Whether you’re struggling to maintain a normal, healthy sleep schedule due to life changes brought on by COVID-19, or you’ve always held a busy lifestyle that makes going to bed at the same time every night seem impossible, we’re here to help.
Figuring out how to get your sleep schedule back on track is the first step in so many positive changes to your life.
Your quality sleep effects:
- Your mood
- Your diet
- Your productivity levels
- Your mental and physical health
But readers often struggle to find a sleep schedule that works with them and stick with it. And messing up one day (by staying up too late or sleeping in through all of your alarms) can derail a week of otherwise healthy sleep habits.
The good answer is it’s relatively simple to get your sleep schedule back on track, if you follow these five step process.
1. Ditch the Alarm Clock
You might be surprised by this first step – plenty people are. But think about it: most of us use alarms every day, yet a good chunk of us are still struggling to have a good sleep schedule – as proven by our heavy reliance on annoying alarms to jolt us from bed.
Now, obviously, we aren’t suggesting that you turn your phones off this Sunday night, and sleep through all of your work or school obligations Monday morning. In fat, we’d suggest when you’re looking to get your sleep schedule back on track, that you do it on a Friday or Saturday night (or a night where you don’t have commitments the following morning).
So why ditch the alarm clock?
You want your body to get as much sleep as it needs, so it can wake up refreshed. Alarm clocks – as helpful as they are – have no idea what stage of sleep you’re in or the quality of sleep you had.
If you set your alarm clock for 8 hours from bedtime but don’t fall asleep until two hours after laying down, then you’re only getting 6 hours of sleep.
By letting your body sleep without an alarm clock, you’re allowing your body to go through the stages of sleep, reach that deep restorative REM sleep, and complete the cycle multiple times.
This means you’re likely to wake up refreshed.
2. Give Yourself Time to Fall Asleep
Of course, not using an alarm clock doesn’t work if you’re going to bed at 3am and your goal is to start waking up at 7 am.
On the night you’re about to reset your sleep schedule, give yourself a 2-hour window. So if you want to wake up around 9 am, get in bed 10 hours before 9 am (11 pm, for those of you who are rusty at math).
3. Don’t Sit in Bed Just Tossing and Turning
But, don’t just lay in bed, frustrated because you aren’t tired. Let’s say it’s 11pm. You got comfy in you bed, turned off the lights, closed your eyes, and then for fifteen minutes you are doing nothing than staring at the back of your eyelids.
Don’t lie there and get frustrated. This frustration can lead to anxiety and stress levels which in turn make it harder to fall asleep. Instead, get up and out of bed and go to a chair or couch and read a book or magazine. Do something relatively passive.
I’d recommend that you avoid your phone or TV – not necessarily because of the blue lights, but because those are both such time-wasters. You can spend 30 minutes on your phone without even realizing it. Compare that to 30 minutes of reading through your mail or reading an article on the magazine.
Do this until you start to feel sleepy. Then, once you feel sleepy, head back to bed, and get some rest.
Sleep Expert advice: You want the bedroom to remain a place for sleeping, which is why we had you get out of bed and head to the couch before reading a book or magazine. You want to signal to your body that you belong in the mattress when you’re tired.
4. When You Wake Up, Get Out of Bed
When your body wakes up, and you’re alert enough to realize you’re awake and its morning, it’s time to get out of bed.
Sometimes we can stay in bed – because we are “waiting” for our body to “fully wake up.” But what often happens is we fall right back asleep.
Once you’re awake enough to realize you’re awake, it’s time to get up. Drink a big glass of water (did you know sleep dehydrates you?), wash your face and brush your teeth, take a shower.
Also, notate what time you woke up. Let’s say you woke up at 8 am. Great, now work 10 hours back (10 pm). That’s your new bed time for the second day.
5. Stick to Your Sleep Schedule!
Ideally, you’d maintain your sleep schedule (within reason, you don’t have to get in bed exactly at 10 pm every night) every day of the week – no matter whether you’re on vacation or it’s a holiday.
That being said, I know life gets in the way. There are parties to attend. Someone just turned thirty. Someone else just got engaged. A new bar opened up near your house and they have a live band after midnight you want to see.
The good news is you know your ideal wake up time – 8 am. So if you do choose to stay up late one night, try to wake up within an hour of your normal wake up time. This is where alarm clocks come in handy.
That way, sure, you might be tired the next day, but you’re not off of your sleep schedule. Now you can go about your day (a little groggy) and head back to bed this night around 10 pm.
We hope that was helpful. Getting your sleep schedule back on track is more than possible and it’s something you can likely do over the weekend.
But let’s take a look at a few extra tips resetting your sleep schedule easier on you.
Tip 1: Avoid Caffeine on the Day You’re Trying to Reset your Sleep Schedule
No shocker here. Caffeine, like cigarettes, is a stimulant. A cup of coffee stays in your system for about 6 hours. And if you’re drinking a sugary drink with syrups, then you’re getting the caffeine and the sugar, which is also a stimulant.
Once your sleep schedule is on track, you can go back to drinking coffee but be mindful of how late it is in the day. If you’re working a traditional 9 am to 5 pm work day, I’d recommend no caffeine (this includes chocolate) afternoon.
Tip 2: Avoid Alcohol
Don’t worry. You only have to forego alcohol for a day or two at the most. The thing is alcohol gets you sleepy, but it doesn’t help you sleep. Or it helps you sleep, but you don’t get the full benefit of a good night’s sleep.
Think of the last time you had a hang over – you wouldn’t say you woke up refreshed did you? This is because alcohol makes it hard for your body to go to the deeper stages of your sleep cycle.
Once you’re back on track, feel free to enjoy a few drinks (responsibly, of course) but I’d recommend not having an alcoholic drink within 2-3 hours of going to bed – especially if you find a good night’s sleep evasive.
Tip 3: Blackout Your Room
If you go to bed tonight and take a second to look around after you’ve turned off the lights, I bet you’ll see anything besides total blackness.
Most people see:
- TV power button
- Wifi/Route blinking light
- Phone notifications every few minutes
- Streetlights through the window
- Passing headlights if you’re parked near a busy road.
Everyone’s sleep situation is different but the takeaway is the same: you want your room as dark as possible. Light can trigger your eyes to tell your brain to stay awake.