Googling for tips on how to fix your sleep schedule on a nightly basis? You’re not alone. Even something like a holiday weekend or a sleepover might make you feel off balance. With so much emphasis on getting ones morning routine just right, it can be easy to overlook the fact that there’s no morning routine that can fix a bad night’s sleep. And if you happen to be a new mom or parent, your sleep schedule is only as good as your baby’s latest sleep regression. Oof! Sleep is so important — and, you never realize just how important until you lack it.
Luckily, fixing a sleep schedule is easier than you realize. All it takes is learning a little more about your body, along with how to program it the right way.
The “How to Fix Sleep Schedule” Science
Obviously, science plays a huge role here. Sleep is all about your circadian rhythm. That’s another name for the sleep-wake cycle that takes place throughout your entire day. People also call it an “internal clock” and it’s located in the hypothalamus segment of your brain. Thankfully, it can be easily persuaded.
When you’re a college student, your internal clock can often be mixed up due to various outside elements. Studying for a big test? Then, you might be pulling an all-nighter, or getting by with the help of all the caffeinated beverages you can find. Those elements will trick your brain for the night but may set you down a bad course when it comes to future sleep. Of course, caffeine can play a role if you’re trying to figure out how to fix a sleep schedule.
How to Reset Your Sleep Schedule
Our brains can be very forgiving. But, we need to make sure we have the right tools at hand to reset sleep schedules that have become a pattern.
- Cut the light. One of the best things to do is trick our brains with light. Sunlight doesn’t just make us feel healthier, but it can also indicate that it’s time for our bodies to wake up. If you are trying to go to sleep when it’s still light out, that can make it hard to reset your sleep schedule.
- Blackout curtains for the win. Blackout curtains may be a good purchase, especially if you’re working during a night shift. Other lights also should be dimmed.
- No tech before bed. And yes, that also includes the light from a smartphone or a video game. Technology often uses blue light, which can trick your brain into reactivating instead of shutting down.
- Try to avoid naps. It’s very hard — especially if your nighttime sleep has been out of whack. A 20-minute power nap is one thing, but if you’re heading towards the 45-minute zone, it may be harder to get to sleep at night. Try hard to get through, and then go to bed early to try and fix your sleep schedule for the next day. If you do manage to take long naps, take a good look as to what factors into your sleepiness during that time. What makes you so tired at 2 pm? How can you emulate that around 8 or 9 pm?
- Turn to white noise. There’s a reason why white noise machines are on so many baby registries. The calming sound puts newborns to sleep fairly easily, and they can do the same for you as well. Sleep patterns can be different for everyone. For those who live in big cities, sometimes the car honks and street clamor may be soothing after sleeping that way for a few weeks.
- Or try silence. For someone sleeping over a friend’s house in the city that’s unfamiliar, those loud noises may equal a restless night. That means that it’s often good to experiment with what works best for you. But for a majority of people, meditation music or white noise is a wonderful way to naturally shut down and get to sleep.
- Try camping. Yes, for real. It sounds a little odd, but it may work. When you camp, you usually don’t have a lot of electronic distractions in your way. You’ll also be outside during natural light and darkness. In a way, it’s like the outside is telling you directly that it’s time to go to bed. If camping is something you don’t do much of, the change in routine may also shock your body into a normal sleep schedule. That said, a wooded area might not be the best for those who are noise-sensitive.
- Pull an all-nighter or all-dayer. If you’ve complicated or confused your sleep schedule with naps, travel, or other events, reset your body by staying up all day or night. That way, when it is time to sleep the following evening, your body will be exhausted. It’s hard to stay up all night or avoid tiny naps during the day, but you should only have to do it once to get back on schedule.
Essentially, you have to test-drive these methods to find the one that works for you.
Reset Sleep Schedules With New Bedtime Routine
If your brain has trouble shutting down, here are some tips that might help:
- Meditate: Meditation, or putting on relaxing music might relax your mind ahead of bedtime.
- Yoga: Doing an easy yoga routine before bed may make your body feel less tense.
- Warm drink: Sipping on non-caffeinated beverages, like decaf green tea, may also work to signal to your body that it’s ready to relax.
- Read: For many, reading a good book (preferably a hardcover or softcover that’s not on an e-reader) is a good way to eventually fall asleep.
- Melatonin boosting snacks: If you are hungry before bedtime, try something that’ll increase your melatonin levels, like oatmeal or yogurt.
- Listen to music or calming sounds. Even adults need a lullaby every now and then, so create a bedtime playlist or experiment with ocean or rain sounds.
- Avoid strenuous exercise or eating before bed. Caffeine, heartburn, or acid reflux can keep you awake.
Just remember, new patterns often take some time to be part of a scheduled routine. Trying to reset a sleep schedule likely won’t happen overnight, but it’ll become your new normal sooner rather than later. The trick is to stick with it.
Should I just stay up if I can’t sleep?
Resetting your sleep schedule is a tricky dance, but there are a few things you can do to fall asleep. If you find you’re having trouble resting, instead of sitting in bed wide awake, leave your bedroom for about half an hour. Then when you begin to feel sleepy, head over to your bed. Laying down when you’re already feeling tired gives you a better chance of falling asleep.