- 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.
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:
- Do 15 minutes of yoga or meditation an hour before your bedtime.
- 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
- 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.
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!