into the kind of people who get up to watch the sun rise?

Jonas, 41, admits that his sleeping patterns are a complete mess. Unable to switch off after work, he’ll watch TV until the wee hours of the morning. The next day, he battles to open his eyes, and even when he does, he becomes alert only a few hours into the morning. ‘It would be fine if my sleepiness didn’t have any real impact, but the truth is it affects

my family life because I just don’t have the energy to help with the kids in the morning. And, of course, it’s a disaster when I need to attend early meetings.’

Quality sleep is one of the basic requirements for health and well-being, as our bodies recharge and regenerate while we sleep. Dr Lazuko Magula, a psychiatrist at Ingress Healthcare, isn’t surprised that Jonas lacks vitality in the mornings. ‘The key to waking up early and feeling refreshed lies in being able to fall asleep, maintain that sleep and wake up at an appropriate time,’ he says.

Related article: Become a morning person

“Quality sleep is one of the basic requirements for health and wellbeing”

Dr Magula explains that our circadian rhythms, which help determine our sleep patterns over a 24-hour period, are maintained by a kind of ‘master clock’ located in our brains. These rhythms are also influenced by external cues, like the onset of darkness at night. The reason that some people struggle to wake up is simple, really: they’re probably just not going to bed early enough, or getting sufficient sleep. But, of course, there can be underlying issues. For example, says Dr Magula, they may experience sleep apnoea, a condition that causes people to stop breathing while asleep, usually because their airways become blocked. The resulting drop in oxygen levels causes the sleeper to wake up sometimes several times a night. Your sleep might also be disturbed by night terrors.

Related article: Don’t lose sleep over insomnia

The good news is that you can prep your body for better sleep, simply by following proper sleep hygiene. Dr Magula advises keeping your room dark and quiet, and cutting out large meals at least two hours before bedtime. Coffee is also a no-no, at least four to six hours before you’re planning to turn off the lights. Try not to give in to your sleepiness with a late afternoon nap – if you just can’t resist, try to do it eight hours after you woke up, and keep it to 15 minutes at most.

Plan to go to bed at the same time every night, and before you do, follow a sleep time ritual: turn off your devices, close the curtains or blinds and turn lights down low. Keep the bedroom cool and well ventilated, and avoid spending time there unless it’s bedtime – otherwise, your brain might come to associate it with other activities. Before you get into bed, follow a relaxing routine like meditating, flexing each muscle group in turn or imagining a calm scene.

Related article: The importance of sleep and what it reveals about you

“Blue light boosts alertness and interferes with the body’s ability to prepare for sleep”


Blue light boosts alertness, and interferes with your body’s ability to prepare for sleep, as it blocks the hormone melatonin, which makes you sleepy. All our favourite gadgets, unfortunately, are sources of blue light – TVs, smartphones, computer screens, tablets, gaming systems… LED and fluorescent light bulbs also emit blue light. So if you have trouble sleeping at night, switch off the TV and stay away from your gadgets at least two hours before going to bed.

Dr Magula says that changing your sleep habits can become easier if you:
  • Have a good reason for changing your wake-up routine, so that you have a clear goal in mind.
  • Streamline your mornings so that you have more time to sleep and still meet your obligations. For example, if you’d like to get in a morning gym session, pack your clothes the night before.
  • Make sure you get bright light first thing in the morning.
  • Lighten your evening load. Avoid taking work home at night, and don’t start new tasks in the evening when it is time for you to go to sleep.
  • Force yourself to wake up by placing your alarm far away from your bedside table, so that you have to get out of bed to switch it off.
  • Be militant about keeping your sleep schedule. That means no weekend lie-ins.
  • Boost your mornings with a nutritious breakfast to get you going.

For free advice on health issues, Jet Club members can call our helpline.

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0800 00 45 45

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& Swaziland

+2711 991 8258

10 TIPS FOR GETTING THE BEST NIGHT’S SLEEP 10 TIPS FOR GETTING THE BEST NIGHT’S SLEEP Reviewed by Michelle Pienaar on May 10, 2021 Rating: 5
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