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How to Fix Your Sleep Schedule: Tips for Snoozing Better

How to Fix Your Sleep Schedule: Tips for Snoozing Better

Learning how to fix your sleep schedule is essential because even one bad day can wreak havoc on your daily routine.

Just picture it: You stay up way too late one night, either because you’re jet-lagged, working, or hooked on a new show. Before you know it, it’s 4 a.m., and you know there’s no chance you’ll wake up early. You decide to sleep in to make up for the hours of shut-eye you missed.

Catching up on missed sleep might seem like the only viable option, but it’s also responsible for wrecking your sleep cycle. Sleeping in later for one day can push your bedtime back, provoking a vicious routine of late nights, irregular sleeping hours, and long midday naps.

When you go to sleep and wake up around the same time every day, you might notice that your body becomes accustomed to slipping in and out of sleep without much effort. In fact, assuming you get the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep consistently, you might not even need an alarm to wake you up. This is a sign that you’re following healthy sleep habits, and your body’s internal clock is functioning as it should.

However, if you find yourself stuck in a position where you’re enduring sleepless nights and daytime grogginess, fixing your sleep schedule can get you back on track.

How Your Sleep Cycle Works

 

how to fix your sleep schedule

The circadian rhythm, often referred to as the body clock, is responsible for sending signals to vital organs in your body, informing them that it’s either time to sleep or awaken. Our circadian rhythms coincide with the sun and earth’s 24-hour cycle because light plays a significant role in our sleep schedule.

 

During the day, your body receives the signal that it’s time to wake up as a direct response to daylight. On the other hand, you might feel sleepy and tired at nighttime because your body sends a message to the brain to produce melatonin. When your internal body clock functions at its most optimal level, you’ll find that you start to feel sleepy and wake up around the same time every day.

Not only is your circadian rhythm essential for getting healthy sleep, but also for your well-being. Research has shown that altering your bedtime by even 30 minutes is associated with insufficient sleep, higher alcohol consumption, poor dietary choices, and other unhealthy lifestyle choices.

As a result, establishing and following a consistent sleep schedule is necessary to improve the quality of your life.

What Affects the Circadian Rhythm?

how to reset sleep schedule

The body’s internal clock is controlled by various factors, such as light, dietary habits, and physical activity. But many things can get in the way and interfere with your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Here are some factors that can disrupt your circadian rhythm.

  • Bright Light - Your internal clock relies on the light/dark cycle of the earth and sun to dictate your sleeping patterns. Light can impede your ability to fall asleep quickly because your body suppresses melatonin production in response. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, your circadian clock is most sensitive to light about 2 hours before your usual bedtime. Bright evening light can cause you to feel alert, resulting in a later bedtime. As a result, dimming your lights before you decide to go to bed can help you get better sleep.
  • Color - There’s a reason why many sleep experts advise against using your cell phones and computers before bed. The blue light emitted from these devices has the most significant impact on your sleep schedule. Since our eyes can’t process blue light effectively, it passes straight through the retina and our brains, preventing us from falling asleep fast. Unlike other colors, blue is notorious for causing sleep disruption because it blocks melatonin production, which is why eliminating screens at least 1 to 2 hours before you go to bed can help you lock in a better night’s rest.
  • Jet Lag - Frequent travelers may find themselves awake at ungodly hours of the night, counting sheep in a desperate attempt to fall asleep. Jet lag occurs when you travel quickly across two or more time zones, confusing your body’s internal clock. The symptoms of jet lag are also worse when you’re eastbound rather than west. For example, if you travel from New York to Paris, you lose hours, which means your body has a tougher time adjusting to the new sleep schedule. This is also the reason why, even if it’s 8 a.m. at your destination, your body might feel like it’s 1 a.m. and feel the urge to sleep.
  • Shift Work - Not everyone follows a traditional 9-to-5 working schedule. In fact, millions of Americans start working in the evening or at night and go to bed when it’s daytime. Understandably, the main challenge of shift work is that it forces you to go against your body’s circadian rhythm. Many people naturally feel the urge to go to sleep at night, but when you’re working the night shift, you have to readjust your sleep schedule and force yourself to stay awake until it’s daytime. Since your internal clock expects you to be alert during the day, many shift workers find it challenging to sleep soundly, regardless of how tired they are.
  • Poor Sleep Habits - Poor sleep hygiene is one of the most common reasons why your circadian rhythm may be off. Several things can affect sleep hygiene, including sleeping too little, oversleeping, consuming too much caffeine or alcohol, poor diet, lack of exercise, and more.

How to Reset Your Sleep Schedule

How Your Sleep Cycle Works

Fixing your sleep schedule is not only essential for making you feel refreshed and focused in the mornings, but it can also ensure that you’re asleep long enough to complete at least four or five sleep cycles every night.

Completing all five sleep stages is crucial for entering the deep sleep stage, which is responsible for memory consolidation, regulating the immune system, and reducing stress. Here are some ways to fix your sleep schedule to get back on track and enjoy a better night’s sleep.

Say No to Screens

It might be challenging to resist the urge to unwind with a movie or your favorite show after a long day. But to fix your sleep schedule and get better sleep, consider replacing your devices with a book as your source of entertainment.

Since your circadian clock is most sensitive to light 2 hours before bedtime, try to eliminate all screens by then. Keeping your phone and other electronic devices turned off could also ease anxieties and help you eliminate the day’s stresses. Utilize the extra hours before bed to spend some quality time with your loved ones or to do relaxing activities, such as a guided meditation or journaling.

Keep Naps Short

A midday nap can be tempting, especially on days when you’re running on less than 5 hours of sleep. But naps are only beneficial when they’re short. Power naps that last between 20 to 25 minutes can be effective at giving you the burst of energy you need to carry on with the rest of your day. However, when you’re sleep-deprived, falling asleep is so tempting that it can be tough not to take a nap that lasts at least an hour.

For the sake of your sleep schedule, it’s a good idea to eliminate long naps and stick to taking shorter naps instead. This way, you can reap the energizing benefits of a nap and still enjoy a good night’s sleep.

Watch When You Eat

When you eat is as important as what you eat, especially if your goal is to improve your sleep schedule and get a good night’s sleep. Your diet can have an impact on your circadian rhythm because sleep and food choices are closely linked.

Your body is controlled by two hunger hormones -- ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin stimulates your appetite, while leptin suppresses it. When you’re sleep-deprived, your circadian rhythm is disrupted, and ghrelin levels increase. As a result, you’re more likely to overeat and make unhealthy food choices.

If your circadian rhythm is off, you may also notice an insulin spike. Elevated insulin levels can put you at risk for developing heart disease or type 2 diabetes.

As a result, it’s essential to make nutritious choices and be mindful about when you eat. The best way to ensure your diet doesn’t interfere with your circadian rhythm is by saving your two biggest meals for breakfast and lunch and having a small meal for dinner. Space out your meals and ensure you eat dinner a few hours before bed so your body has enough time to digest the food.

Get Some Sun

Waking up at the same time you normally do, regardless of what time you go to sleep, is often the best thing for your sleep schedule. But waking up early after a late night can be challenging, even if you’re armed with a cup of coffee.

In such instances, the best thing you can do is go outside and take a light stroll. Exposure to direct sunlight first thing in the morning for at least 30 minutes every day can reset your body’s internal clock and help you get a better night’s sleep. This is because getting sufficient sunlight during the day can help your body recognize when it’s naturally time to wind down.

Limit Caffeine and Alcohol Intake

Caffeine and alcohol can work against your efforts to regulate your sleep schedule. Caffeine is a stimulant that can stay in your body for up to 10 hours. While a morning coffee is unlikely to do much harm, it’s best to skip the 3 p.m. cappuccino unless it’s decaf.

On the other hand, alcohol may be effective at reducing the time it takes to fall asleep when you’re in bed, but it’s disruptive to a good night’s sleep. This is because alcohol inhibits your body’s ability to enter the REM sleep stage, which is restorative and essential for memory consolidation. When your body skips over the REM stage, you’re more likely to wake up feeling groggy and tired.

If you really want to enjoy a beverage before you go to bed, consider drinking a caffeine-free tea with sleep-inducing properties to help you fall and stay asleep without interruptions.

Relax Before Bed

Whether you’ve had a stressful day or not, taking time to properly unwind should be a part of your regular bedtime routine.

Carve out some time for yourself every night and do what you enjoy. Read a book, have a bubble bath, try a guided meditation, do some yoga, or just spend some time writing down your most anxious thoughts.

Practicing mindfulness is another way to ensure your mind is free of stressful thoughts. In case you find yourself lying awake at night, unable to shake the worries, try counting your breaths. Focus on each exhale and inhale as you work on clearing your mind. Before long, you might find yourself fast asleep.

Establish a Consistent Routine

Nothing is more effective at regulating your circadian rhythm than creating and sticking to a consistent sleep schedule. To establish a sleep routine, try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. When you feel the urge to sleep in on weekends, try not to sleep for longer than 20 minutes to an hour.

In the beginning, it might be challenging to adjust to a new schedule, especially if you’re used to going to bed and waking up whenever you want. Instead of jumping in headfirst, try to make small changes to your sleep schedule until you find the routine that works best for you.

Get Comfortable

Improving the quality of your sleep and resetting your sleep schedule starts in your bed. The average person spends about a third of their lifetimes in bed, so it’s essential to prep your space for comfort.

To sleep better and get back on track, start by investing in the most comfortable mattress. Memory foam and hybrid mattresses are both great options if you’re looking for pressure-relieving rest that keeps you cool throughout the night. For extra comfy sleep, consider trying out a weighted blanket. The blanket’s weight mimics the comforting feeling of a hug or massage, making it easier to get better quality sleep.

Though a good night’s rest may be tough to come by at times, it’s important to prioritize your sleep health by learning how to fix your sleep schedule. The best way to start is by practicing healthy sleep hygiene habits and optimizing your space for comfort to snooze soundly.



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Disclaimer. We love sleep and we want you to get the best sleep possible. But we do not provide medical advice. This blog is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical info, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our blog.
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