Struggling to sleep or struggling to maintain a good sleep schedule can be frustrating. Loss of sleep — or a lack of good quality sleep — can negatively affect your health, both mentally and physically.
Here, we’ll discuss ten top tips that will help you fix your sleep schedule. If you have ongoing problems with sleep that you find yourself unable to resolve at home, consult your doctor: you may have an undiagnosed sleep disorder or an underlying medical condition that is causing issues with sleep.
1. Set your bedtime
Having a regular bedtime isn’t just good for children — it’s good for adults too! Consistency is key when it comes to establishing and maintaining a healthy sleep schedule.
Try to go to bed at the same time every night and try to get up at the same time every morning, even on weekends. Changes to your routine will take time to adjust to, but sticking with them will help you form better sleep habits and a better sleep schedule in the long run.
2. Improve your sleep environment
A poor sleep environment isn’t conducive to a good sleep schedule. A great mattress, supportive pillows, and breathable bedding can make a considerable difference in the quality of your sleep — plus, being more comfortable and relaxed can make it easier for you to fall asleep in the first place.
3. Establish a relaxing routine
Think about what relaxes you and build these activities into your nighttime routine. Many people find taking a hot shower or bath before bed helps, while others enjoy practising relaxation techniques such as meditation and deep breathing.
Reading a book (not on a screen!) or listening to calming music can also help you wind down as you prepare for bed. Try different strategies to find the bedtime routine that feels most relaxing to you.
4. Skip naps
If you’re working towards a better sleep schedule, you may want to consider avoiding naps. Napping for too long — or too late at night — can interfere with your sleep schedule.
If you find that you really need a quick rest during the day, keep your naps to under twenty minutes. Napping for longer than this can trick your body into believing you’re getting ready to go to bed for the night, which can result in grogginess when you wake up (not to mention disruptions in sleep when you actually are going to bed).
5. Exercise regularly
As well as being great for your overall health and wellbeing, exercising regularly can also help you if you’re trying to establish a good sleep schedule.
A study published in 2018 found that exercising can help people fall asleep faster and spend more time in deep sleep. The same study — which considered evidence from 23 separate studies — suggests it’s best to avoid vigorous activity at least an hour before bedtime, so plan your exercise accordingly.
6. Avoid stimulants
Consuming stimulants like caffeine and nicotine can wreak havoc with your sleep schedule. A study conducted in 2013 found that “a moderate dose of caffeine at bedtime, 3 hours prior to bedtime, or 6 hours prior to bedtime each have significant effects on sleep disturbance.” Another study from 2009 showed that symptoms of insomnia can be observed during nicotine consumption.
Stay away from stimulants and you may see an improvement in your sleep schedule.
7. Expose yourself to bright light during the day
Your “body clock” helps you stay awake and lets your body know when it’s time to sleep. To keep it functioning well, expose yourself to bright light or natural sunlight throughout the day.
If you’re unable to be in natural light during the day, you may wish to purchase an artificial light for daytime use. There are many affordable options, such as the TheraLite Mood and Energy Enhancing Light.
8. Consider taking supplements that promote good sleep
Melatonin is one of the most well-known and widely used natural sleep aids. Melatonin is a hormone produced by your brain that helps to control your sleep schedule. Normally, your melatonin level rises after the sun sets and remains high during the night, which helps you sleep. This is because the production of melatonin is directly linked to the amount of light around you.
Melatonin supplements come in different forms, including tablets and oral sprays. If you do decide to try melatonin as a sleep aid, start with a low dose to assess your tolerance and always follow the directions on the label.
9. Avoid alcohol
Consuming alcohol before bed can affect your sleep schedule, and the quality of your sleep — although alcohol can cause you to fall asleep more quickly, it can also reduce the amount of REM sleep you get.
If you’re experiencing issues with your sleep schedule, it may be worth steering clear of alcohol and monitoring the effects of this on your sleep.
10. Limit your exposure to blue light
Research has shown that when people are exposed to blue light at night, their bodies don’t release as much melatonin (the sleep-promoting hormone our brain produces). Harvard Medical School states that blue light exposure at night can disrupt the inner workings of your body clock.
Do you often use blue light emitting devices (such as cell phones or laptops) near bedtime? If you’re trying to fix your sleep schedule, limit your use of such devices at night.
These are just some of the steps you can take at home to improve your sleep schedule. If your problems with sleep are having a negative impact on your day to day life, consult your doctor for further advice.