One of the most important things in your life is the amount of sleep you get. Your sleep schedule will directly affect your daily tasks as well as your overall health.
If you recognize that you aren’t getting enough good sleep, what can you do? How can you fix your sleep schedule? Let’s take a look at the best ways to get your sleep back on track.
Why would you need to reset your sleep schedule?
Most people want to fix their sleep schedule when a lack of sleep is affecting their lives. If you have been traveling, have insomnia, or you work late night shift work, you might need to reset your personal clock.
Our brain and body operates on a roughly twenty-four hour cycle called a circadian rhythm. This internal clock governs many important bodily processes such as sleeping patterns, feeding patterns, and hormonal cycles.
Your body naturally wants to be asleep at night but being up at night throws your body out of whack and disrupts the natural circadian rhythm that is controlled primarily by light exposure. Instead, you will sleep throughout the day which isn’t as restful for your body.
Sunlight streaming through the windows and daily noises can have you waking up more often than sleeping. If you can, it’s important that you try to reset your sleep clock to nighttime sleeping.
How can I reset my sleep schedule?
Adjust your bedtime, gradually
If you want to start going to bed earlier, try pushing your bedtime up an hour at a time.
Your body is used to going to bed at a certain time, and if you move the time up too much you’ll find yourself restless in bed.
Start slowly by moving your bedtime up an hour, and then you can move from there.
One of the secrets of turning your sleep schedule around, is making your body tired.
You will feel exhausted while you are changing your bedtime, but you shouldn’t nap. Napping may stave off some effects of sleep deprivation, but you will reverse all the progress that you have made.
Most people enjoy sleeping in, but this is counterproductive to a healthy sleep schedule.
Make sure you have a set routine for when you go to bed and when you wake up. Despite the tremendous urge to snooze the alarm clock, make sure that wake-up time is consistent, even on weekends and days when you’re not working.
Your brain needs to establish this routine because your body wants to get up at the same time every day. In this way, a consistent sleep schedule reinforces a healthy circadian rhythm.
Create a relaxing routine
When parents teach their children about bedtime, there is a strict emphasis on routine.
Why not have the same routine as an adult? You can take a bath, read a book, and then turn down the lights when you’re ready to wind down for bed.
Slowly dimming the lights as nighttime approaches can help us get into a sleepy state. This is because bright light exposure, especially blue spectrum light, disrupts the production of a hormone important for feeling sleepy, called melatonin. Doing this daily will prepare your body for bedtime.
Consequences of a poor sleep schedule
If you aren’t getting enough sleep, you’ll feel groggy throughout your day. However, not getting enough sleep affects you in more ways than just being tired.
You might start feeling like you’re going a bit crazy if you’re sleep deprived. There’s a reason that sleep deprivation is used as a type of torture.
Torture aside, if you haven’t been getting quality sleep, you could run the risk of numerous health problems.
Most people that don’t get their recommended sleep suffer from higher rates of obesity. You could also find yourself more irritable and suffering from other emotional difficulties as well. Some of the main symptoms of sleep loss are:
- Inability to focus
- Sugar cravings
- Lack of sex drive
Learn more about the symptoms of sleep deprivation here.
Sleep Deprivation Facts:
- Sleep loss affects your ability to focus on emotional sensory output.
- Sleep deprivation plays a major role in accidents involving cars, planes, ships, buses, trains, and even nuclear power plants.
- The elderly and young children are the most susceptible to negative effects of sleep loss.
- Sleep loss could be the result of an underlying medical condition or sleep disorder.
Should I use sleep medication?
It’s normal to consider using sleep medication to fix your sleep schedule, but this isn’t always your best option. Much like any treatment, sleep medication has pros and cons.
Sleep aids can seem like a quick fix to your problem, but you need to research your options. There are natural sleep aids, medication you can buy over the counter (OTC), and then medication that needs to be prescribed by a doctor.
Taking medication, for short periods of time, can help you fall asleep faster, but some of the side effects include:
- Increased appetite
- Stomach problems
Any medication comes with a list of warnings, and sleeping pills are no exception. Parasomnia is another problem with sleeping pills. When taking medication, people will walk around, call people, or even drive their cars while in a sleep state.
This can be incredibly dangerous and is surprisingly common. Trying to switch your sleep schedule naturally is the safest choice you have. Even though it might be hard, you don’t have to worry about side effects and ultimately it will provide the best long-term solution.
Are sleep apps effective?
Smartphones take up a large portion of our lives, and most of us charge them beside our beds while we sleep. In the last few years there has been an influx of sleep related apps that you can purchase. Most of these apps promise that they can help you fall asleep faster and maintain a deeper level of sleep.
Downloads of these sleep apps in are up 20% from last year. So they must be working for some people. Depending on who you ask, most are supportive of sleep apps. Try out the Z’s sleep app for all of your sleep tracking, meditation, music and natural sleep supplement needs.
Monitor your caffeine intake
Most of us are so dependent on caffeine, that we don’t realize it’s affecting our sleep schedule. Drinking coffee in the morning is fine, but your afternoon cup could be pushing back your sleep time.
Once you drink caffeine, it begins to affect your body pretty quickly. However, it can stay active in your body for up to five hours. So, if you have a soda with dinner, you could find yourself struggling to fall asleep.
Thankfully, you don’t have to cut caffeine out of your life to maintain a healthy sleep schedule. You can follow these tips to use caffeine in moderation:
- Limit the amount of caffeine you consume to no more than four cups of coffee a day.
- Women that are pregnant, or nursing, should minimize or avoid caffeine completely.
- Parents should monitor the amount of caffeine that children consume.
- Don’t drink any caffeine within six hours of your bedtime.
- If you are especially sensitive to caffeine, you shouldn’t drink it within 12 hours of your bedtime.
Learning your sensitivity to caffeine can be a process, so start slowly. If you enjoy having tea before bed, switch it to non caffeinated teas. If you are still having problems falling asleep, don’t drink any caffeine after lunch.
Caffeine is a stimulant and it’s common to experience withdrawal symptoms when you cut it out of your routine. It is normal to suffer from: headaches, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, difficulty focusing, depression, tremors, and low energy. You could experience these symptoms anywhere from 2-10 days.
Redesign your bedroom
Once you start developing a new sleep routine, you might notice your bedroom needs some work too. If you are still having a hard time falling asleep, here are a few sleep hygiene-backed options for optimizing your bedroom for sleep.
No TV in bed
This might echo advice you might have heard as a child but it turns out your mom was right. We all like to watch a bit of television in bed from time to time, but this can impair your sleep more than you might think. Your brain ends up waking up to focus on the TV, instead of settling down to go to sleep. Additionally, TVs emit blue light, which can trick our brain into thinking its daytime and prevent sleepiness.
Also, if you sleep with your TV on, you can end up waking up throughout the night because of noises. If you have to sleep with your TV on, set a sleep timer to ensure that you won’t be woken up later. White noise machines or fans are better ways to drown out ambient sound, since these tend to create consistent noises that won’t accidentally wake you up.
Find a good mattress
You will spend approximately a third of your life sleeping on your mattress, so make sure it’s a good one. You don’t always have to spend a lot to get a good mattress, but you should consider it an investment.
There are many places that you can order from online, that will deliver a mattress to your door. You can go to a local mattress store to see what types you like, then order a cheaper alternative online.
Get new bedding
You need to make your bed a comfortable place to be. Sometimes, getting new sheets, pillows, and a comforter can improve your sleep quality and lead to a good night’s sleep.
In fact, there are different types of cooling pads you can place on your mattress to pull heat away from your body. Studies show that you sleep better if your body temperature is cooler.
Use essential oils
Making sure that you’re relaxed before bed will help you fall asleep faster. You can use essential oil burners to create a pleasant aroma in your bedroom.
There are also essential oil sprays that you can use on your bedding and pillows to put you in a relaxing mood. Lavender oil is an especially good choice for calming the mind and leading you into better sleep.
Remove harsh lighting
Buying a nice set of blackout curtains is a must to anyone that wants a dark bedroom. Night masks can also be an effective solution to block out all light. Studies show that the darker your bedroom is, the better your sleep will be.
You should also remove anything that will light up, like: clocks, computers, televisions, etc. You can also hide these electronics in cabinets and armoires.
Lower the thermostat
Before you head to bed, make sure to turn down your thermostat by a few degrees. The National Sleep Foundation recommends setting the bedroom temperature somewhere around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. If your thermostat is already low, you can add a fan into your room.
Some people enjoy the sound of a fan, because it serves the same purpose as a noise machine.
Ditch bright colors
Although it can be fun to have bright colors and patterns in your bedroom, studies have shown that these can be distracting.
Soothing and muted colors in your bedroom are best. If you must use bright colors, use them on accent pieces or in artwork.
There are studies that connect clutter with stress and anxiety. There are many decorative storage options that you can use to battle the clutter in your room.
Part of your new bedroom routine could include getting your bedroom in order.
Add relaxation routines before bedtime
When you are stressed or anxious, the quality of your sleep suffers. Your body produces cortisol when you are anxious, and this hormone makes you feel awake and alert.
Most people don’t realize that introducing a relaxation routine can reduce these cortisol levels — kinda ironic no? Some of the most popular calming activities are:
- Reading a book
- Long baths
- Drinking tea (caffeine-free)
Take care of your body
Getting regular exercise will help you reset your sleep clock. While exercising you should also make sure that you’re fueling your body with the right food and drinking enough water. If you take care of your body, it will take care of you with improved sleep.
Exercise has also been linked to better deep sleep and increased melatonin production, which also helps improve the restfulness of your sleep. But make sure to do your exercise in the morning or afternoon. Exercising too close to bedtime can make you feel more alert and make it difficult to doze off.
How long will it take to change my sleep schedule?
It can take anywhere from a day to two weeks to readjust your sleep schedule. Changing your sleep schedule might not be easy, but it is worth it when you are receiving higher quality sleep.
Don’t give up! A healthy sleep schedule is just around the corner if you follow these tips and tricks. Just think how, calm, composed, and sharp you’ll be.
Circadian rhythm: Our internal biological clock that plays an essential role in regulating and maintaining our sleep-wake times, eating cycles, and hormonal cycles.