As long as you aren’t staying up all night or frequently traveling through different time zones, your body pretty much tries to stick to a consistent sleep pattern. And, it’s this pattern that helps you get the right amount and quality of sleep that your body needs to function properly. In fact, everyone’s sleep schedule varies in large part because we set our alarm clocks for different times, are active in different ways, eat at different times during the day, and head to bed at different times.
If, for some reason, you feel as if your sleep cycle has gone off track, there are things that you can do to fix it. In trying to adjust your sleep schedule, you’ll have to work to reset your body’s internal clock that’s located in the brain’s hypothalamus. This internal clock helps to regulate your circadian rhythm, any physical, mental, and behavioral changes such as sleep patterns, body temperature, and hormone levels. Our body’s internal clock takes in light information through our eyes and then sends it to different areas of the brain — especially the gland that secretes melatonin, a hormone that signals sleep. This is important because light causes the production of melatonin to be cut down, therefore, both sunlight and artificial light from electronic screens, can positively and negatively impact your sleep cycle.
Why Does Our Sleep Schedule Get Thrown Off?
Simply put, the internal clocks that rule over our body’s sleep schedules are extremely light sensitive. Therefore, things like screen time, the amount of sunlight we’re exposed to in a day, and the types of light we encounter have a major effect on our sleep schedules. Moreover, if you travel through different time zones, work an overnight shift, or stay up all hours of the night, then this can throw your sleep cycle off too. In order to have a healthy sleep cycle, we must try to be consistent about when we get to sleep, among other things. When our sleep cycle is off, then it results in poor sleep quality. As time goes on, this issue can lead to several health problems down the road such as obesity, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and more.
What Can You Do to Fix Your Sleep Schedule?
If you’re noticing that your sleep schedule is off, there are many different things that you can do to help get it back on track. These simple steps will help lead you in the right direction.
1. Adjust the time that you go to bed
If you’re trying to get to sleep sooner, then it might do some good to slowly dial back the time that you head to bed until you’ve reached the time that you’re aiming for. Interestingly, according to sleep experts, it’s a lot easier to grab some extra hours of sleep by going to bed earlier than it is to sleep longer past your expected wakeup time.
2. Skip the nap
As much as it feels good to take a snooze in the middle of the day, experts say you should skip napping as much as possible. Sadly, napping can hinder your ability to fall asleep at night. A good recommendation is to exercise when you feel like taking a nap. This way, the exercise will help push away any feelings of sleepiness, which will allow you to save up your need to sleep for a more appropriate time.
3. Get up at the same time each day
Along with this advice, you should also skip sleeping in. Consistency is important if you want to fix and maintain a healthy sleep schedule. In order to help you wake up on time each day, you should buy a good quality alarm clock. Once you have your alarm clock set up, avoid hitting the snooze button. Your brain is expecting you to wake up around the same time every day, so hitting the snooze button will end up throwing your brain off, which will ultimately throw your sleep cycle off. Even though it may be a weekend or a special holiday, it’s best to still wake up at the same time each day. Remember, even one late night or morning of oversleeping can throw off any progress that you’ve made.
4. Avoid exposing yourself to light during the evening hours
Researchers have found that exposing your body to light during the evening hours can move your body’s internal clock over to a later schedule. As we discussed earlier, light will send signals to your brain that it’s time for your body to be awake. In that same vein, if you’re trying to get to bed earlier and it’s still somewhat light out, then you should avoid light at all costs. In order to achieve this, you can install room darkening blinds in your room, avoid bright light close to bedtime, and power down any and all electronic devices that emit light. In short, keep your bedroom and home environment dim during the time that you plan on going to bed.
5. Skip that bedtime snack
Eating snacks that are loaded with sugar can cause your insulin levels to spike. Likewise products containing caffeine or nicotine, both known stimulants, can keep you awake. Avoid spicy foods as well, as these can cause heartburn or acid reflux. If you must eat something for bed, then try eating something light that is not a stimulant or packed with sugar, or that will not cause you to need an antacid.
6. Create a relaxing bedtime environment and routine
Some things that you can do to set yourself up for a great night’s sleep are taking a warm bath, playing calming music, or doing something that you find relaxing. When it comes to your bed, make sure that your bedding is comfortable and that your mattress suits your needs. Additionally, your room should be dark and temperate. If it’s too hot or too cold in your bedroom, then you may not be able to sleep properly. Your bedroom environment should be set up in such a way that you will look forward to going to bed each night. As an added bonus, if you’re struggling to drift off to sleep, or if you’re having issues getting a restorative and refreshing night’s sleep, then taking a natural supplement may help. For example, FAB CBD crafts a specially formulated Nighttime PM CBD Gummy that contains Ashwagandha, L-Theanine, GABA, 5-HTP, Melatonin, and 12.5mg of clean, potent broad spectrum CBD per gummy. That melatonin is added in there specifically to offer sleep support, so if you need a little help achieving a restful and restorative night’s sleep, then simply take a gummy, or any other natural supplement you’re currently using, about one to two hours before bedtime. In this way, the supplement or gummy has a chance to work with your body in a meaningful way overnight.
8. Be smart about your sunlight exposure time
When you expose your body to sunlight as soon as you wake up, you’re telling it that it’s time to be awake. This will also help set up your body’s circadian rhythm for the entire day so that you’ll be able to feel sleepy when it’s actually time to go to bed, and not in the middle of the day when it’s not. Ideally, you should be taking advantage of natural sunlight, however, if you aren’t able to do this, then there are special indoor lights that can be just as effective.
9. Talk to your primary care doctor if you need to
If your body’s dysfunctional sleep schedule is majorly interfering with your job and daily responsibilities, the suggestions above don’t seem to be helping, or if you’ve been struggling with sleep for any extended period of time, then you might want to schedule an appointment with your primary care provider. Remember, long-term sleep problems can create health issues down the road. Chronic sleep issues can cause a lot of damage, but the good news is that there are healthcare providers who can help. If your primary care physician is not able to help you with your sleep issues, then he or she will be able to refer you to a specialist who can.
Patience is Key When it Comes to Fixing Your Sleep Schedule
The amount of time that’s needed for you to reset your internal clock is directly tied to what’s causing your clock to be off in the first place. If, however, you’re simply readjusting your clock after being in different time zones for an extended period of time, then it will usually take one day per time zone to correct the issue. For all other issues, the good news is that there are simple things that you can try, use, and do to help bring your sleep cycle back into a state of normalcy. And when all else fails, it’s not a bad idea to reach out to your primary care doctor for some extra help.