Having an inconsistent sleep schedule can sometimes feel like your whole life is out of order.
Our internal circadian rhythm and sleep schedule can be affected by many things, such as pulling all-nighters, traveling across time zones, or working night shifts, and all of those changes result in an inconsistent sleep schedule.
An inconsistent sleep schedule will affect your quality of life, and a sleep schedule is definitely an issue that should be addressed and fixed urgently.
Luckily, there are some habits and lifestyle changes that can reset the internal clock, improve sleep hygiene, and help create a consistent sleep schedule.
Why Does a Consistent Sleep Schedule Matter?
You might think that getting about eight hours of sleep per night is enough; it doesn’t matter when right? Well, no.
Sleeping at the same will help you create a better habit of sticking to your circadian rhythm, and it will help you stick to that schedule in the long run, even without thinking about it. For example, if you create a habit of going to bed at 9 pm every night, after a while, you will get sleepy around 9 pm, no matter where you are. Creating a habit will help create a productive, healthy, and helpful routine, and it will make it easier to fall asleep.
Ways To Fix Sleep Schedule, Fall Asleep Faster, and Stick to Your Circadian Rhythm
There are several adjustments and lifestyle changes you can make in an effort to improve and fix your sleep schedule, you fall asleep much faster, and stick to your natural circadian rhythm. Some of them include:
Get regular daily exercise.
Getting regular exercise is one of the most significant ways to help reset your internal clock and circadian rhythm.
Exercise also improves the quality of sleep by promoting melatonin production. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise per day will improve your sleep quality that same night. However, the best results will be enjoyed if you exercise on a daily basis. Aim for thirty to sixty minutes of moderate aerobic exercise at least five times a week.
However, it is important to note that evening exercise can overstimulate the body and make it more alert than sleepy. If you are a later-in-the-day type of exerciser, make sure to do complete your workout at least one to two hours before bedtime.
Apart from responding to your exercise habits, your circadian rhythm will also respond to your eating habits. Eating dinner (as the last meal of your day) around the same time every day will get your body used to a routine, which will help your natural circadian rhythm and sleeping schedule.
A late dinner can throw off the circadian rhythm, delay the feeling of sleepiness, which is why you should enjoy dinner at least two to three hours before getting ready to go to bed.
This time window will be enough time for your body to digest the meal without disrupting your circadian rhythm and sleeping habits. What you eat is just as important as when you eat. Make sure to stay away from high-fat and heavy meals.
Avoid excessive noise.
In order to even think about having a good night’s rest, a quiet sleep environment is non-negotiable. Your brain continues to process sounds even when you start drifting off to sleep, which will make it difficult to stay asleep if your sleep environment is not peaceful.
Make sure to keep your TV out of the bedroom and turn it off before bedtime. You should also use the silent setting on your phone before going to bed.
Many sleepers that have to deal with noise that they cannot control (such as loud neighbors) choose to use white noise as a comforting and soothing option. White noise can be created by using a humidifier, a fan, an air conditioner, or a white noise machine humidifier.
Skip naps during the day.
If your sleep-wake cycle is inconsistent and problematic, to begin with, you should not be taking short naps during the day between two periods of sleep.
Napping during the day can make it difficult to go back to sleep at night, as it confuses your circadian rhythm, the body clock, and sleep-wake cycle. Long midday naps might also leave you moody and groggy, resulting from interrupting the deep sleep.
If you must nap, make sure to do it before 3 pm to avoid disrupting your nighttime sleep. Make sure to keep the nap under thirty minutes, to leave the sleep-wake cycle undisturbed.
Adjust the lighting accordingly.
The brain works according to natural light schedules. When it registers light, your brain stops producing the sleep hormone called melatonin, which makes you awake and alert, disrupting the sleep cycle.
It also makes it almost impossible to fall asleep. On the flip side, sitting in darkness will let your brain know that it is time to produce some more melatonin to make you feel sleepy, drowsy, and ready for bed.
You should use these facts to your advantage. For example, exposing yourself to morning light first thing in the morning can help you wake up naturally by telling your internal clock that it is daytime. No matter how much you hate it and no matter how much it hurts your eyes, try opening the curtains and windows or relaxing on the porch first thing in the morning, to help you feel awake.
Do the opposite thing at night: dim or completely turn off all bright lights, including glowing electronic blue light screens from electronic devices such as computers, smartphones, or television, to tell your internal clock and body’s circadian rhythm that it is time for bed. Blue light emitting from the screens can be especially harmful, as blue light wakes up and stimulates the brain.
Time before bed is best spent relaxing, with some nice music, a book, or meditation, for quality sleep and restful sleep. This will improve your sleep schedule and sleep quality, and it will help with sleep deprivation.
Practice relaxation before going to bed.
Your body is very smart, and it knows when you are stressed or anxious, and it makes it produce more stress hormone cortisol.
The higher the cortisol, the harder it will be to fall asleep because cortisol makes you awake and alert, even against your will. This is why creating a relaxing bedtime routine can help keep the stress away, therefore causing better sleep.
For the nighttime routine, make sure to make time to practice calming activities, such as yoga, meditation, taking a warm bath, stretching, reading, journaling, or drinking caffeine-free tea, for better sleep.
Having a good night’s rest is not very likely without having a comfortable sleeping environment, which means having a comfortable bed and a good mattress.
Old mattresses and pillows can cause aches and pains, making it difficult to fall and stay asleep, affecting the quality of sleep, and messing up the sleeping schedule. Experts generally suggest replacing the pillows every two years and replacing the mattress every ten years.
If you find yourself waking up and feeling stiff, or if you feel more comfortable sleeping on a bed away from home, it might be time to replace your mattress, as that might be the cause of the issue you are having with your sleep and sleep schedule. The preference of the mattresses and pillows’ firmness is up to you, but they should not be saggy and lumpy.
Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
If you are having trouble falling and staying asleep, you need to reset your sleep schedule. Sticking to a sleep schedule has to mean creating one in the first place. You cannot stick to a sleeping schedule that you do not have.
In order to reset your sleep schedule, you should choose a bedtime and wake-up time that works best for your everyday activities, such as socializing, work, school, or working out.
Put effort into sticking to these times every day, even on days off and weekends. Once you decide to reset your sleep schedule, try your best to avoid sleeping in or staying up for more than a few hours off your bedtime/wake-up time, for the best possible sleep hygiene and for healthy sleep.
Following your new sleep schedule will make your brain create a new routine. Over time, sticking to the new sleep schedule will become second nature; waking up and going to bed will come with ease, which will reset your sleep and result in healthy sleep hygiene.
Consider taking melatonin supplements.
As we have previously mentioned, melatonin is a hormone that is in charge of regulating your sleep cycle.
Melatonin is usually produced by the pineal gland in the brain, but it can also be purchased as a form of supplementation in case you are lacking it, in order to get healthy sleep. Melatonin and other sleep medicine can promote relaxation, and it is beloved by people who suffer from insomnia and those who travel a lot since they often have to deal with jet lag.
Melatonin is generally considered safe for everyone and in aids everyone in creating a good sleep hygiene, given that a proper dose is taken, according to the provided instructions.
However, some of the possible side effects of melatonin can include:
If you are taking any other type and kind of medication or any other underlying health conditions, make sure to check with your healthcare provider, who will be able to provide medical advice before using melatonin.
An inconsistent sleep schedule is a matter that requires immediate action, as it affects the quality of life in a very drastic way. Fixing your fixing schedule might be a little bit tricky and time-consuming in the beginning, and it might require a bit of sacrifice. However, this task is far from impossible, and the reward of a consistent sleep schedule will be tenfold.