After a fun night out watching reruns of your favorite sitcom, you look at the clock to see if you can squeeze another episode and – oh, shit – it’s already three hours past bedtime!
You know it’s gonna hurtSo you have to make a decision before you hit the hay: are you going to push and wake up at your usual time, or are you going to sleep to “catch up” on the missed sleep?
The first option, while difficult, is your best bet if you want to maintain a healthy sleep cycle that promotes energy, productivity, and good mood. If you do choose to sleep, you may be pushing your bedtime further and further until you wake up at your usual time (like work) and spend the day battling fatigue. If you find yourself in this situation, you can try resetting your sleep schedule with these expert sleep tips.
Why your sleep cycle matters
Having a consistent sleep schedule makes it easier to get restful sleep, says Annie Miller, therapist at DC Metro Sleep and Psychotherapy.
“Our brains respond very well to routines,” Miller says. “When we create healthy bedtime routines for ourselves, our sleep can improve greatly. And as your brain begins to associate bedtime with relaxation rather than stress, sleep will become easier.
When you fall asleep faster and spend less time, the length and quality of your sleep improves, leaving you more rested and energized for the next day. “Regular, consistent sleep is the first line of defense against anxious or depressive thoughts or lack of energy” during the day, explains Dr. Max Kerr, dental sleep expert at Sleep Better Austin, to CNET.
Plus, sleep stages are time-dependent, says Dr. Kerr, so inconsistent sleep schedules can “shorten” your sleep stages and reduce the time spent in sleep..
How your sleep cycle is interrupted
Miller says keeping your morning wake-up time the same every day – no matter what time you go to bed – is key to keeping your body in tune (although, ideally, you’d have the same bedtime and wake-up time each day). “As a general rule, varying your waking times is more detrimental to sleep than going to bed later. If you push your wake up time by sleeping late, we create a jet lag-type reaction, ”says Miller. “If you go to bed later and always wake up at the same time, you will sleep less, but it won’t disrupt your sleep cycle.”
Dr. Kerr argues that delaying bedtime can interrupt your sleep cycle. From a scientific standpoint, research suggests that if bedtime varies by more than 30 minutes each night, it can lead to less healthy daytime behaviors, such as lack of physical activity. Other research indicates that consistent waking times are an indicator of better quality sleep. It’s best to try to sleep and wake up at the same time every day – but only you can tell if it’s possible to wake up at 6 a.m., whether you go to bed at 10 p.m. or midnight.
Other things can also disrupt your sleep cycle. Work shifts, drink alcohol, sleep with a disruptive bed partner (like kids, your spouse or pets),or or can all disrupt your sleep cycle, says Dr. Kerr.
How to reset your sleep cycle
Dr. Kerr offers these tips for resetting your sleep schedule:
- Get out there and get moving. “Fresh air and exercise can help calm you down and tire you out, while vitamin D from the sun helps regulate circadian rhythms to keep you asleep constant,” says Dr. Kerr.
- Prepare your room for sleep. Keep temperatures cool, electronics to a minimum, and bedding comfortable but simple. to make sure they are right for you – should comfortably support your head and neck.
- Nothing . “With more free time, or maybe because of working from home, it can be easy and attractive to take a nap during the day,” says Dr. Kerr. “While the occasional nap can be a good reset for the rest of the day, it can rob you of the more important, restful sleep your body needs at night.”
- Watch what you watch on TV. Dr Kerr says listening to disheartening reports on the evening news before bed could make you lose your mind all night. If you have to watch TV before bed, go for lighter, more entertaining shows – and ideally stop watching all TV an hour before bed.
- Take a melatonin supplement. If all else fails, you might need a to get your body back into your preferred sleep cycle or if you just generally have trouble falling asleep. Melatonin is a safe and should not cause you to become dependent on it. can also help.
How to keep your sleep schedule under control
Once you’ve successfully reset your sleep cycle, the hard work begins: keeping your schedule under control. Miller offers these few tips for creating a:
- Create a “buffer zone” about an hour before bedtime. During this time, don’t work, watch the news, or do anything that can create stress. The buffer zone is just for relaxing, says Miller. Stretch, listen to calm music, , read a book, or talk to your spouse or roommate.
- Wake up at the same time every dayno matter what time you go to bed at night. “We often think that we can ‘catch up’ on our sleep on the weekends or if we have a bad night’s sleep,” Miller says, “but in fact, it can make insomnia worse by creating what’s called the social jet lag. It’s important to keep your wake-up time consistent and understand that you can be fatigued in the short term, but doing so will increase the desire for sleep and possibly allow you to fall asleep faster at night, Miller says.
- Use your bed only for sleeping. “It’s a question a lot of people have heard before, but it’s really important,” says Miller. “When you create a conditioned response that the bed is only used for sleeping, it allows you to create an association between bed and sleep.” This means no reading in bed, no watching TV in bed, no spinning and no naps in the morning.
- Stop trying to sleep. It seems counterintuitive, but “[w]When we try too hard to sleep, it backfires on us, “Miller says.” Spending time in bed trying to sleep can make insomnia worse. “If you can’t sleep, get up and get up and do something calm until really drowsy. Sleep should be effortless and we should minimize the time spent trying to sleep, Miller says.
The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended for health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.