How to get sleeping schedule back on track: How to Fix Your Sleep Schedule
How to Fix Your Sleep Schedule
First step to fix your sleep: Get your body clock back on track.
By Kristen StewartMedically Reviewed by Chester Wu, MD
Yes, you can retrain your body to want to go to bed and wake up earlier.Jodie Johnson/Stocksy
There’s a reason we tend to feel sleepy around the same time each night — and why, if we don’t set an alarm, we tend to wake up at the same time in the mornings. As long as we’re not pulling all-nighters or traveling across several time zones, our bodies tend to want to follow consistent sleep patterns, which is key for getting the high-quality sleep we need.
Our sleep schedules do vary from person to person, depending in large part on the environmental cues we give our bodies — when we set our alarms, when we are most active during the day, when we eat, and when we let ourselves hit the hay.
And because our sleep schedules depend on the signals we send our bodies (“It’s not time to go to bed yet — there’s another episode of [insert whatever show you’re currently bingeing here] queued up!”), that means we can send our bodies signals to adjust our sleep schedules, too. Just because you’re in a rut of going to bed at 2 a.m. doesn’t mean you can’t change that!
If you do want to get your sleep schedule back on track, you’re going to need to reset your body clock. Our body clocks regulate our bodies’ circadian rhythms, the patterns of physical, mental, and behavioral changes, including sleep patterns, regulated by body temperature, hormone secretion, and external factors like light and darkness.
Our body’s master clock is located in a part of the brain’s hypothalamus called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which receives light information from the retina in the eye and sends the information to other parts of the brain, including the gland that releases the sleep-signaling hormone melatonin, says Rochelle Zozula, PhD, a sleep specialist and owner of Sleep Services International in Bridgewater, New Jersey. “Light suppresses that production of melatonin, which is directly involved in sleep initiation,” she says.
That means the light signals you send your brain, whether from sunlight or a glowing computer and cell phone screens, are some of the key factors that can either keep your sleep schedule on track, get it back on track, or throw it off significantly.
Why Our Sleep Schedules Get Off Track
Because our body clocks, which control our sleep schedules, are sensitive to light, things like how much sunlight we’re exposed to throughout the day and what types of light we’re exposed to at night affect our sleep schedules.
Additionally, things like traveling across time zones or staying up a lot later than usual can throw off sleep patterns, because we’re asking our bodies to sleep at different times than our bodies’ internal clocks are telling us to sleep.
Similarly, people who do rotating shift work, such as overnight workers or truck drivers — who aren’t able to stick to a consistent sleep schedule — tend to have difficulty with sleep because their body clocks run on a different schedule than they’re allowing their bodies to follow.
It’s problematic, not only because having a misaligned body clock and sleep schedule on a day-to-day basis can result in poor sleep quality (and you not getting the sleep you need), but over time, that misalignment has been found to be linked to several chronic health problems, such as sleep disorders, obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder, among others.
Having a severely misaligned body clock and sleep schedule is itself considered a sleep disorder. About 1 percent of adults have advanced sleep phase disorder, meaning they go to bed early, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and wake up early, between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.
Others, especially younger people, may experience the opposite: delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS), or going to bed extremely late and waking up late. It’s estimated to affect as many as 15 percent of teenagers.
“DSPS is a circadian rhythm disorder associated with an inability to fall asleep at the individual’s desired time [typically several hours later] and an inability to wake up at the desired time,” says Dr. Zozula. “Due to the individual’s daytime obligations, a person with DSPS may be forced to wake up earlier and go against their natural circadian tendency.” This can lead to chronic sleep deprivation, poor performance, and depression.
Tips for Resetting Your Sleep Schedule
If you have fallen into a sleep schedule that’s not working for you, because you’re having trouble getting up in the morning, staying up later than you want, or whatever the case, what can you do? Try taking these steps to get your sleep patterns on the track that works for you:
- Adjust your bedtime, but be patient. If you’re aiming to go to sleep earlier, try slowly scaling back your bedtime until you are at the desired hour. Often you may need help from a physician with this. “As a general rule, it’s easier to push away sleep than to advance sleep,” says Rafael Pelayo, MD, clinical professor at the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and the Stanford University School of Medicine in California. “So you could stay up later an hour at a time, but going to bed earlier is hard to do.” To get to sleep earlier, Dr. Pelayo recommends going slowly and in small increments, adjusting no more than 15 minutes earlier every two or three days.
- Do not nap, even if you feel tired. Napping can interfere with going to sleep at night. Pelayo recommends scheduling exercise when you feel like napping. “The exercise will chase away the sleepiness. Then you can save up that drive to sleep for later,” he says.
- Do not sleep in, and get up at the same time each day. Being consistent is important in maintaining a functioning sleep schedule. Get a good alarm clock and don’t hit snooze. “The clock in your head needs instructions,” says Pelayo. The brain expects that people more or less wake up at the same time every day — and either doing so or not serves up those instructions to the brain. “The idea of weekends or travel across time zones is foreign to how the brain works. That’s what throws it off,” he says. Once you’re in a good pattern when it comes to bed and wake times, stick to it as best you can. Even one late night can disrupt the progress you’ve made, Pelayo says. Predictability is key.
- Avoid exposure to light before sleep. Research shows that exposure to evening light can shift your body clock to a later schedule.Remember: Light sends signals to the brain that it’s time to be awake. If you’re trying to go to sleep earlier, avoid bright and outdoor light close to bedtime (that includes light from cell phone, laptop, and TV screens) and keep your surroundings dim at night.
- Avoid exercising too close to bedtime. While staying active during the day generally promotes good sleep, a workout too close to bedtime can help keep the brain and body on (by upping heart rate and body temperature) and make it tougher to sleep.Some research suggests that evening workouts can improve sleep, as long as you aren’t exercising within an hour before bedtime, but it depends somewhat on the individual and how your body responds to exercise.If you are going to exercise later in the day, consider choosing low- or moderate-intensity workouts, which will be less stimulating; and be sure to incorporate a cool down at the end of your workout.
- Watch what you eat close to bedtime. Try to avoid snacks packed with sugar, which could cause a sugar spike, as well as caffeine and nicotine, both of which are stimulants. Spicy, acidic foods may also cause heartburn or acid reflux.If you’re feeling peckish, you can reach for a light snack like tart cherries or kiwis, both of which have been shown to promote sleep.
- Set the mood and create a relaxing bedtime routine. Take a warm bath and play some relaxing music, or do something else you find relaxing. Make sure that your bed is comfortable, the room is dark, and the temperature is not too warm. “You want to look forward to sleeping. Going to sleep should not be a chore,” adds Pelayo.
- Use sunlight to your advantage. Exposure to sunlight (or other bright light) when you wake up helps tell your body that it’s time to be awake and helps set your circadian rhythm for the whole day, so that your body indeed feels sleepy when it’s time to go to bed.Exposure to natural sunlight is ideal, but if there’s no sun or you can’t get outside, there are special indoor lights to help.
- Schedule a visit with your healthcare provider. If your sleep schedule is interfering with job and other responsibilities, if the above strategies don’t work, or if you’re struggling with sleep in any way, tell your doctor. Sleep affects our functioning and our health now, as well as our long-term health. Chronically not getting good sleep can do a lot of damage, and there are healthcare providers out there who can help. If your primary care provider does not have expertise in sleep, they can refer you to a sleep specialist who can help.
How long it will likely take to reset your clock depends on what’s causing you to be off. If you’re simply adjusting after being in a different time zone, “the rule of thumb is that it usually takes one day per time zone,” Pelayo says. “But some people take two weeks to adjust if it’s a really long trip.”
For people with a condition like DSPS, getting back on track depends on how long the pattern has been entrenched. “We tell people to wait one or two months,” says Pelayo. “If people have had poor sleep for years, they’re surprised when they start getting better. And when you’re surprised about your sleep getting better, that wakes you up, because you’re not sure it’s going to keep working. It takes maybe two months for the novelty of sleeping well to wear off.”
Changing your sleep schedule (particularly if you have delayed sleep phase syndrome) isn’t easy, but with the proper discipline it can be done. “Don’t get upset with yourself, because it just makes the problem worse,” Pelayo says. “Know that sleep will come eventually.”
With additional reporting by Deb Shapiro and Carmen Chai.
Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking
- What Is the Sleep-Wake Cycle? Sleep.org. March 12, 2021.
- Circadian Rhythms. National Institute of General Medical Sciences. September 9, 2021.
- What Is Shift Work? Sleep Foundation. October 16, 2020.
- Sleep Disorders. Sleep Foundation. December 1, 2020.
- Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase Disorder (DSWPD) in Children and Adolescents. Cleveland Clinic. January 20, 2020.
- Burgess HJ, Molina TA. Home Lighting Before Usual Bedtime Impacts Circadian Timing: A Field Study. Photochemistry and Photobiology. January 19, 2014.
- Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. August 13, 2019.
- Myllymäki T, Kyröläinen H, Savolainen K, et al. Effects of Vigorous Late-Night Exercise on Sleep Quality and Cardiac Autonomic Activity. Journal of Sleep Research. March 2011.
- Stutz J, Eiholzer R, Spengler C. Effects of Evening Exercise on Sleep in Healthy Participants: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine. February 2019.
- Healthy Bedtime Snacks to Eat Before Sleep. Sleep Foundation. October 1, 2021.
- Does a Bad Night’s Sleep Affect Your Health? Cleveland Clinic. October 28, 2021.
- How the Timing of Light Exposure Could Be Affecting Your Health. Michigan Health. August 6, 2020.
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How to Fix Your Sleep Schedule: 12 Tips
Throughout the day, your internal clock rotates between sleep and wakefulness. This 24-hour sleep-wake cycle is known as our circadian rhythm.
Your internal clock is located in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. It responds to external cues that tell your body it’s time to go to bed.
Sometimes, your circadian rhythm can get thrown off due to:
- shift work
- jet lag
- traveling across time zones
Luckily, there are things you can do to improve sleep hygiene and reset your internal clock.
Here are 12 ways to work your way back to a good night’s sleep.
One of the best ways to fix your sleep schedule is to plan your exposure to light.
When you’re exposed to light, your brain stops producing melatonin, the sleep hormone. This makes you feel awake and alert.
Darkness tells your brain to make more melatonin, so you feel drowsy.
In the morning, exposing yourself to light can help you wake up. Try opening the curtains, taking a walk, or relaxing on the porch.
At night, prime yourself for sleep by turning off or dimming bright lights. You should also avoid glowing electronic screens from computers, smartphones, or television, as they can stimulate your brain for several hours.
Making time for relaxation might help you sleep better.
When you’re stressed or anxious, your body produces more cortisol, the stress hormone. The higher the cortisol, the more awake you feel.
Creating a relaxing bedtime ritual may reduce stress and its negative effects on sleep.
Focus on calming activities, such as:
- deep breathing
- drinking caffeine-free tea
If your sleep schedule is out of whack, avoid naps during the day. Napping can make it difficult to go back to sleep at night.
Long naps might also cause grogginess, which is the result of waking up from deep sleep.
If you must nap, aim for less than 30 minutes. It’s also best to nap before 3 p.m. so your nighttime sleep isn’t disrupted.
One way to reset your internal clock is getregular exercise.
Most of your tissues — including skeletal muscle — are linked to your biological clock. So, when you work out, muscle responds by aligning your circadian rhythm.
Exercise also helps you sleep better by promoting melatonin production.
Thirty minutes of moderate aerobic exercise may improve your sleep quality that same night. However, you’ll get the best results if you exercise regularly. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity at least five times a week.
Keep in mind that evening exercise can overstimulate your body. If you want to exercise at night, do it at least one to two hours before bedtime.
A quiet sleeping environment is a must for a good night’s rest.
Your brain continues to process sounds, even as you snooze. Loud, distracting noises can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.
To remove loud noises, keep your television out of the bedroom and turn it off before bedtime. Turn off your cell phone or use the “silent” setting.
If you live in a noisy neighborhood, white noise can help you get quality sleep.
White noise is a soothing, steady sound that masks environmental noise. You can create white noise by using a:
- air conditioner
- air purifier
- white noise machine
You can also wear ear plugs to block outside sounds.
Just before bedtime, your body temperature drops to prepare for sleep.
A cool bedroom temperature — between 60 and 67°F (15 to 19°C) — will help you feel comfortable and doze off.
One 2012 study from the National Institutes of Health found that the temperature of the room where you sleep is one of the most important factors in achieving quality sleep.
Anything below 54°F (12°C) or higher than 75°F (24°C) might disrupt your slumber, so be sure to adjust your thermostat.
You can also use an air conditioner or fan during warmer weather, or a space heater during cold weather. These offer the extra benefit of creating white noise.
A comfortable bed is the best sleeping environment for a good night’s rest.
Old mattresses and pillows can cause aches and pains, making it difficult to get quality sleep.
Generally, experts suggest replacing your mattresses every 10 years and pillows every two years.
You should also get a new mattress or pillow if you wake up feeling stiff, or if you feel more comfortable sleeping on a bed away from home.
The firmness of your mattresses and pillows is up to you. But if your mattress is saggy and your pillows are lumpy, it’s time for a replacement.
Want suggestions? Browse our market, filled with editor-trusted and expert-verified pillow and mattress recommendations.
Your circadian rhythm also responds to your eating habits.
A late dinner can delay sleep, so eat your last meal two to three hours before bed. This will give your body enough time to digest the meal.
Eating dinner around the same time each day will also get your body used to a routine.
It matters what you eat, too. Heavy, high-fat meals might disrupt sleep because they take a while to digest.
If you’re hungry, eat a light snack. The best foods for sleep include a combination of carbs and protein, such as wheat toast and almond butter.
Avoid caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, or energy drinks. As a stimulant, caffeine takes several hours to wear off, so have your last cup before mid-afternoon.
It’s also best to skip alcohol before bed. A nightcap might make you drowsy, but alcohol actually disrupts your circadian rhythm, making it difficult to sleep well.
If you want to fix your sleep schedule, it helps to make one first.
Choose a bedtime and wake-up time. Stick to these times every day, even on weekends or days off. Try to avoid staying up or sleeping in for more than one to two hours.
By following a regular schedule, your internal clock can develop a new routine. Over time, you’ll be able to fall asleep and wake up with ease.
When you eat and digest food, your internal clock knows that you’re awake. That’s because metabolism and circadian rhythm are closely linked.
On the other hand, fasting puts your body on “standby” so it can repair itself. Fasting is also a normal part of sleep.
Try skipping food just before bedtime. Since fasting naturally happens during sleep, it may help you doze off.
Plus, your body continues to burn calories during sleep. If you fast before bed, you’re more likely to feel hungry in the morning. This might motivate you to rise early, then return to a normal sleep schedule over the next few days.
But remember, going to bed on an empty stomach can keep you awake. Fasting may be useful if you aren’t already hungry.
As mentioned earlier, melatonin is a hormone that regulates your sleep cycle.
Melatonin is normally made by the pineal gland in the brain, but it’s also available as a supplement. It can promote relaxation, so people with jet lag or insomnia often use it as a sleep aid.
At the proper dose, melatonin is generally considered safe. Always follow the instructions.
Possible side effects include:
If you’re taking other medications or have other health conditions, check with your doctor before using melatonin.
It’s normal to have sleep problems every now and then.
Usually, changing behaviors or habits can restore your routine. But if sleep troubles persist, visit your doctor.
You might have an undiagnosed sleep disorder. If so, a sleep specialist can guide you through proper treatment.
Shift work, all-nighters, and jet lag can mess with your sleep schedule. Fortunately, practicing good sleep hygiene can get you back on track.
Before bed, avoid bright lights and heavy meals. Make sure your sleeping environment is comfortable, quiet, and cool. During the day, stay active and skip naps so you can sleep better.
If you still can’t sleep well, visit to your doctor.
Press about us – 8 tips from a somnologist: how to restore sleep after quarantine
Press about us
Press about us
8 tips from a somnologist: how to restore sleep after quarantine
Sleep is one of the most important processes in the body, affecting the adaptive capacity and resistance to stress. Lack of sleep or a broken schedule increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, psychological disorders and lower immunity. Therefore, the editors of Beautybackstage decided to ask the expert how to restore the sleep mode that was knocked down during the quarantine.
1. Set your target sleep and wake time.
A few days before returning to work, it is advisable to start getting up half an hour earlier every day. Some are used to going to bed in the morning, and for some this journey to normal will take just a couple of days, while others will need a week or two.
2. Consider your chronotype.
Not all people have the same need for sleep. This is usually 8-9 hours, but it can be from 4 to 12. Many people try to go to bed before midnight and thereby acquire insomnia. This is misinformation about going to bed before midnight. You need to focus on your chronotype. Larks and owls are real characters, and it is better to go to bed in accordance with natural features. But ideally, it should not differ by more than 30 minutes on weekdays and weekends.
3. Practice good sleep hygiene.
Comfortable temperature and humidity in the bedroom, no phone or laptop in bed, blackout and silence are a must. If you do not like to sleep in silence, white noises (the sound of the sea or rain) are the best option, audio books are also a flow of information, give your brain the opportunity not to absorb information before going to bed.
4. Use light therapy.
For an alert and active morning, wear blue or green light therapy glasses for 30 minutes after waking up. You can cook breakfast or brush your teeth in them. An alternative is alarm clocks that mimic sunrise. The brain wakes up in the morning only if it has enough light, the necessary release of morning cortisol occurs, we are active and feel cheerful.
5. Get ready for bed early in the evening.
One hour before bedtime is the minimum mandatory time not just without a phone, but preferably without other means of receiving information from outside – TV, computer, etc. Switching the brain and getting ready for sleep takes some time. Give it to your body. Reading an endless news feed or watching videos quietly steals time for a night’s sleep.
6. Minimum alcohol and coffee.
Avoid coffee and tea after 3 pm. Alcohol – no more than 1-2 times a week. Otherwise, it will be more difficult for the body and brain to return to working mode.
7. Fresh air and physical activity.
Include workouts in your daily routine, ideally 3-4 times a week. Choose physical activity that you enjoy. If it is difficult to return to regular classes, start exercising with a trainer. Outdoor activities are a great alternative to a fitness club.
8. Consult with a somnologist if sleep and routine cannot be restored within 1-2 weeks.
Your doctor will perform a somography (sleep test) if necessary. It will connect the possibilities of neurotechnologies to increase the adaptive capabilities of the brain and reduce the level of anxiety, increase neuroplasticity. High efficiency was proved by bioacoustic correction, neurofeedback trainings, audiovisual stimulation. In some cases, psychotherapy is indicated. To quickly restore sleep, xenon therapy is often used in the treatment complex – inhalation of an oxygen-xenon mixture.
August 8, 2021
Starve, go hiking and don’t lie down if you can’t sleep.
You can listen to the article. If it’s more convenient for you, turn on the podcast.
It doesn’t matter what causes you can’t fall asleep and wake up at the desired time – a change in the time zone or insomnia. Only one thing is important: it is quite possible to normalize sleep patterns.
Here are some research-backed recommendations from experts at the reputable medical resource WebMD.
1. Control the light
It’s an obvious fact that we go to sleep when it’s dark and we wake up when it’s bright. The hormones melatonin and cortisol are responsible for this.
The first is produced in the pineal gland (pineal gland) only in dark conditions: the part of the brain that is responsible for the biological clock, the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the hypothalamus, beacons about it. Melatonin lowers body temperature, blood pressure and blood glucose levels. Together, these processes cause our body to go into hibernation. When it brightens again, melatonin levels drop and drowsiness subsides.
Cortisol, on the other hand, decreases in darkness and increased melatonin levels. Less cortisol – less stress – deeper relaxation and easier sleep.
If with difficulty darkness, melatonin is not produced in the right amount. And cortisol rises.
Conclusion is simple. If you want to fall asleep at the desired time, make your brain dark. Hang blackout curtains on your windows, turn off all the lights, and don’t use social media before bed. The last point is especially important.
Electronic devices are a source of so-called blue light, which particularly reduces melatonin levels. And at the same time increases concentration. We would like to relax and sleep, but if you have seen enough of the “blue” screen, the body will resist. In general, turn off your TV and computer, and put your cell phone and tablet away at least an hour before going to bed.
2. Forbid yourself from daytime sleep
If you need to restore the regimen, give up the siesta. Daytime sleep with a high probability will make it difficult to retreat to nighttime.
An important point: if you feel so tired that you literally fall off your feet in the middle of the day, you can still take a nap. But try to dedicate no more than 20 minutes to it. And preferably before 15:00.
3. Don’t just lie in bed
If you can’t fall asleep for 20 minutes or more, get up and do something relaxing (breathing deeply, meditate, dim the lights and read a book) instead of staring at ceiling.
By staying in bed, you train your brain that you can lie in the dark and not sleep. It risks becoming a bad habit.
4. Wake up at the same time every day
It is not always possible to convince the body to fall asleep at the right time. But it is quite possible to schedule a wake-up time.
Waking up at the same time every day, you give your body a rhythm and thus set your biological clock to function according to a certain schedule.
5. Practice good sleep hygiene
Here are a few rules to help you fall asleep at the right time:
- Be quiet. Close windows, doors, try to keep outside sounds from entering your bedroom. If not, use a white noise generator.
- Sleep in a cool room. The ideal temperature is 15–19 °C.
- Avoid caffeinated drinks, especially in the afternoon. These include not only coffee and tea, but also all kinds of energy drinks and often even ordinary soda.
- Make sure your bed is comfortable. A tumbled overly soft (or, on the contrary, very hard) mattress and lumpy pillows lead to the fact that you will unconsciously twist in bed in search of a more comfortable position. And these movements reduce the quality of sleep.
- Be sure to exercise during the day. Regular physical activity will increase your chances of a healthy rest.
6. Don’t eat before bed
Your biological clock also reacts to your diet. We eat during the day, we don’t eat at night. Therefore, if you eat (or your gastrointestinal tract is busy actively digesting what you eat), the body believes that it is still a day. Which means it’s too early to fall asleep.
Try to eat no later than 2-3 hours before you are supposed to go to bed.
An additional unpleasant effect: knowing that they are fed in the evenings, the body will try to stay awake at this time tomorrow (the day after tomorrow, and so on). Therefore, it would be good to make early dinners regular so that the body gets used to it: there is nothing to wait for food late, it is better to sleep.
7. Try to starve
Harvard scientists have found that in animals, circadian rhythms (the so-called internal biological rhythms of the body) shift depending on the availability of food. Based on this, the researchers suggest that 12-16-hour fasting may help with insomnia that occurs due to jet lag – jet lag.
Try a 16-hour fast to restore sleep patterns, even without jet lag. Eat dinner early for a few days (for example, around 4:00 PM) and then avoid eating until breakfast (around 8:00 AM the next morning). When the regime is normalized, go for a 12-hour gap between dinner and breakfast. It is not only good for sleep, but also for health in general.
8. Go hiking
With backpacks and tents. At least for three days, but preferably for a week – to increase the effect.
The natural cycle of day and night helps to restore the body’s circadian rhythms.
Thus, a study published in the journal Current Biology provides the results of testing this theory.
Eight participants of the experiment went on a hike, where they spent a week without artificial lighting, phones and laptops. During this period, the biological clock of all the volunteers was rebuilt, synchronizing with solar time: people began to wake up easily at dawn and fall asleep after dark. This effect was most pronounced in those who prior to the experiment positioned themselves as an owl.
9. Try sleep deprivation
Another effective, albeit controversial, way to restore sleep patterns is to stay awake for 24 hours. When the long-awaited evening finally arrives, you will surely fall asleep as soon as your head touches the pillow.
This method is, of course, cool. But researchers have been able to link daily lack of sleep with the activation of a certain type of brain cell that produces the protein adenosine. It is extremely important for the regulation of sleep: a sufficient amount of adenosine helps to normalize the sleep-wake cycle.
- Since the method is quite harsh, you can resort to it only after consulting a doctor – the same therapist.
- Avoid driving and other tasks that require alertness and concentration when you are sleep deprived.
10. Talk to a therapist
It’s normal to have sleep problems from time to time. In most cases, it is enough to change your lifestyle in accordance with the list above – and you will begin to get enough sleep again.
However, if insomnia and other inconveniences persist despite your best efforts, it is worth contacting a therapist.