How to Fix Your Sleep Schedule

Written by in Sleep Science

Quick Overview

Hitting the snooze button on your alarm clock a little too often? We’re hardwired to sleep at night and be awake during the day, but sometimes our internal sleep clocks get thrown off, affecting our ability to get normal sleep at night and function during the day. Jetlag, pulling an all-nighter at work, caring for newborns, and too much caffeine are just a few of the factors that can affect regular sleep patterns. It’s time to press the reset button, rather than the snooze button! Read on to discover how to fix your sleep schedule.

Which Countries Are The Most Sleep Deprived?

Disturbmenot.com created a great infographic covering sleep patterns around the world.


The Science Behind Your Circadian Rhythm

So, how exactly do our internal clocks work? The time we spend asleep versus awake is regulated by the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) in the hypothalamus in our brains. Our sleep-wake cycle is more commonly known as a circadian rhythm. This internal 24-hour biological clock ideally makes us tired at the same time each night and sets a routine wake time each morning. Light and darkness are natural triggers that align our sleep-wake cycles with the changing of day to night. When our eyes see darkness, they send a message to the hypothalamus, which sends a signal to release melatonin, a sleep hormone that makes the body tired.[1]
Body clock times and exact hours differ from person to person and are based on factors like genetics, the environment, and body type.[2] This is why some people actually do need more sleep than others. Your cycle will change throughout your life, so understanding your optimal sleep cycle is key to help you sleep better. Keep in mind that on average, adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep, while children and teens need a few hours more.[3]

What Does a Sleep Cycle Look Like?

You may have heard the terms REM and Non-REM sleep, but what do they actually mean? There are different stages of healthy sleep, which correlate to how deeply asleep we are. REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement, which is when the eyes move rapidly while you are asleep. When you first fall asleep, you enter Non-REM sleep, which has four stages. Each stage is deeper than the last, and stage three and four are known as ‘deep sleep.’[4] During deep sleep, your body is in a state of building your muscles, bones, and immune system.
After Non-REM sleep, usually 90 minutes into sleeping, you will enter REM sleep. In this stage, your heart rate and breathing speed up and you may have intense dreams. After this stage, you will then cycle back into Non-REM sleep, then REM, etc. A good night’s sleep means you have cycled through Non-REM and REM five to six times before waking.[5] Your sleep quality will be high and you will feel well-rested the next day.

Can You Fix Your Sleep Schedule?

If you are not reaching the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep and constantly feel sleepiness, it is likely that you have an out-of-whack sleep routine. Other signs that you need to reset your circadian clock include frequently waking up in the middle of the night, a sleep schedule that changes daily, and not being able to sleep at all while you are traveling.
how to fix your sleep schedule
Now that we have pinpointed the problem, the question becomes, can you fix your sleep schedule? For those who suffer from insomnia on a regular basis, you can attest to the fact that it is not easy to fall asleep when your body and brain are protesting. However, there are numerous options to help make your sleep habits better if you are willing to give them a try.

How to Reset Your Sleep Cycle: 9 Tips to Try

If you’re wondering how to reset your sleep cycle, start with simple environmental factors to make your bedroom a more relaxing space that will foster a sleepy mood. Balancing your sleep-wake cycle will need attention during the day as well, so you may have to adjust certain lifestyle choices and activities to prioritize healthy sleep at night. We dive into the specifics of resetting your circadian rhythm below.

  1. Try a Meditation Before Bed to Help Relax.

Meditation is a proven tool to help with sleep issues. Before bed, meditation can relax the mind and body by eliminating stress. Different breathing techniques allow your brain to cut off outside stimulation by closing your eyes and focusing inward on your breath. Meditation can improve your sleep hygiene by increasing melatonin, serotonin (precursor of melatonin), reduce blood pressure, lower your heart rate, and turn on the parts of the brain related to sleep.

  1. Keep Napping to a Minimum During the Day.

It is very tempting when you are tired during the day to take a nap, especially after lunch. However, if your sleep-wake cycle is off, it’s important to power through the day so that you are tired when it’s time to go to bed at night. This is a good rule of thumb when you are flying overseas and have to adjust to a new time zone. If you absolutely need to rest, keep it to a 20-minute power nap. You’ll feel a boost in energy without it affecting your ability to sleep at night.

  1. Schedule in Regular Exercise During the Day.

Doing regular physical activity will help you go to sleep earlier and stay asleep. According to the American Heart Association, it is recommended that adults get 30 minutes of exercise per day, five days a week. [6]
There are many reasons why exercise is helpful in restoring your circadian rhythm. It decreases stress levels, which are often a cause of not getting enough sleep. It also increases serotonin, which triggers the release of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Once you do fall asleep, studies have shown that exercise increases your time spent in deep sleep, which is when your body has time to repair itself and strengthen the immune system.

  1. Keep the Room Cool at Night for Good Sleep.

Part of your bedtime routine should be to adjust the thermostat to between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Sound cold? The reason you want your room to be colder at night is that body temperatures decrease while we are falling asleep. Keeping the room cold will help with this process, whereas a hot room might keep you awake. [5]

  1. Eat Dinner Earlier and Consider Fasting.

You should try adjusting your meal times to earlier if your sleep-wake cycle is off. It is recommended that you eat dinner two to three hours before going to sleep to give your stomach time to digest. To avoid heartburn before bed, stick to foods that you know won’t upset your stomach and avoid spicy and acidic foods like citrus and tomatoes. You should also avoid caffeine in the latter part of the day. [7]
You may be tempted by a cocktail or wine after dinner, but while alcohol can initially help instigate sleep, you won’t sleep as well after drinking and are more likely to wake up during the night feeling thirsty.
If your sleep-wake cycle is very off, you may need to try fasting to get back on a normal eating schedule. A 16 hour fast between dinner and breakfast the next day has shown to help reduce jetlag while traveling. It is also effective when you’re not traveling because our circadian rhythms adjust to food availability. Once you have re-established your sleep-wake cycle, stick to a 12-hour break overnight between meals. [8]

  1. Limit Screen Time Before Bed.

Blue light from screens like smartphones and tablets can keep your brain awake at night. The blue light emitted has a shorter wavelength than other types of light and for this reason, it is capable of delaying the release of melatonin in the brain. This will cause you to fall asleep later and upset your natural circadian rhythm. Blue light can also keep you from reaching peak REM sleep, affecting your quality of sleep and making you feel groggy the next day.
An hour or two before bedtime, limit screen time by turning off your cell phone and reading from books rather than tablets. You can also invest in blue light blocking glasses for use during the day as blue light can contribute to eye strain as well as affect your sleep-wake cycle.

  1. Get Comfortable and Create a Restful Environment.

There are some obvious and some not so obvious ways you can make your room more conducive to sleep. The obvious ones are to turn off loud sounds, eliminate bright lights, and make sure there are no distractions like Netflix playing in the background. Many people invest in blackout curtains, earplugs, and white noise machines to drown out the stimulants that keep them awake.
You can also make tweaks to the comfort level of your bed. If you are someone who tosses and turns every night, it might be because your bed isn’t comfortable for your body. You might want to try an adjustable bed like The Yaasa ONE Adjustable Bed, which you can adjust into a comfortable position depending on how you are feeling, if you have pain in a part of the body, etc. Different positions, like sleeping with legs elevated, will help you get better sleep and alleviate the pain that might have been aggravated by sleeping in other positions.
You can also try a wellness blanket or weighted blanket as a sleep aid. The Yaasa Elements Blanket aids blood flow and promotes restful sleep. Our Weighted Blanket will help relieve stress and give you the feeling of being cocooned and comfortable while you sleep. Weighted blankets come in varying weights and offer the next level of comfort and many other health benefits, too!

  1. Go Camping to Reset Your Body Clock.

A fun way of resetting your circadian rhythm is to head out into the great outdoors! As our bodies respond to natural light and darkness, this is a great way to get fresh air and reset your sleep cycle. When you substitute physical activity like hiking and swimming for electronics like television and cellphones, your body will be in a healthier state, prompting a good night’s sleep.
If you have tried all of these options and you still don’t have a consistent sleep schedule, there is a possibility that you have a circadian rhythm disorder. There are many types including Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome, Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, and non-24 hour sleep syndrome. Consult a sleep specialist to help with creating a routine that works for you if you believe you have one of these sleep issues. [9]

  1. Try Planned Sleep Deprivation to Get Back on Track.

If your sleep cycle is really off, you can try planned sleep deprivation to get you back on a regular schedule. How this works is to essentially stay awake one night through to the next night, when you would finally be tired at a regular bedtime. This forces a reset in the hours you are waking and sleeping. If you are planning on trying this method, consult your doctor first and make sure you do not drive or attempt work as you will feel very tired. [8]
how to fix your sleep schedule

Quick Test for Resetting Circadian Rhythms

Think you’ve finally gotten your regular schedule back on track? Here’s a quick test: Are you typically asleep for 90 percent of the time that you are in bed? [10] If yes, make sure you are getting the recommended seven to ten hours of sleep each night and that you feel well-rested during the day. We hope that this guide to helping you reset your circadian rhythm will benefit you and restore the balance and health you need in your life. Good luck and goodnight!