Have you ever woken up for work after time off and really wished you could stay in bed? This is likely due to the fact that you strayed from your sleep schedule. But what do you do when your sleep schedule is out of sync? Can we really reset our sleep schedule?
The simple answer is yes. Resetting your sleep schedule is possible, but you won’t fix it in one night.
The first step to reset your sleep schedule is understanding what a sleep schedule is.
What is a sleep schedule?
Simply put, a sleep schedule is when you go to bed and when you wake up. What makes this a schedule, is sticking to these times, every day of the week - even on your days off.
As children, we are ruled by sleep schedules. Parents tell us when to go to bed and alarms wake us up in the morning. But as adults, no one tells us just how important it is to continue doing this.
Common sleep schedule disruptors
Being an adult isn’t always easy and it’s not unusual for our sleep schedules to be disrupted from time to time. Knowing what disrupts your schedule and planning ahead can reduce the impact it has on your sleep.
The key disruptors are:
- Shift work
- Social plans
Going on holiday to a different country means a new time zone. Preparing for the change in time zone beforehand is a great way to avoid Jetlag and keep your sleep schedule on track.
If it’s nighttime at your holiday destination, try sleeping on the plane - but stay awake if it’s daytime.
Shift work goes against our bodies natural sleep schedule, the circadian rhythm. We naturally become tired when it’s dark outside, but when you’re working night shifts, you need to train your body to sleep during the day and wake at night.
The easiest way to do this is to stick to a strict sleep schedule, even on your days off. This means sleeping through the day and being awake at night, even when you aren't working.
If you’re a social person, it’s likely that your sleep schedule will be disrupted by your plans, like a night out with friends or attending a concert.
To stop this disrupting your sleep schedule, try waking at the same time the morning after, even if you’ve gone to bed later than normal. While you may feel tired earlier, try to stay awake until your usual sleep time and your body will naturally fall back into your normal sleep schedule.
As a rule of thumb, we should avoid caffeine after midday. If you can’t live without your afternoon caffeine hit, try to limit the amount of caffeine you have in the afternoon to one cup and avoid any caffeine near bedtime.
6 top tips to reset your sleep schedule
If your sleep schedule is off-kilter, try these six easy ways to help get it back on track.
1. Adjust the sleep and wake times of your current sleep schedule
This is one of the easiest ways to reset your sleep schedule, but it does take time. If you want to go to bed earlier, bring your sleep time forward half an hour at a time. Once your body is used to sleeping at that earlier time, bring it forward by another half an hour, until you reach your desired sleep time.
Whether you want to go to sleep earlier or wake up later, always change your sleep schedule in thirty-minute increments - this makes the change easier on your body and means you're more likely to continue with this new sleep schedule.
2. Plan your exposure to light
Exposure to natural light suppresses melatonin, the sleep hormone, helping you to feel more awake. To help your internal body clock recognise day and night, try to expose yourself to natural daylight first thing in the morning.
Open your curtains, go for a morning walk or simply sit outside before work. In the evening, try dimming bright lights and avoid using electronic devices with bright screens. When we limit light exposure, melatonin is produced, helping to make you feel tired and ready for bed.
3. Avoid napping during the day
When your sleep schedule is out of whack, we know how hard it is to say no to that sneaky afternoon nap. The bad news is, that afternoon nap will actually disrupt your sleep schedule even further.
As a rule of thumb, we should avoid napping during the day. However, if you must nap, aim for less than 30 minutes and make sure it’s before 3 pm.
4. Exercise earlier in the day
We know that regular exercise can help you sleep better, but exercising at the right time is also key. Evening exercise can overstimulate your body, making it harder to fall asleep.
If you do prefer to exercise in the evening, do this at least two hours before bed. This gives your body time to wind down and your heart rate to decrease ready for sleep.
5. Eat your last meal earlier
Much like exercising, eating at the right time can help you sleep better, it’s best to eat your last meal at least three hours before bed. It also helps to know what type of food can help you sleep better, we can help with that too.
6. Create the right sleep environment
Last, but definitely not least. Creating the perfect sleeping environment is one of the most important ways to improve your sleep. This isn’t just about having a comfortable bed, it’s about making your bedroom a disruption-free zone.
- Your bedroom should be no warmer than 18 degrees
- Keep light out with blackout blinds/curtains
- Use a diffuser to add soothing smells, like lavender
- Keep bedroom noise to a minimum
- Leave your phone in a different room - or turn it on silent
- Have a comfortable mattress and good, supportive pillows
Where to go for extra help with your sleep schedule
We know a lot about sleep, but we aren’t medical professionals. It’s always best to speak with someone if you continue struggling to get a good night’s sleep. Try speaking with your GP about the different therapies and treatments available to you.
More tips to improve your sleep
These are just a handful of ways that you can start sleeping better. For more ways to get the best night’s sleep, try out some of the tips below:
- Natural remedies like chamomile tea and warm milk
- Practice meditation to calm your mind before bed
- Look at CBD oil and how it can help you sleep
Now you know that resetting your sleep schedule is possible, you can take back control of your sleep and start sleeping better.