How To Fix Your Sleep Schedule: 6 Steps to Reset Your Sleep
In the age of technology, constant notifications, and around-the-clock stress, it has become increasingly difficult to achieve a healthy night's rest. While some of us struggle with going to bed at an appropriate time, others find it hard to wake up on-time and feeling energized. Insufficient sleep and sleep problems have officially become a public health epidemic. And, while there might be many factors at play, we have the power to improve our sleep schedules and reap the benefits of a restful slumber. In this article, we share some scientifically-backed tips and steps you can take in order to achieve a sleep schedule that leaves you feeling fulfilled and rested.
Why is Having a Healthy Sleep Schedule Important?
Most of us underestimate the power of a good night's sleep. According to experts in the field, a sound night of rest can keep many physical and mental health problems at bay. For example, it has been found that a healthy sleep pattern can decrease the likelihood of cancer, heart attacks, and Alzheimer's disease. Likewise, sleeping well can have a positive effect on our immune system, and can optimize our mental wellbeing by decreasing anxiety and depression, and improving our concentration, happiness, and overall life satisfaction.
In a nutshell, as the sleep expert Dr. Matthew Walker once said, if they would announce a new medicine that would help us with all these physical and mental problems, we would all be rushing to buy it. Fortunately, there is such a medicine at our disposal and it is free: sleep.
How To Fix Your Sleep Schedule: 2 Initial Steps
The first and most important step in order to reset our sleep pattern is to become aware of how important sleep really is. We must realize that sleep is not something to be avoided or a boring nuisance that keeps us from being productive or from having fun. Instead, we must view sleep as an integral part of our physical and mental wellbeing; something that heals us, prepares us for our day, that helps us consolidate memories, process emotions, and get that much needed rest in order to seize the day. Internalizing this idea can help us achieve the motivation we need to fix our sleep pattern.
A second, crucial step is to also become aware of how everything that occurs in our daily lives affect our sleep. Our sleep is not some alien state of being that is unrelated to our waking life. Rather, our quality and quantity of sleep is directly related to how we live our daily lives. As a result, in order to improve our sleep we must take a closer look to our daily life activities. We must identify whether some things we do (or not do) during the day is jeopardizing our nights. Therefore, in order to fix our sleep schedule, we must also be open to the idea that some things we do during our waking days, some of our daily habits, must also be improved.
4 Tips for Improving Your Sleep Pattern
Once we have become aware of the importance of sleep and reflected on how our waking life might be affecting our sleep pattern, we can begin to take some practical steps towards improving our sleep. Here are four tips in order to achieve just this:
1. Pick a wake-up time and follow through
One essential first step is to decide on a standard wake-up time you would like to follow. That is, choose a time when you would like to wake up every day. Granted, at the beginning of this process it might be difficult to wake up every day at the same time. After a restless night we might not be compelled to wake up at 7 am. However, try to follow through for some weeks (including weekends, if possible). After some days (or weeks) waking up at the same time, you might notice that you are now starting to feel sleepy and tired at an earlier time of the night. After a while, you might be able to go to sleep earlier on, and slowly achieve your dream sleep pattern. The key phrase here is: short-term pain for long-term gains.
Now, you might be wondering how to choose your standard wake-up time. Here are some three easy steps you can follow:
1. First of all, it must be noted that everyone has different sleep needs. While some people are perfectly happy and energized having slept only 5 hours a night, others might need around 10 hours of sleep. So, reflect and decide on an approximate number of hours of sleep that you think you need.
2. Choose a standard wake-up time you want to follow every day. It could be 5 am, 8 am, or 10 am. Simply choose a wake-up time that is practical for you, fits with your daily responsibilities, and is feasible to accomplish every (or most) days of the week.
3. Finally, calculate at what time do you need to go to bed. For instance, if you have decided you need 7 hours of sleep and would like to wake up everyday at 7 am, then you must be sound asleep by 12:00. In general, it takes around 20 minutes for people to fall asleep, so you must be in bed at the latest at 11:40. So, try to do your sleep routine (like brushing your teeth or washing your face) before 11:40. As a bonus tip: you can set up alarms in order to remind you that you must begin your nighttime routine and go to bed.
Remember, however, that at first it might be difficult to actually follow through with falling asleep at an appropriate time. You might be tossing and turning long before you can fall asleep. This is okay. Just try to wake up at the time you have chosen. Even if you have only slept for 2 hours, try to follow through, and on the next day you will be so tired that you will likely be more able to fall asleep at your chosen time.
2. Do not obsess with the amount of hours you will sleep
Related to the previous tip, one important thing to keep in mind is that it is counterproductive to obsess with the amount of hours you will be able to sleep. Take, for instance, that you went to bed but cannot fall asleep, you are tossing and turning and keep checking your phone or watch, and calculating how many hours you will be able to sleep if you fall asleep right now. These behaviours are counterproductive because they create a huge amount of anxiety (and alertness) as you become increasingly frustrated at not being able to fall asleep. In the end, this anxiety activates your fight-or-flight system which wakes you and renders you unable to fall asleep. So, avoid checking the time (or any screens for that matter) when you are trying to fall asleep. As discussed in a previous article, if you find yourself tossing and turning, it is best to get out of bed and perform some light activity (such as reading a book) and return to bed when you are sleepy. And, of course, wake up at your chosen time regardless of how many hours of sleep you had last night.
Similarly, while you have calculated a number of hours you would like to sleep every night, feel free to adjust this number according to what you notice throughout your journey. For instance, if you chose that you would like to sleep for 7 hours but realize that this is not enough, increase it to 8 hours and adjust the time you go to bed accordingly. Every one has different sleep needs, so do not obsess with the hours, with time and practice you will land at the amount of hours that benefits you.
3. Pay attention to your daily activities
As discussed, our sleep is not something alien to us; it is not a state of mind that is unaffected by our daily routines, activities, and thinking patterns. Our quality and quantity of sleep is the result of our everyday lives. As a result, there are many habits and activities that can hinder or benefit our sleep pattern.
For example, some positive daily rituals that can help us improve our sleep are:
On the other hand, some practices that can jeopardize our sleep are:
If you are interested in learning more about how can these habits help or hinder your sleep, and how to practice them, take a look at our previous article on sleep.
4. Practice, practice, practice
Achieving a healthy sleep pattern is something that requires practice and consistency to build healthy habits. It, unfortunately, does not happen overnight, and requires consciously taking helpful choices throughout the day. That said, it is not impossible, and after some weeks adhering to your wake-up time and infusing your days with benefitting practices, you will be able to create a sleep schedule that leaves you feeling energized and fulfilled throughout the day.
Throughout your journey, remember, you are not alone. Changes do not happen in an instant and progress is not always linear. It might be the case that after some weeks of a healthy night's rest, you fall back into your previous patterns and habits. That's okay. That's normal. We do not progress and achieve change in a minute. It takes dedication, effort, and trial and error. If you fall from the horse, you can get back on it. So, do not be too harsh on yourself if you are finding it difficult, or fail at some point or another. Life is messy, and we are not perfect. The important thing is to keep trying.
If you need a helping hand, here at AntiLoneliness we offer a Sleep Coaching Program where you will learn many more tips for achieving a healthy night's rest as well as how to foster habits that will help you improve your sleep. If you are interested, please feel free to contact us. Take care!
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