Does it feel like your sleep is all over the place? Whether your sleep routine has been disrupted by a shift in work hours, traveling through time zones, or just a busier-than-normal schedule, there are a number of variables that could be the culprit behind your botched sleep regimen. Having a consistent routine works wonders for optimal sleep.
If you are curious how to fix your sleep schedule, these 8 tips can help you develop better sleep habits and retrain your internal clock if needed, allowing for better sleep. Regardless of what you try, it is important to stay patient. Different methods will work for different people, and it may take some time for your sleep to line back up.
Keep a Consistent Bedtime
Your body loves routine. Greater sleep time variability has been shown to be associated with adverse health outcomes. You should strive for going to bed at the same time, along with waking up at the same time – even on the weekends if possible. Give it a try! Over time, your body’s internal clock (also called your circadian rhythm) will get accustomed to this new time, which can help with falling asleep and waking up each day. Similarly, it helps to follow the same routine each night before going to sleep. As it becomes a ritual, you will begin to feel relaxed as you get ready for bed.
Exposure to Light
Your body naturally produces a hormone called melatonin which signals to your brain that it’s time to fall asleep. When you are exposed to bright light at night, it can suppress the release of melatonin and trick your body into thinking it is still daytime, making it difficult to go to bed. Use the nighttime setting built into your devices; the dimmer, warmer light may help prepare you for sleep. Alternatively, you can avoid using blue light-emitting devices close to bedtime. If you work late into the night, use screen protectors for blue light, or try these blue light blocking glasses that have been validated by SleepScore Labs.
Blue light in the morning hours actually helps kick-start your day and may improve cognitive performance. When you wake up, open the curtains to let the sunlight in, go for a short walk, or just sit outside and let the sunshine in for at least 15 minutes (but don’t forget sunscreen to protect your skin!). This natural light will let your body know that it’s time to be awake and alert – just don’t forget to wind down and reduce those bright lights in the 3-5 hours before bedtime.
Being in the right state of mind through tactics like mindfulness meditation may help with falling and getting back to quality sleep if you wake up during the night. Studies on long-term practitioners of transcendental meditation have shown that, compared to the average person, certain Yogic practitioners may have enhanced slow-wave sleep and dream (rapid-eye movement, REM) sleep.
Before bed, try winding down with deep breathing or simple stretches to help relax your body. Additionally, meditation can help focus your mind and reduce intrusive thoughts that might keep you awake further helping you fix your sleep schedule. Choose a pleasant word to focus your mind on, or focus on your breath. Enjoy how the air feels as you breathe in, and take plenty of time as you slowly breathe out, exhaling the tension out. Try not to get frustrated if your mind returns to busy or stressful thoughts; you can just return to your calming breaths. Practicing these types of relaxation techniques can help you fall asleep at night and help you feel better during the day too.
Napping during the day can make it difficult to sleep later. Excessive daytime napping may even be an indicator of poor overnight sleep. If you must nap, how long should you nap? Based on findings from previous studies, it may be best to try to keep naps between 10-20 minutes in order to produce a bump in performance and quick rest without entering deep, slow-wave sleep (which may make you feel groggy after waking up). Naps should also be taken earlier in the afternoon no later than 3PM to prevent interfering with your nighttime sleep schedule. You don’t want to feel too energized when it’s time for bed at night. Also, keep in mind that after a nap it takes a little while to regain your full focus and energy. If you do end up napping, it can help to take a walk after your nap.
This one may seem obvious, but maintaining a quiet sleep environment is important in falling and staying asleep during your preferred sleep time period. Excessive environmental noises have been reported to be significant causes of sleep-wake disturbances.
Set your phone to silent mode to avoid any late-night notifications. If you live in a noisy neighborhood or have roommates who are night owls, try using white noise to drown out outside sounds. A fan, air conditioner, or humidifier may help in providing enough sound to keep unwanted noise out yet soft enough that it will not keep you awake. Using a sound machine can also help. Many models have a variety of soothing sounds and a timer feature, giving you the freedom to customize what you fall asleep to and for how long.
Regular exercise is great for your sleep and has so many other benefits too, for both physical and mental health. The relationship between sleep and exercise is interconnected: sufficient and proper exercise can alleviate sleep problems, while poor quality or insufficient sleep can reduce daytime activity levels and hinder your workout. Exercise training can also improve sleep by decreasing your risk (and potentially even treating) sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea.
A gym membership is not required – simple activities such as taking a brisk walk and stretching count too! Try this in the morning, but if you really prefer exercising at night, avoid intense exercise during the hours before bed.
Sleep habits extend beyond bedtime. Meal timing has been shown to regulate our body’s internal clock, the circadian rhythm. Try to keep a regular meal schedule and follow it as best as possible to help your body stay on track. Along with eating well, it’s best to plan your dinner for early in the evening. This is especially true if the meal is a heavy one as our bodies take longer to digest, disrupting our sleep at night. Late night cups of coffee and alcohol can disrupt and delay the process of resetting your sleep schedule, so keep in mind what you drink as well.
Talk to your Doctor
If your sleep troubles continue, it’s a good idea to speak with your healthcare provider or a sleep specialist to find out whether there might be underlying issues that could be addressed.
These recommendations may not all work for everyone, and resetting your sleep schedule will take some time, but stick with it and you’ll be on your way to feeling great!
SleepScore Labs Solutions
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