- If you can push yourself to sleep at a later time to watch another episode at Netflix, you also have the ability to reset your sleep cycle to a more consistent one.
- Gradually adjust your bedtime to the desired hour and stick to it — even on rest days.
- Changing your sleep cycle can be difficult, but patience and consistency is the key.
Our bodies follow a natural clock that affects our sleep cycle.
So if your sleep cycle is messed up right now, know that you have the ability to adjust it to a more consistent one.
Here’s how you can do it:
Gradually adjust your bedtime.
Rafael Pelayo, MD, advises trying to slowly push back bedtime, such as staying up an hour later at a time. This is much easier than suddenly trying to sleep earlier.
But if you aim to sleep earlier, be patient. Dr. Pelayo advises gradually scaling back your bedtime by no more than 15 minutes earlier every two to three days until you reach your desired hour.
Avoid napping, even if you feel tired.
Napping during the day can push back your bedtime.
If you feel the urge to nap, do some physical exercises to “chase away the sleepiness,” says Pelayo. Save up that drowsy feeling for your actual bedtime.
Be consistent — even on holidays.
It is undeniably tempting to sleep in on days when you’re under no obligation to get up early, but getting up later on rest days can mess up your sleep-wake cycle for the days when you need to get up early.
Give yourself a reason to enjoy getting out of bed even on rest days, advises Dr. Pelayo.
Maintain a strict schedule.
Getting to a consistent sleep-wake cycle can be a long journey, so don’t let yourself stray from it or you’ll end up back to square one.
Make your environment conducive to your schedule by doing the following adjustments:
Eliminate light sources before bedtime.
The light signals that your brain receives can make or break your sleep cycle.
“Light suppresses production of melatonin, which is directly involved in sleep initiation,” says sleep specialist Rochelle Zozula, PhD.
Keep your bedroom environment dark before bedtime — that means no light from cellphones, laptops, or TV screens.
Don’t exercise or eat too close to bedtime.
Avoid eating, exercising, or any caffeine and nicotine intake a few hours before bedtime to avoid heartburn or overstimulation.
Set up a relaxing bedtime routine.
Set up the mood. Take a warm and relaxing bath, meditate, or listen to some calming music. Keep your bedroom environment comfortable, dark, and at the right temperature.
Pelayo advises that you should “look forward to sleeping” and not make it seem like a chore.
Consider light therapy.
This can train your brain to wake up when it’s bright, says Pelayo.
Consider taking melatonin supplements.
If you consider taking melatonin supplements, consult your doctor first to discuss possible side effects or contraindications with other medicines.
If all else fails, consult your doctor.
Poor sleep can be damaging to your overall health and well-being. If you’ve tried everything listed above to no avail, you may need to consult a doctor, especially if your erratic sleep cycle is affecting your job and other responsibilities.
Source: Everyday Health