How to Fix Your Sleep Schedule: 14 Data-Backed Tips
How to reset your sleep schedule
In an ideal world, what time would you go to bed and what time would you wake up? For some people, their existing sleep schedule might already sync with their body clock. For others, it might not match up: the CDC found that over 70% of American adults experience sleep issues at least once a month, while 11% experience them every night.
Maybe you’re a shift worker, switching between working nights and days, or a parent dealing with little ones interrupting your sleep. Or maybe you’re someone who has gotten into the habit of using your phone before bed , or simply have trouble falling back asleep after waking — watching videos or going down social media rabbit holes.
How do I reset my sleep schedule?
Try a 1-minute meditation for better sleep
Watch: Guided Meditation for Sleep – 1 minute
How your body clock works
Going to sleep at night and waking up in the morning might be the most well-known circadian rhythm. It works like this : your optic nerves send information about incoming light (or the lack of it) to the part of your brain that’s commonly called your biological clock. During the day, the light your eyes see or perceive triggers a signal that generates alertness; at night, melatonin is released so that you feel drowsy.
Cut to modern-day busyness, technology, and distractions — and suddenly, natural sleep cycles aren’t so simple. Yes, you could still go to bed when the sun goes down, but artificial light from a lamp or light from a phone could mess with your circadian rhythm.
A small study set out to see whether humans could get back to daylight-driven sleep patterns. Eight participants were sent camping to the Rocky Mountains for one week — no flashlights, cellphones, or sources of power. The results showed that simply by changing their exposure to daylight, the participants could reset their sleep schedules.
Because they were exposed to more natural light during the day and less electric light at night, their circadian rhythms shifted by 2 hours. Not only did they go to bed and wake up earlier, but they also felt less tired upon waking , even the self-confessed night owls. This makes it clear: controlling your exposure to light is an important part of how to reset your sleep cycle.
See the Morning Light
Until artificial lighting was invented, most people awoke with the sun and fell asleep when it got dark naturally. Now that our evenings are artificially illuminated, we tend to stay up later than we probably should. Consequently, many people block out the morning sun with blackout curtains and shutters, further separating themselves from the sun’s natural patterns.
If you’re trying to reset your sleep schedule, you should consider letting the morning sun in. Sunlight can trigger a daily reset for your circadian clock and acts as a natural cue for when to wake up. Over time, your internal clock should sync up with this cue and make waking up with the sun a breeze.
Adjust Your Schedule Slowly
Your body won’t be able to handle a sudden shift in your sleep routine. If you are trying to adjust your sleep schedule or you know you will be changing your wake-up hours dramatically, plan ahead and adjust your schedule gradually, moving toward your goal time in 15-minute increments.
For example, if your normal wake-up time is 8 AM and you need to wake up a 6:30 AM to implement your new workout routine, it will take you seven nights to adopt your new sleep schedule. If you need to make a huge shift, it might take several weeks to get fully onto your desired schedule, but your body will have an easier time doing it than if you make the change abruptly.
How to Practice a Healthy Sleep Schedule
Consistent Sleep Schedule
Make a concerted effort to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. We know what you’re thinking: you love a good lie-in on the weekends. How about a compromise? Sleep in an hour later on the weekends if you must, do your best to maintain a constant schedule.
Don’t Take Long Naps
We’re not saying to avoid them altogether! When done correctly, a nap can be a much-needed energy boost to get you through the day. Opt for a nap between 1 PM and 3 PM, and limit it to no more than 20 to 30 minutes.
If you’re a caffeine addict, you’re going to have to make a couple of sacrifices. You can still enjoy your coffee, soda, or energy drinks early in the day, but abstain within six hours of bedtime. So, if you plan to hit the hay at 10 PM, you should have finished your last drop by 4 PM at the latest.
Relaxing Nighttime Routine
If you’re making an effort to go to bed earlier to get your cycle back on its natural rhythm, you may find it nearly impossible to fall asleep on schedule. That’s why we recommend having a relaxing nighttime routine to prepare for sleep.
Take a warm bath with soothing essential oils, enjoy a cup of hot, herbal tea, or do some light stretching. Reward yourself with a book (just avoid e-readers), and it’ll be lights out in no time.
The cursed blue light given off by electronic screens has been the subject of countless research papers. There’s something about the blue light that dramatically interferes with the circadian rhythm. So, if you’re trying to get your cycle to run normally again, we suggest avoiding screens like television, computers, smartphones, and e-readers within an hour before bed.
Create an Ideal Sleeping Environment
The electronic devices aren’t the only things that need to be banished from the bedroom. You should also get rid of any light sources, so get darker curtains, and if you have an alarm clock with a bright digital display, turn it away from the bed, so it’s not shining on you while you sleep. Keep the bedroom at an ideal sleeping temperature, which experts agree is between 60 and 68 degrees.
We know it’s hard, but do your best to avoid stress as you go to sleep. Tomorrow is a new day, and all the problems and issues will still be there. There’s not much you can do about them at 2 AM from your bedroom while wearing pajamas (or your birthday suit).
If you genuinely can’t let go, write down what’s bothering you or make a to-do list to reference in the morning. Sometimes, just getting the frustrations or task lists out of your mind and onto paper can make a world of difference.