Everyone struggles with sleep problems now and then.
If you find yourself lying awake often, that could signal a deeper problem with your internal clock and sleep cycle. Getting a good night's sleep is important for both physical and mental health.
Today's culture promotes pulling all-nighters, favoring work and productivity over good sleep. Sadly, this mentality is dangerous because sleep deprivation has dire consequences.
Don't stress, adapt! Learn how to fix your sleep schedule with these strategies. You'll figure it out.
What is Your Circadian Rhythm and Why Does It Matter to Your Sleep Schedule?
Did you know groups of cells across your body each have their own biological clock?
You also have one master clock made up of about 20 thousand neurons in your brain's hypothalamus that coordinates all the biological clocks in your body. (1)
Your circadian rhythm involves your mental and physical responses to these clocks. Most people think of their circadian rhythm as part of their sleep-wake cycle but that's just one of them. Your behavior, mental processes, and physical activities like digestion are also subject to circadian rhythms.
Parents of newborns are all too aware of circadian rhythms because babies often come out of the womb with unusual biological clocks and end up with strange sleep patterns.
Jet lag is notorious for throwing off our biological clocks. Traveling across several time zones over a few hours can wreak serious havoc on our circadian rhythms.
However, other lifestyle factors can also gradually chip away at the timing of our biological clocks as well.
Alcohol, sedentary days, poor diets, and stress all play major roles in disrupting our circadian rhythm and sleep cycle.
Figuring out how to fix your sleep schedule can take time because it means resetting your body's clock and keeping it stable.
How to Fix Your Sleep Schedule with 9 Tips
Consistency is key here. Following these tips for one night won’t do much to fix your sleep schedule.
Your circadian rhythm loves routine. Follow these strategies for a few weeks and your biological clocks should start to reset themselves. If they don't, it might be time to see a sleep doctor.
1. Stop Drinking Caffeine at Least 5 Hours Before Bedtime
Caffeine has a half-life in your body of about five or six hours. (2) So drinking any caffeinated beverage up to six hours before your ideal bedtime can keep you alert and awake.
Keep in mind that other supplements like Rhodiola or prescriptions like Adderall may also interfere with your sleep schedule if taken in the afternoon.
2. Avoid Blue Light from Glowing Smartphones at Least 2 Hours Before Bedtime
It's a fact that blue light emitted from most cell phones, TVs, and laptops can prevent your brain from producing and releasing melatonin, which is the sleep hormone. (3)
Skip your smartphone in favor of a book, or use a blue light filter to block it out.
3. Add More Physical Activity to Your Day
Sitting behind a desk all day isn't only bad for your physical health, it's also horrible for your mental health and sleep cycle.
About 30 minutes of exercise is all it takes to help your brain produce more melatonin, reduce cortisol, and work to reset your biological clock. (4)
4. Create a Healthy Sleep Environment
Practice good sleep hygiene and find what works for you.
A cold room of about 68 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. Avoid bright lights: your bedroom should be as dark as possible. Invest in blackout curtains if you have to.
For sound, everyone is unique. Some people require complete silence while others need white noise from a fan or nature sounds.
5. Avoid Napping
If you routinely find yourself napping when that afternoon sleepiness hits, that could be the culprit behind your poor sleep routine.
Napping throws off your circadian rhythm. If you can push through the sleepiness, you'll be rewarded with much better sleep at night.
6. Swap Your Nightcap for an Herbal Tea
Alcohol might help you relax for an hour or two, but you'll pay for it later with sleep quality. If you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night, you may want to rethink that beer or wine.
Alcohol throws off our body clock and interferes with sleep as a side effect.
7. Find Ways to Relax and Reduce Stress
An overload of cortisol (the stress hormone) can have dire consequences on your circadian clock.
If you struggle with chronic stress, try removing some of the environmental stress from your life. Learn to manage the stress you can't eliminate with techniques like meditation, yoga, and exercise.
8. Keep a Daily Planner
Physically writing down your schedule for the week can help you plan time for things like work, exercise, responsibilities, meditation, and enough sleep.
Many people find it helps them sleep better at night when they aren't running over their to-do list in their head for the following day.
9. Set a Bedtime Routine and Stick to It
Your circadian rhythm loves keeping a regular schedule.
Start your bedtime routine with a warm cup of herbal tea like reishi. Reishi mushroom extract is a popular mushroom for regulating sleep cycles.
Avoid screen time for a few hours before bed. Have a conversation with your family, read, or practice some yoga instead.
Set your alarm clock at the same time each day — no matter what.
End your day with a warm bath and some relaxing essential oils like lavender or vetiver. (5)
Finally, end your bedtime routine the next day by throwing your curtains open for natural light (if you don't start your day while it's still dark).
Setting a consistent sleep schedule will help your biological clock "expect" sleep so it should start producing hormones like melatonin.
Figuring Out How to Fix Your Sleep Schedule Takes Time
It can be stressful and frustrating missing sleep for several nights in a row.
Plus, sleep deprivation has grave consequences on our physical health and cognitive function.
Remain calm and focus on factors you can change. Give your circadian rhythm some time to work itself out. If that doesn't work, you may have a sleep disorder so check in with a doctor.