In an ideal world, every evening you’d quietly wind down after dinner, watch a movie or read a book, and get to bed around the same time to a full night of seven to nine hours of quality sleep, only to wake up in the morning refreshed and eager to kick off the day — if only! Today’s busy modern world doesn’t always allow us the time to relax and our sleep schedule can get out of whack. Learning how to fix your sleep schedule is an essential part of your sleep toolkit. Sometimes the weekend gets the best of you and you’re out drinking daiquiris and eating nachos until 3:00 am and the next day when you wake up at 11:00 am (or later) it feels like you’ll never get back on your good sleep schedule again. Sometimes, you just forget to hit the hay early. So what do you do now?
How To Fix Your Sleep Schedule - Part 1: What Exactly Is A Sleep Schedule?
Sleep schedule is essentially just the way we refer to our personal habits surrounding sleep. It’s also pretty common to use the term “sleep hygiene,” all of which refers to a series of healthy sleep habits that improve your ability to fall and stay asleep. We all need to get more (and better quality) sleep, so it’s imperative that we find out what’s causes a bad sleep schedule so we can improve it.
Here are a couple of things that might bring you down:
- When you have an erratic sleep schedule, you’ll find that it’s harder to go to bed at the same time and it’s harder to get up when you’d like.
- You can’t “catch up on sleep,” contrary to popular belief — sleeping more one night to compensate for a bad night of sleep just doesn’t work.
- You can learn some tips and tricks for regulating your sleep wake cycle so you can get the right amount of sleep every night.
Your sleep wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, is a combination of biological mechanisms that control your cycles of wakefulness and tiredness. When you’re functioning most optimally — and your sleep schedule is back on track — you’ll get sleepy around the same time every night and wake up around the same time each morning. Obviously, you’ll have some variation within your time frame but it is possible to make changes that’ll positively affect your sleep schedule.
How To Fix Your Sleep Schedule - Part 2: Tips & Tricks
We’re going to use a fictional ideal time frame for bed here — say, 11:00 pm until 7:00 am — for the sake of keeping things easy to explain.
Here are some tips and tricks to help fix your sleep schedule. You can do this!
Pick a Schedule and Stick To It — You’ve got to set a precedent for your unconscious so you can have a sleep schedule something to stick to. Pick a time frame and make sure that you stick as close to it as possible, every night. That doesn’t mean you can’t go out on the weekends or sleep in here and there, but don’t overdo it. More than an hour in either direction might have you back to square one. Don’t go to bed at 2:00 am every Saturday and think that you’ll be back to 11:00 pm the next day!
Take it Slow — If your sleep wake cycle is really outta whack, it’s important that you take gradual steps. Adjust your schedule half an hour at a time. A lot of night owls are up past 2:00 am — if that’s you, take it 30 minutes back every few days until you reach your desired bedtime.
Wind Down — Studies show that prolonged exposure to blue light negatively affects your ability to fall asleep at night. Where’s that blue light coming from? Mostly from your television and your smartphone. Stay off of your electronics for the hour or two before bed so your brain can release the melatonin you need to get sleepy.
Control Your Lighting — An important part of developing a healthy sleep schedule is mimicking the sunrise and sunset. Follow the earth’s natural lightness and darkness cycles, as they’re a cue that acts on the mechanisms of your internal sleep clock. Expose yourself to natural sunlight and bright light during the morning and daytime, then dim your lights in the evening as the sun is setting. When it’s time for bed, keep your room dark! You can invest in dimmable light switches, smart light bulbs, or even just having more lighting options with lower-wattage bulbs that you can use to adjust the brightness in your home.
Food & Sleep — Metabolism and digestion play a key role in wakefulness and sleepiness. Avoid large meals before bedtime so your metabolism isn’t boosted right before you try to wind down. Nutritionist Amy Shapiro explains, "I recommend eating dinner at least two hours before bed and then, depending on the person, a small snack may be helpful in aiding sleep. Usually, carbs or foods containing some carbs (think warm milk, fruit, or crackers) can help to drift you off to sleep, as the sugars hit the serotonin in the brain and can aid us to sleep. Alternatively, sugary snacks like candy, dried fruit, or juice can disrupt sleep, as they may cause a sugar crash that can wake you up in the middle of the night.”
Relaxation Zone — Turn your bedroom into a fully relaxing sleep zone where you can wind down and escape from day-to-day stressors. Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex, declutter to visually calm down your space, and set the tone with nuanced lighting, varied textures, and fresh air. Treat yourself to a bedroom that’s designed for sleep!
Don’t Get Discouraged — If you make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up about it! It’s not the end of the road, there’s always tomorrow night!
Sleep Schedule - Final Thoughts?
If you’re wondering how long can you go without sleeping properly before your schedule gets messed up? Well, it can happen in one night if you’re not careful! Just try and stick to a good routine, treat sleep like it’s important (because it is!), and set yourself up for success! You don’t have to make any crazy life changes to fix your sleep schedule, you just have to be persistent in the few things that you adopt as part of your nightly routine. Godspeed and good resting!