There are only so many hours in the day. Between jobs, social lives, and family duties, something’s gotta give — and often, that something is sleep. If your body clock has been disrupted and you’re looking to reset your sleep schedule, we’re here to help.
Here’s why you might be having trouble getting to Dreamland and how to get things back on track.
11 tips to reset your sleep schedule
- Get to know your sleep cycle.
- Find out what’s disrupting your sleep.
- Get into good habits.
- Create the perfect sleeping space.
- Don’t get caught napping.
- Exercise during the day.
- Avoid eating before bed.
- Limit your pre-sleep screen time.
- Plan ahead for sleep disruptions.
- Address your stress.
- Try a melatonin supplement.
There are plenty of potential bumps on the road toward a restful night’s sleep. You might end up needing to reset your sleep schedule after:
- working a job with irregular shift patterns
- experiencing jet lag from travel
- welcoming a new baby into your family
- dealing with stress, anxiety, or depression
- relying on caffeine or energy drinks for too long
- going to lots of late night events over a long period
- being exposed to too much artificial light
If you’re feeling the need to fix your sleep pattern and get that body clock ticking more efficiently, you’ll want to start right away. Here are 11 things you can start doing right now to reset your routine and enjoy deeper, healthier sleep.
1. Get to know your sleep cycle
Getting your head around the mechanics of sleep makes it easier to develop more healthy nocturnal habits. Sleep is regulated by your circadian rhythm. That’s your internal body clock, which helps you adapt to changes in your external environment.
When this rhythm gets disrupted, you lose out on sleep, and that can impact your overall health.
Adults generally need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. During this period, your brain carries out a series of cycles, each lasting 90 to 110 minutes.
Each cycle is made up of four phases:
- very light onset sleep
- light sleep
- deep non-rapid eye movement (REM) sleep
- deep REM sleep
You dream during that final REM phase. Some people will partially wake up after phase four and start the process again. Deeper sleepers will cycle through the third and fourth phases all night.
Maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm means giving your body the best possible chance to go through four or five of those cycles each night.
2. Find out what’s disrupting your sleep
Maybe something obvious — like jet lag or late night parties — is shaking up your sleep schedule. But it’s not always so easy to pinpoint why your sleep pattern seems to be drifting.
If you can’t immediately figure out the cause of your sleep issues, investigate. Check your environment and think about how your day-to-day behavior might have changed recently. Don’t start making changes until you know what you’re trying to fix.
3. Get into good habits
Fixing your sleep schedule is all about consistency. If you’re trying to undo serious disruption, it won’t happen overnight. Make sure you stick to a regular bedtime and set your alarm for the same time each morning. (Yes, that means weekends too.)
Like many other habit-forming activities, keeping a sleep diary can reinforce positive routines and help with accountability. Record the things you do in the hour or two before bed. It’ll help you spot patterns and change them, if needed.
4. Create the perfect sleeping space
A good sleeping environment is about more than just clean sheets. The space where you rest should be cool and dark. That’s because your body slows down when you sleep, and your body temperature becomes a degree or two cooler than it is in your waking hours.
A well-ventilated bedroom helps even out your internal and external temperatures, which is helpful for your circadian rhythm.
Also, because exposure to light makes your body think it’s time to wake up, you may want to get some blackout curtains or wear a sleeping mask.
5. Don’t get caught napping
If you’re trying to fix your sleep pattern, you might feel fatigued throughout the day. The temptation to nap can be strong, but it could prolong the problem. Napping is like hitting your sleep schedule with even more irregular snoozes. (Not a good fix.)
Avoid napping during the day. If you absolutely have to, keep naps to less than 30 minutes and no later than midafternoon.
6. Exercise during the day
Research suggests that regular exercise contributes to a better night’s sleep. If you do that exercise outdoors, you also benefit from daytime exposure to the sun.
That combo is great for fixing sleep patterns. Your body expects to take in sunlight during the day, and if you give your body what it expects, it’ll reward you with a more consistent internal clock.
But the timing of your workouts is important too. Try not to exercise too soon before you go to bed. Your body needs time to relax and cool down after a sweat sesh.
7. Avoid eating before bed
Eating and drinking too close to bedtime — particularly if alcohol is involved — isn’t the best idea if you want a good night’s sleep.
Since your body operates more slowly while you sleep, it’ll have some trouble processing all that food and drink. Gas and indigestion can really mess with your slumber.
What’s the big deal about booze? Alcohol causes shallower, lower-quality sleep, so it won’t be much help if you’re trying to fix your schedule.
8. Limit your pre-sleep screen time
Your smartphone and other devices give off blue light, and your body can mistake that frequency for sunlight. This makes it harder to go to sleep because your internal clock thinks it’s daytime.
Limiting your use of devices for at least an hour or two before you head off to bed can help regulate your sleep schedule naturally.
9. Plan ahead for sleep disruptions
If you know you’re going to experience disturbances to your sleep pattern, don’t sit back and wait for them to happen. For example, if you know you’ve got a trip coming up that will cause jet lag, try going to bed an hour earlier (or later) each night to ease yourself into the new temporary pattern.
Changing your sleep routine this way will be more gentle on your body than going right from one extreme to another.
10. Address your stress
You probably know by now how strongly your mental health can affect your physical well-being.
If you’re experiencing stress, anxiety, depression, or any similar mental health blip, that can impact your sleep pattern. Addressing the root causes of these issues can help promote a better nighttime routine.
11. Try a melatonin supplement
While you sleep, your brain releases a hormone called melatonin. This hormone is also available in supplements, and taking these can help remind your brain that it’s time to drift off.
If you’re taking any medications and you’d like to try a melatonin supplement, talk with a healthcare professional first to make sure the two will play nicely together.
Drowsiness, headaches, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue are all rare but possible side effects of melatonin. If you experience these after trying a supplement, melatonin might not be the best option for you.
The human mind is, well, mind-boggling. Here are our answers to some of the most common questions about fixing or resetting your sleep schedule.
How long will it take to fix your sleep schedule?
This depends on how disrupted your schedule already is. If you’re only trying to move your sleep window an hour or two in either direction, you may be able to do it overnight without much of an issue. More serious or long-term sleep schedule changes will take more time.
Can pulling an all-nighter fix your sleep schedule?
No. Like napping, pulling an all-nighter will just hit your body with more disruption. Forcing yourself to go a long period without sleeping can cause ongoing problems as your circadian rhythm struggles to catch up.
How do you fix your sleep schedule ASAP?
There aren’t any quick fixes for seriously disrupted sleep patterns. Start making changes as soon as you realize there’s a problem, and be disciplined in enforcing positive new habits.
By moving your sleep window an hour or two each night, you can restore your body clock as quickly as possible.
What’s the best time to go to sleep and wake up?
Try to match your bedtime and your wakeup alarm to the setting and rising of the sun, if possible. Of course, modern life doesn’t always allow for that, but do your best to get into a natural pattern.
Listen to your body and try to get your 7 to 9 hours every night.
Do our sleep patterns change as we get older?
Yes. Research shows that lower-quality sleep is one of the signs of aging. Your sleep schedule will naturally change as you get older, and you might need to put more effort into getting a good night’s rest.
A healthcare professional can help you find solutions based on your age and lifestyle.
Modern life can sometimes mess with your natural rhythms. Sleep is vital to how your body functions day to day, so it’s important to respect your rest time. By paying close attention to your environment and nighttime behaviors, you can get your sleep schedule back on track.