Updated February 28, 2020 You’ve been lying in bed all night, tossing and turning instead of getting the restorative sleep you need. You worry about the day ahead and how you’ll get through it on so little sleep. Being sleep deprived is no fun. It’s also dangerous. When you have disruptions in your sleep schedule, you can experience sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation doesn’t just mean going a full night without sleep. It means you’re not getting enough sleep in general. But there is good news. Mixing up your bedtime routine and creating new sleep habits can help. Even if you’re a new parent, nurse, paramedic, or someone with an unpredictable schedule, there are adjustments you can make. Don’t try to make all the suggested changes in one night. Instead, start with one new habit at a time. Work on it for at least a couple of weeks until it becomes part of your everyday practice. Then you can add another positive sleep habit. This is called sleep hygiene. So how does your own body regulate your sleep-wake cycles? Let’s take a closer look at how your internal clock functions and the best ways to fix your sleep schedule. 1. Lose the light Bright light before bed sends a signal to your brain that it’s time to be awake. Blue light from televisions, smartphones, and tablets can keep you awake even after you’ve turned them off and closed your eyes. Put down your cell phone or any other blue light device at least one hour before bed. Read a book or a magazine, do breathing exercises, or write in a journal. 2. Watch the clock When it comes to a bedtime routine, the clock is your friend. Aim to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day is ideal. Yes, sticking to a strict schedule can be a challenge. But if you start winding down when the sun sets and get out of bed when the sun rises, your body clock can adjust more quickly. Aim for at least seven hours of sleep each night, and get out of bed before you’ve had nine hours of sleep. Sleeping too much can disrupt the body clock as much as not getting enough sleep. 3. Move your body Exercise feels good and makes your body stronger. Research shows it also helps you get good quality sleep. Working can help you reach deep sleep faster and increases sleep quality. However, exercise can work against your sleep quality if you work out too late in the day. When you get your heart rate up, your core body temperature increases. The rise in temperature tells your brain it’s time to wake up. Your body temperature should begin to drop as you are getting ready for bed. Schedule your workouts for morning or early afternoon. There should be a six-hour window between when you exercise and when you go to bed. If you feel you need to move your body in the evening, take a casual walk or do some stretching. 4. Keep it quiet It’s common sense to make your sleep environment quiet, but there might be more noise in your sleep space than you realize. Noise is especially detrimental to sleep quality and sleep duration. Have you ever fallen asleep while watching television? Do you remember hearing the voices from the TV even after you started falling asleep? That’s because hearing is the last sense to fade when you lose consciousness. If you are drifting off to sleep and the ping of an air conditioner sounds, it’s likely that you will wake up and have to fall asleep all over again. Most people find quieting all the noises in their environment to be challenging. If that’s the case for you, try sleeping with a set of earplugs. You can invest in a white noise machine or use a white noise app on your smartphone or tablet. (Just don’t stare at the screen.) You can also use a fan on a high setting. If your environment is especially noisy, try pairing white noise with a set of ear plugs. 5. Eat early Your hypothalamus also controls hunger. Perhaps that’s why your sleep and wake cycles respond to food. When you eat a meal, your body begins digesting. This wakes up certain cells in your body, making it more difficult to get to sleep. Try to eat your last meal of the day two to three hours before bed. This way, when it’s time to wind down, your stomach is finished digesting your meal. If you need a snack right before bed, opt for something light like toast or cereal. 6. Make new habits Making new sleep habits is one of the most beneficial changes you can make. Take note of how long you are sleeping each night. If you are not getting at least seven hours of sleep, your new sleep habit should be going to bed earlier. Seven hours is the minimum amount of sleep considered refreshing and restorative. That said, do not sleep more than nine hours a night. 7. Make a sleep journal Just like you schedule your days so you can be productive at work, scheduling your sleep can improve its quality. Keep a sleep journal where you keep your planned schedule. Update it each morning with the time you went to sleep and the time you got out of bed. Under the time log, add any thoughts you have about the night’s sleep quality. You can also keep notes about your sleep hygiene. Did you look at screens a little too late in the day? Did you skip your nightly bath? Did you have a stressful conversation right before bed? Keeping track of when and how you sleep can help you make connections to what is impacting your sleep. 8. Make your bedroom a haven for sleep Transform your bedroom into space you enjoy being in, even when you’re not asleep. Some experts suggest not watching television and not using your digital devices in your bedroom. This is thought to create a more peaceful environment. Consider a tranquil color palette. Are your walls bright yellow? Perhaps a calming blue or neutral hue would be more conducive to a good night’s sleep. If a new paint job isn’t realistic, then opt for soothing colors for your linens and decor. When you lie down to sleep, do you feel comfort and support? If not, you may be on the wrong bed. The best mattress for you will cradle your pressure points, helping reduce tossing and turning and pain points, and will also keep your spine properly aligned. Use dim lights. Think about the aesthetic of spas, hotels, or other environments you find soothing. If you don’t have the budget to redecorate, invest in some soft, light blue throw pillows. 9. Get some sun Some people’s body clocks get confused during winter and cloudy, rainy weather. Sunlight tells your body that it’s time to wake up, and darkness triggers your body clock to go to sleep. If you’re having trouble getting your sleep schedule adjusted, use sunlight to your advantage. Each morning when you wake up, look into the sky and soak up the light. Take some deep breaths and think positively about what lies ahead in the day for you. This simple action alone will make you feel more alert. When you begin to feel afternoon sleepiness, expose yourself to the sun again if possible. Take a short walk or simply stare out the window. If it’s dark and gray and you can’t access the sun, consider getting a sunlight simulator. These are often used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) when there is not enough sunlight exposure in the winter months. What Is Your Body Clock? As the day progresses, your levels of alertness and tiredness fluctuate. Ideally, you are energized during the day, and ready for rest at night. You can thank the part of your brain called the hypothalamus for maintaining these levels, which are part of your circadian rhythm. This rhythm regulates your sleep-wake cycle and repeats approximately every 24 hours. This is also called your body clock. The part of your brain called the hypothalamus maintains your levels of alertness and tiredness, which are part of your circadian rhythm, also known as your body clock. The neurons in the hypothalamus regulate when you feel sleepy and when you feel awake. Some people have dysfunctions in these neurons, resulting in sleep disorders such as narcolepsy. Your circadian rhythm ebbs and flows at different times of the day. Your strongest natural drive to sleep happens between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. An afternoon slump of tiredness is common between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. This can vary based on your personality. Some people are night owls while the next person might be an early bird. When your sleep schedule get out of sync, your biological clock struggles to regulate itself. This could happen for many reasons. For example, jet lag, a different work shift, or pulling an all-nighter to study. The side effects of missing a night of sleep can take several days to recover from. In addition to not feeling good physically, sleep deprivation can cause moodiness and depression. So how do you fix your sleep schedule when your internal clock has been disturbed? It takes a commitment to sleep hygiene and a consistent sleep schedule to get you back on track. What’s Causing Your Irregular Sleep Schedule? When you’re ironing out how to fix sleep schedule disruptions, the first course of action is to identify why your sleep cycle has gone off course. Some factors that affect your sleep cycle include: Staying up late, getting up early, oversleeping Napping during the day Travel and jet lag Not moving your body enough during the day Parenting or caregiving Daylight Saving Time Shift work or switching shifts Getting sick Physical injuries Stress Sleep problems and disorders Some people have obligations preventing them from keeping a healthy sleep schedule. Nurses, construction workers, and others might work night shifts or do other shift work. Parents may be up all night with a sick or crying child and still have to go to work the next day after the sun rises. Traveling to different time zones can also cause sleep difficulties. Jet lag can be a tough adjustment, particularly when you need to be productive after you land in a new time zone. Still, there are some simple steps you can take to help alleviate some of the strain of sleep deprivation. When You Can’t Adjust Your Sleep Schedule There are going to be times when you cannot adjust your work or life schedule. But you can still learn how to fix sleep schedule challenges with small changes. Adjust the lighting in your bedroom, invest in new linens you can’t wait to sleep in, or treat yourself to some cozy new pajamas. Start going to bed earlier and waking up with the sun each morning. (Or your sunlight simulator.) Parents of Infants If you have an infant, you are probably asking yourself what a sleep schedule even is. Babies make their own schedules and don’t care about when their parents want to sleep. Many people will advise you to sleep when the baby sleeps, but that isn’t always possible. If you have another child, a job, or other responsibilities, sometimes your baby’s nap time is the only time to get things done. For a while, you’ll have to be on your baby’s schedule. But your baby will eventually start sleeping at night. Until then, try to get sunlight during the day and keep the lights dim and noise low when baby is awake at night. Even though you have to be awake throughout the night, your sleep-wake cycle can readjust. Try to keep your body clock as close to normal as possible through the early weeks of baby care. This way, you’ll be able to quickly get your sleep schedule on track when your baby starts sleeping through the night. Night Shift Workers For nurses, airline employees, and first responders, working the night shift means you won’t be able to regulate your body clock very frequently. Even though you can’t change your schedule, you can create habits to help you get better quality sleep. If you have to be awake throughout the day and then work a night shift, try to sneak in a nap before you head to work. Nap for two to three hours if possible to get the benefits of deep, restorative sleep. If you can’t catch a nap before your shift, hit the gym or go for a walk. The increase in core body temperature will stimulate your body into a state of wakefulness. Eat your meals and snacks at the same time throughout your night shift to encourage your body clock to self-regulate. It might be hard to make it through your shift without coffee, but avoid it within three hours of clocking out. As you head out into the sunlight after a long night at work, wear dark sunglasses. Try to keep sunlight out of your drive home as much as possible. This will help your body better prepare for sleep. Use blackout curtains or an eye mask to make your sleeping space as dark and sleep-friendly as possible. Wear earplugs and block out outside noise. Talk to your neighbors to let them know you sleep during the day. Ask them to do yard work or other noisy activities during the hours when you’re not sleeping. How to Reset Sleep Schedule Disruptions: When to Seek Help If you regularly feel drowsy during the day, you may be suffering from sleep deprivation. When you’ve made changes to sleep habits and hygiene, and you’re still not sleeping, it might be time to consult a sleep specialist. Falling asleep immediately when you lay down is a sign of sleep deprivation. Nodding off during conversations also indicates you are dangerously sleep-deprived. Sleep deprivation is dangerous because it can cause microsleeps or brief periods of sleep that a person doesn’t notice. These can take place while driving, bathing, or in another precarious situation that could lead to injury. Here’s to a Good Night’s Sleep Your body clock helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Even when you have a regularly disturbed sleep schedule, you can make small adjustments to promote sleep. By making a few lifestyle changes, you can get back on track and enjoying a good sleep routine. Comments Cancel replyLeave a Comment Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * Comment Name Email I agree to the Terms and Conditions of this website.