A Practical Guide to Resetting Your Sleep Schedule
If you think you may have a circadian rhythm disorder, there is good news. It’s possible to reset your biological clock, and many people can do so with lifestyle changes alone.
Here are some tips on fixing your sleep schedule to enjoy
more rejuvenating nights and energized days:
1. Establish a Relaxing Bedtime Routine
The first step to improving sleep hygiene is establishing a relaxing nighttime routine. Try to go to bed at the same time every night, even on weekends or while traveling.
Dim the lights and turn off all electronics, including TV, phone, and tablets, at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Research indicates blue light may inhibit circadian rhythms and make it more difficult to fall asleep. Instead of checking social media or watching TV, consider reading or meditating.
2. Set a Later Alarm Instead of Hitting Snooze
Many people set early alarms with ambitions to squeeze in an extra hour or two of productive daytime hours. However, if this results in you getting fewer than the recommended seven to eight hours of shuteye, it may backfire.
As soon as your initial alarm goes off, your body will exit deep sleep and initiate wakefulness. Even if you drift off again after hitting snooze, you won’t experience truly rejuvenating rest, no matter how many times you repeat the cycle.
Instead, stick to a consistent wake-up time that allows you to remain in a deep sleep for longer. If you want to wake up earlier, adjust your bedtime to reflect that. Sticking to a set wake-up time, even on weekends and while traveling, will help you fall asleep faster and wake up easier.
3. Fight the Urge to Take Long Naps During the Day
Napping can be tempting, especially when you didn’t sleep well the night before (or for several nights before). However, naps can disrupt your circadian rhythms and hinder your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep at night. If you do rest during the day, keep it short—between 10 and 20 minutes—and do so in the early afternoon, if possible.
4. Be Intentional About Getting Natural Sunlight
Because the sleep-wake cycle is predominantly affected by light cues, getting sufficient natural sunlight can boost your energy levels during the day and help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly during the night.
Sunlight is also the best source of vitamin D, which plays a significant role in serotonin production, mental health, and immunity.
5. Don’t Eat Late in Evening
Try not to eat within two hours of bedtime or, if you have acid reflux or indigestion, three or four hours. Eating too close to bedtime can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep, mainly if you’ve eaten a large meal or have digestive challenges.
If you need a late-night snack, aim for something light and easy on the stomach, such as Greek yogurt, air-popped popcorn, a handful of almonds, or cheese and fruit. Avoid anything spicy or sugary, which may cause heartburn, acid reflux, or a spike in blood sugar.
6. Moderate Caffeine and Alcohol Consumption
Like eating late, consuming too much caffeine or drinking coffee too late can make it challenging to fall asleep at night.
Generally, experts suggest consuming no more than 300 to 400 mg of caffeine a day (about three or four 8 oz. cups of coffee). Try not to drink coffee within six hours of bedtime.
As for alcohol, while it might help you fall asleep, studies point to its inhibition of sleep quality. Drink only in moderation and not within a couple of hours of hitting the hay.
7. Exercise Regularly
Exercise can have a range of health benefits, including improved sleep quality. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every day. Just be sure not to work out too close to bedtime, as this might make it more difficult to drift off.