How to Fix your Sleep Cycle (in 5 Easy Steps)

 

Ask yourself:

  • Does the time you go to bed and fall asleep vary wildly from one night to the next?
  • Do you wake up in the middle of night and find yourself unable to fall back asleep?
  • Are you always tired and groggy when you wake up?
  • Do you struggle to wake up at the right times?

These are all signs and symptoms that your sleep schedule is out of sync with your natural bodily rhythm. It may have been so long since you’ve slept normally that you don’t remember the last time when you went to bed and woke up at the same time. This can be a source or sign of depression, a sign of sleep disorders, or just an ill advised all-nighter that got out of control.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Your internal clock, also known as your circadian rhythm, is built to allow you to sleep at a similar time each night and wake up predictably feeling refreshed and energized.

Any number of things could have gotten your system out of order. It might have been a night or two where you pulled an allnighter. Maybe it was a colicky baby keeping you up late or the stress of an upcoming deadline at work. Maybe it was one too many late nights catching up on your favorite TV show. Keep in mind that even a few late nights can cause a major disruption in your biological rhythm.

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It’s important you get your cycle back on track. Neglecting your biological rhythms can lead to chronic exhaustion. You may be feeling like you are in a constant state of jet lag, adjusting to a new time zone every day. Not only does lack of sleep cause an unpleasant and overwhelming sense of fatigue, it can be linked to a variety of common ailments. In 2015, a group at the University of Pittsburgh showed that there is a link between a disruption in circadian rhythm and known metabolic risk factors for obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.

Imagine if you could feel rested and productive everyday, all without even having to use an alarm clock to wake you up? This is very possible if you adopt clean sleeping habits and get on your new schedule.

All you need is the patience and discipline to do so.

In this article, Spire will be showing the five steps you need to take to fix your sleep schedule and get back into a healthy and energizing rhythm. We’ve organized this article so that you can start tweaking and optimizing each part of your day so that you’ve got a healthy rhythm in place once and for all.

step 1: Setting up an optimal environment

Setting up an optimal environment for sleep ensures the efficacy of the next steps.

To optimize your bedroom for sleep, you want to make sure the lighting and temperature of your bedroom are adjusted for sleep when it comes time to settle in. There should be as little light as possible in your bedroom. Get light blocking curtains and remove light-emitting alarm clocks and cell phones from your room. If possible, keep your phone outside your bedroom, or at least place it on sleep mode so that you are not disturbed.

A slightly cold temperature is conducive to sleep, so if you have an air conditioning unit, tune the temperature slightly downwards to ensure the room is a bit cooler.

step 2: Fixing your daytime habits to ensure good night-time sleep

What you do during the daytime has crucial impacts to your nighttime sleep quality. In fact, you may find that making modifications to your daytime habits is sufficient to completely fix your sleep schedule.

The most important sleep inhibitor in many people’s lives is consuming coffee. Make a concerted effort to avoid caffeine after noon at the very least. It might serve well to experiment cutting caffeine out of your life entirely. This will likely be difficult to do all at once, but taking concerted steps to slowly decrease the amount of coffee you are drinking in the morning may fix your sleep struggles entirely. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others, and for many, trouble falling asleep at night may entirely be due to coffee.

Another important step you can take to help you fall asleep at night is doing exercise during the day. Expending some energy with some good exercise is not only good for maintaining a healthy weight and protecting health, but may help tire you out for a good night’s rest ahead. Research has shown that exercise improves sleep quantity and quality, as well as contributing to other positive outcomes.

Finally, managing stress during the day is helpful in fixing disruptions in your natural rhythm. Stress has been shown to worsen insomnia, and research demonstrates that stress is closely related to impaired sleep in cross-sectional studies. Using relaxation techniques, like yoga and breathing exercises, or a device like Spire to manage stress can create a more peaceful day and better subsequent sleep. Spire can help you manage your stress at every moment of the day, creating an overall peaceful state of mind all the way to bedtime. Lack of stress is one less barrier to worry about when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep.

step 3: Creating a Sleep Promoting Evening

For most people, the hours after work involve a combination of family, dinner, and plenty of screen time. While there’s nothing wrong with unwinding while reading a good e-Book on your tablet or watching some YouTube, the bright light that you’re exposing yourself too may be keeping you up for hours longer than healthy for a balanced sleep schedule. Electronic devices emit blue light, which heavily influences your circadian rhythm. Night-time exposure to computer screens, fluorescent lights, and LEDs is typically more disruptive to circadian rhythms, sleep hormone secretion and sleep quality than incandescent lighting. If possible, replace the lightbulbs in your bedroom with incandescent lights, use real books or non-backlit e-readers. If you simply must use your phone or computer, install a blue light filter like F.lux (for your computer) and enable the night settings on your phone (instructions here). These steps can drastically improve your ability to fall asleep on time.

Whatever evening activities you do, make sure to keep most of them out of the bed. Your bed should be reserved for three things only: sleeping, relaxing and making love. If you are doing work on your laptop while sitting in bed, your subconscious will link your bed with a state of wakefulness and attention. This may make it harder to fall asleep.

Try not to eat at least two hours before going to bed, drinking only water after you’ve had your last meal. Late-night snacking is fun, but the action of eating and digestion stimulates the body into a state of wakefulness and can be preventing you from falling asleep.

step 4: The Ultimate Bedtime Routine

Setting up a good bedtime routine means that you will be setting up a sequence of events to repeat each night.

Best practices include putting down all electronics at least 1 hour before going to bed and doing only relaxing activities. Avoid eating anything, but feel free to have some caffeine-free and sugar-free beverages to help you unwind, such as warm milk. Definitely don’t eat dinner without a several hours’ buffer before bedtime.

Here’s a sample routine you could incorporate to help you get your schedule get back into place:

  1. Do 15 minutes of yoga or meditation an hour before your bedtime.
  2. Bring a warm cup of something sugar and caffeine-free while you get set up in bed. Conduct your bedtime activity to help you completely de-stress. This could be reading a book, writing in a journal or writing a to-do list for the next day
  3. As you get sleepy, turn off the lights and calmly try to fall asleep. If you cannot fall asleep within 20-30 minutes, don’t stress. Get back up and continue doing the relaxing activity you were engaged in for a few more minutes until you start feeling sleepy again.

If your sleep schedule is severely disturbed and you are finding it impossible to fall asleep, it may help to incorporate a sleep aid into your routine like melatonin. Melatonin is a naturally-occurring hormone in your body which promotes a sense of sleepiness. It comes in supplement form and can be safely consumed once a day. If you are having trouble sleeping, regularly taking melatonin can help you fall asleep at the time you need.

step 5: A Bright Morning and Waking Up Right

During the first few nights of attempting to fix your sleep cycle, you may find that you’re still having a bit of trouble sleeping. Being strict with your wakeup time and waking up routine can quickly remedy this and help you get on the right track. Having a good wakeup routine can help solidify your cycle.

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When you wake up, have a large and healthy breakfast. Include plenty of protein (at least 20 grams) and complex carbohydrates, and exclude sugar. A good option could be oatmeal with yogurt or eggs with sautéed spinach. This will help your body recognize that it’s time to wake up and give you a sense of energy and readiness to start the day.

Try to get some direct natural sunrays first thing in morning as well. This could be as simple as stepping outside your door or on your balcony for a few moments, or walking part of the way to work. In some countries, the sun rises very late in the day during winter months, and many people are at work before the sun comes out. In that case, you can buy a natural sunlight emitter lamp. These lamps mimic the sun’s wavelength, which your body uses as an indicator that it’s time to start moving. Your body will release hormones that cause the sensation of wakefulness. Boost these feelings of wakefulness by going outside for short breaks during the day, or by using your natural light lamp.

Resetting your sleep schedule isn’t going to be an overnight process. You may struggle over the first couple of days to fall asleep. You might sit awake in bed, unable to fall asleep. You may need to overcome a few minutes of boredom while your mind starts to settle down. Stick to it, and eventually your body will learn from your habits and your cues that it’s time to go to bed. Eventually, you’ll just naturally fall asleep and wake up at the time you intend, feeling completely refreshed. Good luck, and sweet dreams!

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Try These Yoga Poses To Improve Your Sleep

Many of us suffer from poor sleep habits that drain our energy and make us feel sluggish. You may have heard that yoga is an excellent tool to help you achieve a state of relaxation, but did you know that yoga can also help you sleep better? Aside from improving your flexibility and strength, yoga can aid even the most desperately sleepless night owls get some quality rest.

Why Yoga?

The American Sleep Association reports that 50-70 million US adults have a sleep disorder, with close to 40% of US adults falling asleep during the day. Signs that you are sleep deprived include feeling tired during the day, experiencing brain fog at work, or needing to reach for caffeine to stay awake. Then, at the end of the day, the stress and anxiety make it difficult to fall asleep. Read more

What Are the Signs of Sleep Deficiency?

Feeling tired? Ask anyone from high school age and up how they’re feeling, and they’re likely to tell you that they are feeling tired. Perhaps you’ve given that answer yourself when someone asked you how you were feeling.

There are so many responsibilities vying for your time that it can be hard to get enough sleep on any given day. Over time, you can become sleep deprived and experience some negative physical and mental side effects. Suffering from lack of sleep can make it difficult for you to focus on your work, be present at home, or get enjoyment out of life.

Chances are, if you think you’re not getting enough sleep, then you need to make time to rest! Here are some of the most common symptoms of sleep deprivation to warn you when you need to make a change.

Read more

The Most Effective Meditations for Insomnia

Sleep is essential for a healthy life. Sadly, 70 million Americans suffer from sleep problems that prevent them from getting a healthy number of Zs. Sleep loss and sleep disorders like sleep apnea are common health problems, yet 80 to 90 percent of adults with sleep disorders are undiagnosed.

Insomnia, or chronic sleeplessness, has huge, negative effects on health. Loss of sleep leads to poor memory, depressed mood, serious mental stress, and more.

How do we overcome sleeplessness?

A good way to start is by pinpointing the reason you can’t sleep. Most of the time, it’s because you’re extremely stressed and can’t let go of those feelings.

That’s where meditation comes in handy.

Meditation is the practice of finding inner calm and releasing negative feelings. Practicing meditation has been shown to help regulate emotional states, lower anxiety and stress, and decrease the symptoms of depression. (Study)

Meditation helps us regulate the stress in our lives and subsequently. helps us get to a better night of sleep.

How Meditation Helps With Sleep

Meditation not only helps you get more sleep, it also helps you get a deeper sleep with a higher intensity of REM waves.

One study have showed that people who practice mindfulness meditations experienced improved sleep quality and a decrease in the symptoms of insomnia.

Another study showed that meditation was a viable treatment for those who suffered from chronic insomnia, with practitioners experiencing fewer symptoms post-meditation, even months after their initial practice.

How does meditation help you get to dreamland?

One of the ways meditation helps you get to sleep is that it actually increases melatonin levels. Melatonin is an important hormone released by the pineal gland that regulates your sleeping cycle and wakefulness.

Another way that meditation gets you to sleep is by training your relaxation response to work a little faster. Meditation helps you stop let go of things you can’t control. By meditating during the day, you strengthen that response so you can call on it when you need it most.

Stop counting sheep and try meditation instead.

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Meditations for Sleep

Meditation may seem like a daunting task, but in practice, it’s relatively simple. The hardest part comes from trying to clear your mind.

A great meditation to start with is the world-renowned mindfulness leader and meditation guru Deepak Chopra. In the following boost, he leads you to sleep deeper with a simple 12 minute meditation.

For a deeper dive into restful meditations, try this “Rest” meditation series from Thich Nhat Hanh. These meditations will help you find compassion for your body, tune into being completely still, and relax your whole body.

YouTube has a good selection of guided meditations that can you help you sleep as well. Many of them come with calming visuals that gently guide your eyes to sleep. Try this popular meditation below.

If you need something more immediate, you can follow a simple two-step meditation to relax. Simply start by bringing your attention to your breath. Take a deep breath in, hold it for a few seconds, and then breathe out. Do this a few times until you have a controlled, steady pattern of breathing.

When you’re ready, think of a small mantra that can help to ward off stressful thoughts. Repeat the mantra with each inhale and exhale, until you fall asleep.

As we mentioned earlier, meditation is a practice. To really train your relaxation response, try to meditate during the day and not just before sleep.

If you only have a few minutes to spare, this beginner’s meditation will only take 7 minutes of your day.

To reduce stress in your everyday life, and consequently reduce stress before bed, try this another meditation led by Deepak Chopra focusing on stress reduction.

For even better sleep, pair up your meditation practice with these foods or additional methods of falling asleep.

There are many reasons that babies sleep so well but one of the biggest might be because they don’t experience stress the way adults do.

Meditation can help us be kinder to ourselves by letting go of unwarranted, negative thoughts that follow us into the night.

It’s time to try meditation, let go of stress, and sleep like a baby.

5 Breathing Exercises for Better Sleep

5 Breathing Exercises for Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep can be a tough task. In fact, a Gallup study found that 40% of Americans get fewer than the recommended 7 hours of sleep.

Sleep deprivation can lead to numerous physical health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, and more. Additionally, a lack of sleep has detrimental effects on mood, leading you to be more irritable, less productive, and unfocused. Read more

The Definitive Guide to Staying Focused at Work

Distractions are everywhere and seem impossibly hard to ignore, especially when you’re at work. When you can’t finish your projects, the stress piles on. We know that staying focused can be challenging. So what can you do to maintain laser focus? Here’s a definitive guide to staying focused at work. Read more

Skip the New Year’s Resolutions, Change Your Habits Instead!

Each year when New Year’s Eve rolls around many of us get inspired about all of the possibilities that exist in the coming months, and all of things that we’d like to let go of from the previous year. For many of us this thinking often results in resolution setting. The problem is, just like diets, most resolutions fail. Failing is ok, in fact, often our failures produce the most growth for us, however, this may leave us feeling like our year is doomed because we’ve failed this one thing that we’ve set out to do.

Read more

How to Fall Asleep in Under a Minute

Insomnia is a problem that many of us face on a daily, or rather nightly basis. Temporary solutions like sleep masks, ear plugs, and white noise machines can help sometimes, but don’t create lasting change.

Dr. Andrew Weil, a Harvard trained medical doctor with a focus on holistic health, believes getting the best sleep ever is as simple as breathing in and breathing out. He has popularized the 4-7-8 breath that will help you fall a sleep in 60 seconds or less.

So ditch the sheep and try this instead!

Read more

Catching Your Zzz’s Could Inspire Partner’s Pet Peeves!

Recent research shows that couples who sleep together, (and particularly mates that snuggle close) live longer, happier and healthier lives. However, for every study that supports night time cuddling, I can cite one that concludes sharing a bed with your significant other is not only grounds for divorce, but also perhaps a justifiable homicide.

Featured Image: Moyan Brenn // CC 2.0

All kidding aside, maybe these aren’t exactly scientific reports, but my own personal relationship experiences (and surveys with friends),  prove that when the lights go down, the annoyance factor goes up!

Interestingly, much of the irritation has to do with the way your bedfellow breathes. Or doesn’t breathe, as the case may be. And snoring is so obvious a destructive stresser, that I’m omitting that one altogether!

Remember Seinfeld and how he had names for his certain characters with their distinctive ways of speaking like the now famous “Low Talker” and “The High Talker?” This type of labeling happens to translate quite nicely to Folks With Disruptive Sleep Habits. Behold as I bring you my Top Ten.

 

The 10 Most Common (and Bothersome!) Sleeping Companions!

 

  1. The Close Breather: This person won’t be satisfied until their exhalations are steaming up your neck or face like the fogging of a car window on a first date. I can’t think of anything more maddening than hot breath directed on your cheek during an already sweltering midsummer’s night’s dream.
  2. The TurnOver: This individual could get a part time job making Caesar salads in restaurants, they habitually toss so much. Seemingly oblivious to the rocking and rolling of the mattress, they’ll express genuine concern when you startle awake from one of their maneuvers. “What’s the matter – have a bad dream?” To which you should appropriately reply….”Yes, and it was 8.9 on the Richter scale.”
  3. The Erratic Inhaler: It’s normally a tranquil, relaxing experience getting lulled to sleep while listening to someone you adore settle into a regular rhythmic breathing pattern for the night. But try tuning in to the respiration of a lover who breathes in, out, in, out, in, out and then . . . nothing, one, two, three . . . still nothing, four, five six . . . more nothing, seven, eight . . . oh my goodness should I call 911? Then huge gasp!  (A strong recommendation to get checked for sleep apnea if this describes your sheet-mate’s breathing behavior.)
  4. The Flailer Assailer: This bed bully not only thrashes his legs and smashes his arms, but elbows are often the preferred weapon of choice. And don’t expect an apology because they always have a valid reason for giving you what you deserve. And it has to do with #5.
  5. The Vivid Dreamer: Their nightmares put Stephen King to shame and inevitably you’re the featured antagonist in either some gruesome murder scene or else you’re the cad who’s just been unfaithful. It never fails that if you’ve had a recent argument, (especially one that’s gone unresolved) they will conjure up dreams of your affair and you’ll forever hear “you cheated on me!” for weeks to come. “That hussy!”
  6. The Velcro Fellow: You’ve become the human teddy bear in this person’s bedroom fantasy. No position is too uncomfortable for you to be expected to pretzel twist your body into, so they can attach themselves to you for security and comfort. And this isn’t just temporarily while you both serenely drift off after lovemaking. Nope, this is for The. Entire. Night. Think you can ditch ‘em in a vacant corner of a king sized mattress? Think again. You can run, but you cannot hide from “The Velcro Fellow.”
  7. The Grinder Reminder: You’ll never think of grinding as a provocative dance move again after sleeping with someone who gnashes their teeth together all night long. Emitting a sound more painful than fingernails on chalkboards, you’re probably wondering what it could possibly be a reminder for? To buy more ear-plugs, of course.
  8. The Temperature Tantrumer: He or she simply cannot cope with how cold or hot it is in the boudoir and you’re gonna succumb to their blanket-bombing all night long. The quilt is thrown off, no now it’s on, look out now the 15 lb. goose down comforter has been brought out and it’s coming in for a landing!
  9. The Talker Squalker: They jabber incessantly in their sleep (Or maybe they just have attention seeking behavior?) and at first you’ll think you’re getting special insight into their secret thoughts. “There’s too much sand on the beach for a broom. I said use a vacuum!” But amusement and intrigue soon turns to annoyance and finally rage. Be quiet, already!
  10. The “No big dealer” Stealer: Yes, when you awaken the next morning they have all the pillows, the sheets, and possibly even your pajamas on THEIR side of the bed.  And these items were pilfered one at a time in an insidious manner — but are you going to press charges? Of course not. Simply bait the thief with the “this tag may not be removed under penalty of law!” label on your mattress pad and wait for the cops to pick them up instead.

At the end of the day (or evening!) it’s unlikely you’ll ever be able to change your bedmate’s long ingrained bad habits, so it’s best to save your breath and just check out Spire for a much more relaxing night!

 

 

Need More Sleep? Try Mindfulness.

Update July 2015: Want to sleep like a baby again? We have released a free email course on how to optimize your days in order to sleep better at night. Click here to see the learn more and see our lesson plans.

Everyone could use a little more sleep. Sleep is where our bodies recover, cells regenerate, and our minds have time to decompress and process life’s events. But if you are like most of us, you’re probably not getting enough.

The amount of sleep someone needs can differ from person to person, but typically ranges between 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep a night [1]. Yes, a grown person could need nine hours of sleep to operate at their highest capacity. This amount can vary based on the activities performed that day, amount of exercise, alcohol, and more. Even the amount of multitasking a person does can result in the need for more sleep.

If you’re not getting enough sleep, you could be at risk of higher blood pressure, weight gain, loss of focus and self control, increased risk of depression, and more!

With the distractions of today, however, finding the time to get all those hours in and the mental space to fall asleep can be, well, challenging. You’re working late, checking email, watching TV, stressing over family or finance issues, and sometimes, all at the same time. Doing even one of these things too close to bedtime will have your mind racing and keep you from finding restful sleep. As anyone who’s ever tried to force him or herself to sleep may know, you can’t just make yourself sleep. But can can open the space for sleep to happen…and that’s what we will be looking at today.

“People with persistent insomnia also become anxious about sleep. The more anxious they are about sleep, that undermines the ability to sleep well, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.” -David Neubauer, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins Medicine and associate director at the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center in Baltimore, Md[4]. 

Mindfulness can help ease you into that necessary state of mind to fall asleep and rest easy. It takes practice, but with consistency you can find yourself falling asleep easier and staying asleep longer. Not only that, but by practicing mindful breathing and being intentional about your bedtime routine, you will reduce stress and anxiety levels related to difficulty sleeping and lack of sleep. Studies have even shown that mindful breathing and other relaxation techniques can have an effect comparable to sleep medication…but without the side effects [5]! That’s something to get excited about.

Here’s some tips to get started:

  1. Prioritize your sleep. Determine how many hours a night you need to sleep and then set aside time for it. Getting enough sleep is a decision. Yes, cleaning the kitchen and catching up on personal email and watching your favorite show are important. But not near as important as getting enough sleep. Make the decision to put your health first and turn the TV off an hour earlier, delegate washing the dishes or just plain wash them tomorrow. See how much better you feel when you get another hour of sleep? Washing the dishes won’t feel like such a chore and you’ll probably even have more energy left to vacuum. 
  2. Think happy thoughts. Quieting an anxious mind at bedtime can be a stressful task, in and of itself. Start with simply observing your thoughts. Good and bad — what are you thinking about, what does your mind keep shifting back to? Observe without judgment or agenda. After you’ve given yourself a few moments of observation, start shifting your focus toward things that make you feel happy and safe, loved and complete. If anxious thoughts enter your mind, acknowledge them, and then gently send them away.
  3. Focus on the breath. Yes, it’s back to the breath. The breath is always available to you. Start taking long slow inhales for five seconds, holding it there for three seconds, and then exhale for five more counts. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. Do this about five times, focusing only on the breath. If the mind starts to wander, not a big deal. Just gently guide your thoughts back to your breath. Slowly, your mind and body will start to feel more at ease and you’ll be on your way to more peaceful sleep.

Sweet dreams!


Resources:

[1] http://www.helpguide.org/life/sleeping.htm

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16624497

[3] http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sleepless-in-america/201401/mindful-sleep

[4] http://www.everydayhealth.com/sleep/falling-asleep-with-anxiety.aspx

[5] http://ucsdcfm.wordpress.com/2011/06/09/got-sleep-if-not-choose-mindfulness/

Photo Credits:

Umberto Salvagnin