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How to Fix Your Sleep Schedule: A Comprehensive Guide

How to Fix Your Sleep Schedule

If there’s one thing that will help improve your health and well-being, it’s a good night’s sleep and consistent sleep schedule. It’s super important to get enough sleep, as this helps to relax both your body and your brain as well as to heal any ailments and leave you refreshed and ready to take on that day. A disrupted sleep pattern, on the other hand, will leave you feeling irritable, tired, stressed and at risk of illness. In this article, we’ll aim to help you fix your sleep schedule and get back on track so you can rest well, feel better, and enjoy sleep that really works for you.

Understanding Your Natural Sleep Cycle

Everybody has a natural sleep cycle, and while they all differ slightly they do have plenty in common too! For example, let’s talk about circadian rhythms. These are essential 24-hour cycles within the body that help to regulate various physiological and behavioural processes within humans (and other animals). This includes the sleep-wake cycle; the circadian rhythm influences the timing of when you fall asleep, how long the different stages of sleep last, and what time you wake up. Your body’s internal clock is there to release certain hormones, and these will promote wakefulness during the day as well as initiating sleep at night. When your circadian rhythm is disrupted, this leads to you not being able to fall asleep. Babies, for example, do not have a developed circadian rhythm: this is why they don’t sleep all through the night and stay awake all day. Their bodies just haven’t told them to yet!

Another part of your natural sleep cycle is the production of melatonin. This is a hormone which is produced by your pineal gland as a response to being in darkness – on the other hand, it is suppressed (or not produced) when you are exposed to light/brightness. Of course, this hormone plays a vital part in regulating your sleep-wake cycle as well as promoting sleep! It also helps to regulate your circadian rhythm, so the two work in tandem to ensure a better night’s sleep. Melatonin supplements are often used for insomnia or jet lag, to artificially increase the levels of the hormone and help you sleep.

Identifying the Causes of Sleep Disruption

Do you find your sleep is disrupted? This means waking up throughout the night, or really struggling to drift off in the first place. There are plenty of common factors and lifestyle choices that can lead to this. These are just some of them:

  • Feeling really stressed
  • Too much screen time
  • Consuming a large amount of caffeine
  • Being in physical pain
  • Having a lack of routine

The way you live your life can really impact how well you sleep – the choices you make always have consequences. For example, if you choose to eat a heavy meal at night then you might struggle to sleep while your body is working to digest the food. Similarly, if you lie in bed scrolling through TikTok and Instagram, the blue light from your phone will disrupt both your circadian rhythm and the production of melatonin – of course, causing you to struggle to fall asleep!

How can you Prepare Your Environment for Better Sleep?

One thing that’s really important is creating an environment that is actually sleep-conducive. This means having a bedroom that helps you fall asleep, rather than an overstimulating space that will keep you awake at night. So what does this mean? Turn off the big light, for example, and opt for low lighting in the room in the lead up to bedtime – and put your phone down for a change! Make sure the temperature in the room isn’t too hot or too cold, and try to block out noise where you can.

Secondly, make sure your bed is comfortable! Opt for a mattress that really works for you; do you want something soft or firm, and would a cooling mattress help you fall asleep a little easier? Pillows are important too. You need something that properly supports your neck, shoulders and spine, so it’s worth investing in something that has good reviews and top quality materials. Choose bedding that feels soft on the skin, and a duvet that is the right tog for your sleep preferences.

Establishing a Pre-Sleep Routine

Bedtime should be about total calm and relaxation – switch your brain off, and you’ll be in a much better place to be able to fall asleep nicely. There are plenty of things you can add to your pre-sleep routine to help you establish the level of relaxation needed! It’s all about finding what works for you; do you like a warm bath before bed, or would you prefer to do some yoga? You might like to have a nice green tea, or do a bit of meditation. Essentially you want to try and keep the same routine each night, as this alerts your brain to the fact that it’s time to go to sleep.

As mentioned above, screen time has a big impact on sleep. Everything on your phone or tablet is stimulating in some way – entertaining, interesting, irritating… it’s all something that keeps your brain working. This is basically the opposite of what you want when you’re trying to drift off. Opt for alternatives like reading a physical book or magazine, trying mindfulness, colouring in or crocheting. These are just a few examples!

Adjusting Your Sleep Schedule Gradually

It’s easier said than done, and if you work in a job that requires you to do night shifts then it can be really tough, but adjusting your sleep schedule to something that resembles a proper routine is very important. For the most basic advice, try to sleep when it’s dark and be awake when it’s light out. If you currently don’t go to bed until 2am despite needing to be up at 8am, then try to go to sleep a little bit earlier each night until you’re hitting a time that will result in a solid 8 hours. Be patient, and be consistent – if you’re used to staying up late, then you probably won’t fall asleep the first time you go to bed at 9pm. However, by trying to go to bed at a reasonable time each night you’ll be training your body to adopt a proper (and better!) sleep pattern.

What Role do Diet and Exercise Play in Sleep Regulation?

There are particular foods and drinks you should try to avoid before bedtime; these include alcoholic beverages, sugary foods, drinks high in caffeine, heavy meals, spicy or acidic foods, and very fatty meat. You need to have fully digested all of your food before you go to bed, and avoid anything that will keep you awake.

Regular exercise can help to improve your sleep quality, too. It’s a good idea to try some gentle exercise around 90 minutes to two hours before you go to bed – and here’s why! Exercise will increase your core body temperature while you’re doing it, signalling that you’re awake, and then afterwards that temperature will drop. And this drop will let your body know that it’s time for bed. It really is very clever!

Managing Stress for Better Sleep

As you might have guessed, stress really doesn’t help when it comes to achieving better sleep. Managing your stress levels will genuinely help to improve your chance at a good night’s sleep, and there are a few ways to do this. Try some deep breathing exercises, practice gratitude, engage in meditation. Talk to your friends and family, journal your feelings, and do what you enjoy – paint your nails, snuggle up with your puppy, bake some warm cookies.

Mental health and sleep impact each other – poor mental health can lead to poor sleep, and vice versa. When we’re tired, everything seems a little bit worse: we worry more, we feel sad, we feel like we can’t control things. And when we feel like this, it can lead to us just lying awake at night unable to drift off.

Maintaining Your New Sleep Schedule

Once you’ve got your sleep schedule sorted, it is really important to stick to it! You should regularly evaluate how well you’re sleeping, and see if you can improve things in any manner. Do you need to go to bed earlier? Do you want to invest in a more comfortable mattress? Is it worth getting blackout blinds for your room? These are questions to consider.

Sticking to your sleep schedule might not always come naturally to you. But it’s worth reminding yourself why you’re doing it, and celebrating a good night’s sleep! Weekends (and holidays) might tempt you to break from routine, but again it’s so important to think about why you wanted to improve it in the first place. Is one late night worth undoing the hard work you’ve put in?

Fixing Your Sleep Schedule

Hopefully you’ve come across some tips for fixing your own sleep schedule – it really is so important to do whatever you can to help you sleep better, in order to improve your physical and mental health. You’ll be so much happier and healthier if you’re sleeping well! From sticking to a consistent bedtime routine to thinking about what you eat in the lead up to bedtime and really getting to know your own sleep cycle, there are so many ways to fix your sleeping schedule.