If you’re the kind of person who drifts off to sleep easily and wakes up refreshed eight
hours later, you are an anomaly. The sad truth is that most people in our country are not
sleeping well. From recent surveys done most people report feeling fatigued more than
one day per week and it seems we spend an average of six hours per week lying wide
awake in bed. Lately, stress or anxiety is what keeps some people awake. For others, a
partner who snores or too much caffeine might be to blame.
If you are at that point where you feel now is the time to sort out your sleep habits, read
How does ‘cultural arrhythmia’ happen?
Cultural arrhythmia manifests in different ways for different people, cited from an
article by Dr Lipman. Sleep interruption occurs when people pay more attention to the
clocks on their phones than the clocks in their bodies. Not spending enough time
relaxing, not getting enough natural light during the day, and getting too much artificial
light all contribute to poor sleep behaviour. When and what you eat can cause cultural
arrhythmia, too
Contrary to the habits of many people in South Africa (and the working world) you
should eat your largest meal around lunch. Your digestive rhythm peaks around noon!
If you eat a large meal at dinner, your body has to process that food at a time when
those functions are not optimal. It takes away from other processes, sleep being one of
Your exercise habits can work for or against you in your quest for a good night’s rest. In
general, avoid working out too close to your bedtime. Unsurprisingly, exercise energises
your body, which in turn makes falling asleep more difficult.
Maintaining consistent daily habits, including going to sleep and waking up at the same
time each day, is also important for syncing your body with its environment. Our bodies
do best on consistency and regularity. Sleep is your primary rhythm and the more your
other metabolic processes can be on a schedule and in rhythm, the better for your sleep
How to get your body in sync with its environment
Do you wake up in the morning feeling unrefreshed? Are you tired throughout the day,
relying on caffeinated drinks? Do you regularly experience brain fog or headaches?
If you find yourself answering “yes,” try to identify the contributing factors. Maybe
you’re waiting until the clock strikes 11 p.m. to go to bed even though your body is
telling you it’s tired at 9:30. Or maybe you realized you’re spending the entire day in
front of the computer without stepping foot outside. Addressing the pain points in your
life can help you get back in sync with your environment—and hopefully get more
restful sleep.
It’s important to acknowledge that complications with sleep are, well, complicated.
Cultural arrhythmia may not be the only thing separating you from sleeping well.
Rejiggering your meal and exercise habits won’t solve the problem of too much stress or
sharing a bed with someone who snores like a freight train. If you have a job that
requires you to work at night and sleep during the day, Dr Lipman says it’s even more
difficult to get eight uninterrupted hours of sleep. In these cases, other steps need to be
taken, such as installing blackout curtains, integrating an “evening” routine in the
morning or afternoon (whenever you are able to go to sleep), and taking naps.
If you can’t get to the bottom of your specific sleep issues, it’s important that you speak
with your doctor to address your particular needs.
At the end of the day, understanding cultural arrhythmia might help you find healthier
sleeping habits, but it’s not meant to make you feel inadequate. “Do your best and see
how you feel when you make the changes, but don’t let it be another stress in your life if
you can’t make the adjustments,” Dr Lipman says. “When it comes to sleep, there are so
many little changes that one can take that make a huge difference in how you sleep.”
Getting to the bottom of your sleep problems isn’t a lost cause, but it’s important to
focus on that which you can control.
Adapted from Well+Good