Lots of things can affect your sleep schedule: changes in daily schedules, more or less physical activity during wakeful hours, health changes or medical conditions—the list can go on and on. Conversely, you may be someone who has always struggled to turn in “on time” or get out of bed when the alarm goes off.
Learning why sleep schedules change—and what we can do to right them—is the key to getting into a healthy sleep routine.
Circadian Rhythm & Sleep Schedule Problems
Our bodies have an internal clock, the circadian rhythm.i Our circadian rhythm regulates several of our bodies’ functions, including the sleep cycle.ii There are two primary ways the circadian rhythm is set and reset:iii
- Environmental light
- Internal memory (our genetics)
This means that while the mind and body may both be tired, the light around us—from the TV or the phone, for example—is keeping us awake. Resetting our internal clocks is what we’re trying to do when we set out to fix our sleep schedules.
How to Practice Sleep Hygiene
To fix your sleep schedule, you’ll want to start practicing good sleep habits—what’s called sleep hygiene.iv Practicing sleep hygiene is a great way to reset your internal clock and fix your sleep schedule. Try following these steps toward a better night’s sleep:v
- Set—and stick to—a sleep schedule. Bedtime may seem like the domain of little ones, but it’s important to have a set bedtime (and wake time) to fix your sleep schedule for the long term.
- Keep your bedroom dark. Don’t get into bed and turn on a TV or use your phone—your body will think it’s time to be awake. Darkness is important. Consider investing in light-limiting window treatments, too.
- Keep your bedroom quiet. Aside from a white-noise machine, keep noises to a minimum as much as possible. Silence your phone and don’t leave on the TV or music.
- Limit naps. Naps that are too long can slip you into deep sleep. Keep naps between 20 and 30 minutes.vi
- Keep a cap on caffeine use. Try avoiding caffeine in the six hours before your scheduled bedtime.vii
- Exercise during the day. Getting physical activity can help the body feel tired when it’s time for bed.
With these tips for how to fix your sleep schedule in your arsenal, you can be well on your way to a good night’s sleep sooner than you think.
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i Understanding your body’s internal clock—or circadian rhythm—is the first step to better sleep. Sleep.org. https://www.sleep.org/articles/circadian-rhythm-body-clock/. Accessed May 1, 2020. Referenced text is highlighted on page 1 in source PDF.
ii 11 Easy Tips to Help You Reset (Fix) Your Sleep Schedule Today. Sleep Advisor. https://www.sleepadvisor.org/how-to-fix-sleep-schedule/. Accessed May 1, 2020. Referenced text is highlighted on page 2 in source PDF.
iv Tips for Better Sleep. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/sleep_hygiene.html. Accessed May 1, 2020. Referenced text is highlighted on page 1 in source PDF.
vi 11 Easy Tips to Help You Reset (Fix) Your Sleep Schedule Today. Sleep Advisor. https://www.sleepadvisor.org/how-to-fix-sleep-schedule/. Accessed May 1, 2020. Referenced text is highlighted on page 8 in source PDF.