Since you came searching, you know your sleep schedule is messed up. You sleep late after midnight after playing games and watching series, wake up late in the morning, and are drowsy the whole day. All your efforts to fix you sleep schedule have gone in vain and you still can’t figure out why?
Luckily there is still hope for you and everyone and by understanding your internal clock or circadian rhythm and following few easy steps with discipline and strictness; you can still get your sleep schedule on track and find your way back to a good night’s sleep.
Understanding our body clock and how it is related to our sleep schedule.
Understanding and learning about your body’s internal clock or circadian rhythm is the first step to a better sleep schedule. Your circadian rhythm is actually a 24 hour biological or internal clock that runs in the background of your brain and alternates between drowsiness and energized levels at specific intervals during the day. The circadian cycle greatly controls our sleep schedule and is greatly dictated by light exposure. In layman’s terms, the circadian rhythm is also referred to as the sleep/wake cycle.
- Circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle. They respond primarily to light and darkness in your physical environment.
- This rhythm is directly proportional to external stimuli (such as light and heat). One can rest and entrain it, for example when you travel in different time zones and feel jet-lagged.
- When human eyes expose to the light from the sun, the pineal gland stops the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for making us sleep. At night when it is dark, melatonin production begins in our pineal glands and we begin to feel tired and drowsy. This is how the circadian cycle affects our sleep schedule. By monitoring our exposures to light, we can easily control and bio-hack our sleep schedule.
Ways to fix your sleep schedule
1. Adjust your Bedtime
The first thing you need to do to fix your sleeping pattern is to adjust your bedtime for sleeping early. It is now very common to see teenagers and adults sleeping late, at times even hours after midnight. It is never intentional and our trying to sleep early and fix our sleep schedule seldom fails. According to various studies conducted, the best time to sleep is between 8 pm to 12 pm. In terms of a specific sleep schedule, the best time to sleep is between 10 pm to 6 am because of our body’s natural circadian rhythm and the fact that it mimics the sun’s rising and falling.
How to fix your bedtime?
Now it may be hard to fix your sleeping schedule and force yourself to sleep early. Instead, try to be more realistic and bring down your bedtime slowly. You can try to sleep 15 minutes earlier than you usually do and bring this down slowly and steadily to fix your sleep cycle.
2. Get up at the same time every day to fix your sleep schedule.
This is a very important and crucial step if you want to fix your sleep schedule. People tend to sleep in extra on the weekend which spoils their entire sleep schedule and the week’s hard work. Don’t let half hour of extra comfort ruin 120 hours of your hard work!
How to wake up early at the same time each day?
- Set the alarm for the same time each day (even for the weekends) and avoid hitting the snooze button.
- This means that you also have to allow yourself to sleep earlier at night even in the weekends.
- Enjoy the break of dawn- enjoy the sunlight, the calm and peace of nature, and sync your body’s circadian rhythm.
Once you follow this strictly you’ll build a habit and wouldn’t even need an alarm. I have tried it and I haven’t used an alarm in months because it’s a practice and habit to improve my sleep schedule.
3. Do not nap in the afternoon or evening.
If you are aiming to sleep earlier and trying to fix your sleep schedule then avoid long naps in the afternoon and evening at all cost. Even if you are tired try to relax by meditating or relaxing for 15 minutes but avoid napping! Unusual long naps can disrupt your sleep schedule and send wrong signals to your brain. It would be difficult to sleep early at night and you will end up sleeping yet again late after midnight.
How to avoid afternoon naps?
- Eat lighter food in the afternoon.
- Take a brisk walk after lunch. It can be in your room or outside your house.
- Avoid doing activities that you think are less pleasing. Instead, do something interesting.
- Schedule the work that requires more brain activity for afternoons. For instance, if you schedule history for the afternoon you are bound to sleep, instead doing something else like mathematics will greatly help you in not falling asleep and fixing your sleep schedule.
4. Be strict and disciplined about your sleep schedule.
It is important that you follow your newly made sleep pattern with discipline and be very consistent. The one day that you decide to sleep later or wake up early is the end and you will have to begin all over again. Don’t let momentary urges and dopamine rushes pull you behind and ruin your sleep schedule, instead fight these urges, focus and always stay motivated.
How to be more disciplined and consistent?
- Do not rationalize- If you allow your brain to talk you into sleeping late just one day or waking up late one Sunday then you can kiss your sleep schedule goodbye. Don’t rationalize these thoughts.
- Set your goals and remind yourself why you are doing it in the first place. You started this because you know it is a problem and it is high time you fix your sleep schedule now.
5.Adjust the temperature of your room while you are sleeping.
According to various sleep specialists, the optimum temperature for your best sleep and sleep schedule is 15-21 degree Celsius. Above or below this our body’s heating and cooling mechanism comes into play and interferes with our sleep schedule. Personally I would freeze at this temperature. You should find which temperature is best suited for you and you can then adjust your room’s temperature accordingly.
- Try to relax and be calm before you sleep. Unnecessary thoughts and overthinking can raise your body temperature and disturb your sleep schedule.
- You blankets, socks, and quilts if you feel cold or alternatively use silent air conditioners for cooling your room.
6.Avoid using electronic devices before you go to sleep.
However pleasing you think it makes you feel, using electrical devices that emit blue light like mobile phones, computer screens, televisions negatively affects your sleep schedule. Exposure to all colors of light helps control our natural sleep schedule or circadian rhythm. Blue light messes with our body’s ability to prepare for sleep because it blocks the hormone melatonin which makes you feel sleepy. Do not use the internet before going to bed.
How to manage blue light at night?
- Set an alarm one hour before going to bed to remind yourself to leave your electronic device. Try to use this one hour for relaxing before going to sleep, assess your day and you can also indulge in some skin and body care for a sound sleep.
- If it is absolutely necessary to use your device for any important work, then try to stick to it and don’t wander around. Use blue-light blocking glasses and dim the brightness of your device.
- Switch to fluorescent bulbs instead of LED bulbs which gives out lesser blue light.
7. Avoid eating too close to the bedtime to improve your sleep schedule.
When you eat heavy meals too close your bedtime then it can easily mess up with your body’s functioning and disturb your sleep schedule. The time where your body should be producing melatonin for sleep is indulged in digesting the heavy food. Not only this but eating food too close to bedtime also has consequences like heartburn and acid reflux which can make you unrelated and disturb your sleep schedule.
- Don’t take heavy meals after 6 pm and try to have lighter meals as possible.
- You can go for evening walks to digest your food properly.
- If you have night-time cravings then you can have some light snacks sometime before going to bed.
- Avoided caffeinated drinks and alcoholic beverages before going to bed. It can disrupt your sleep schedule and you may wake up in the middle of the night.
8. Exercise daily.
This may not seem to be directly connected to improving your sleep cycle, but believe me, it is. Today most of our youth and adults are indulged in very little physical activity and are mostly confined to their tables and chairs. If you don’t work yourself physically and tire yourself then you may not feel sleepy at night and will thus binge watch series or use your devices which ruin your sleep schedule. Exercising daily will not only help to improve your sleep schedule but will also help you be fit and adapt a healthy lifestyle.
- Daily takeout some time from your morning schedule and exercise. You can begin with 15 minutes and can increase it slowly to your convenience.
- A 30 minutes aerobic exercise can greatly help your sleep schedule and build a healthy routine as well.
9. Get out of bed if you can’t sleep.
Don’t try to force yourself to sleep if you are unable to sleep. Staring at your ceiling, tossing and turning in bed will only stir up anxiety and stress and will do more harm than good to your sleep schedule.
What to do if you can’t sleep?
- Get out of your bed and take a few rounds of your room.
- If it’s possible try to go outside and feel the calm and breezy night sky and try to relax.
- Stop overthinking stuff that you can’t control at night and focus on yourself for some time.
- Listen to relaxing music like Weightless by Marconi Union to calm yourself.
- Read a good book and try to concentrate and calm yourself.
- Move out your bedroom clock. When you keep on checking the time and can’t sleep, it simply makes you anxious and spoils your sleep schedule.
- Make yourself some herbal tea, like camomile that will help you relax and sleep better.
10. Consult a doctor for you bad sleep schedule.
If all the above steps haven’t worked out to fix your sleep schedule than you may want to seek professional help. Despite all your efforts to fix your sleep cycle, if you have failed time and again then explain your symptoms and problems to a certified clinician. Understand your symptoms and be calm. There is absolutely nothing to be afraid. Many of us go through the same pain and problems each day. The good thing is you know what you have and can work on it.
Take your medications regularly and try to be positive and motivated. You can win this too.
Why does our sleep schedule get off track?
- We all are hustlers and trying to do as much as we can in the time that we get. 24 hours seem less time, for we have so much to do and achieve. We have to watch the whole series and finish it “one-season-one-night”, complete the gaming level, complete the assignment before the deadline next day, finish two books before the examination the day after, and what not! With such a large list of activities, it is understandable that you think sleeping late and waking up late is your ideal sleep schedule. But it is not! These things can negatively affect our body’s natural circadian rhythm and disrupt our sleep schedule.
- Also traveling in different time zones and sleeping at irregular times can also throw away your sleep schedule.
- People working in the alternate day and night shifts have the worst effects on their sleep schedules.
This type of sleeping pattern in your sleep schedule can lead to DSPs- delayed sleep phase syndrome i.e. going to bed extremely late and waking up late. DSPs is circadian rhythm disorder associated with the inability to fall asleep at your desired time (falling asleep several hours later) and an inability to wake up at the desired time. Due to this syndrome and your daytime obligations, you may be forced to wake up earlier that can go against the natural circadian rhythm and lead to chronic sleep deprivation, poor performance, and depression.
The life we are living today greatly affects our sleeping pattern. We are always huddling trying to complete our assignments, presentations, studying one night before an exam, or even trying to complete a season of your beloved series. It may be hard to stop these activities that have been an intricate part of your daily routine, but you need to do in order to fix your sleep schedule.
Try to be motivated and dedicated to the cause you decided to change and after a few days or weeks, you won’t even have to try. It will become a habit and practice and the path for your healthy sleep schedule and living.