Sleep is an integral part of our lives.
Principally, sleep keeps us rested and reenergized.
But, in addition, it can affect our mood, reduce stress, and improve our attention and concentration.
Also, it can boost the immune system and help us maintain a healthy weight.
Many of us understand a typical sleep schedule to be cyclic, sleeping between 7-9 hours at night.
This type of human sleep cycle is what scientists refer to as monophasic sleep. But is it the best time to sleep and wake up?
Well, it is one of the most common and convenient since most people work a 9 to 5 job and can only sleep during the night.
Likewise, it aligns with the body’s internal clock or circadian rhythm even when we are working so hard every night and day.
Unfortunately, from time to time, we all miss out on sleep, whether due to studying for an exam, having a night out, being busy, or meeting a deadline.
In addition, some people miss out on sleep due to anxiety, overstimulation, and tension. For example, they may be compulsive, worrying about the future, and overanalyzing past events.
Stress can also lead to excessive release of cortisol, leading to poor sleep quality.
However, how do you fix your sleep schedule once it’s broken? Keep reading to find out in this article.
Signs your sleep schedule is messed up
The circadian rhythm is your sleep-wake pattern working in the background for a 24-hour day which helps control your daily schedule for slumber and wakefulness. The circadian rhythms play an integral role in diverse physical and mental health aspects, which are essential since different internal functions depend on them.
For example, biological chemicals such as melatonin and ramelteon promote sleep. They regulate the sleep-wake rhythm through their actions on melatonin receptors. These chemicals cause drowsiness and reduce body temperature, which makes you sleepy.
Once you mess with the circadian rhythm, you miss sleep benefits, which can lead to significant sleeping problems. For instance, falling asleep or staying asleep as long as desired will be difficult.
Also, suppose you miss out on sleeping at night. In that case, you will likely have low energy, irritability, daytime sleepiness, and a depressed mood the next day. In addition, it may lead to problems focusing and learning.
Potential problems with messy sleeping patterns include obesity, depression, and lower sex drive. In addition, lack of sleep can progress to poor cognitive function, reduced immune system function, and increased inflammation.
In extreme cases, sleep deprivation may increase your risk for chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure, or stroke.
If you alter your sleeping schedule, you may experience poor sleep quality. Poor sleep quality is defined as the individual not reaching stage 3 or delta sleep. Stage 3 sleep refers to deep sleep, and it is harder to wake someone up if they are in this phase.
In this phase, muscle tone, pulse, and breathing rate decrease. The body relaxes with the brain activity showing delta waves.
Delta waves occur in stages 3 and 4 of the sleep cycle before REM sleep and are essential to overall health and well-being. They are crucial in making you feel rested once you’ve been asleep.
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What can mess up your sleep schedule?
An adequately aligned circadian rhythm can promote consistent and restorative sleep. However, research also reveals that environmental cues, such as sunlight, influence circadian rhythms. That is why circadian rhythms are tied to the day and night cycle.
Therefore, you can throw off your circadian rhythm if you miss these environmental cues, such as staying up late at night or sleeping a lot during the day. There are so many things that can make you say, “my sleep schedule is messed up.”
Here are a few examples:
- Taking long naps
- Heavy smoking
- Working late night shifts
- Alcohol or drug use disorders
- Emotional stress or financial stress
- Mental health disorders
- Traveling through different time zones
- Work stress
- Chronic diseases
- Genetics can lead to sleep problems such as having the MEIS1 gene.
- Gastrointestinal issues such as heartburn or constipation
- Hormone shifts such as those that occur before menstruation and those during menopause
- Life events leading to fear, stress, and anxiety, such as work problems, the birth of a child, and grief
- Poor sleep hygiene due to noise or over-consumption of caffeine
- Increased exposure to the blue light from artificial sources, such as phones or computers
7 tips to fix your sleep schedule
How to get your sleeping schedule back on track? Fortunately, there are practical steps and habits you can develop to improve sleep hygiene, reset your internal clock and support a healthy circadian rhythm.
The following steps can help improve sleep:
1) Have a schedule or create a routine
Most of us have a predictable sleep schedule due to the release of melatonin and the circadian rhythm. Also, varying your bedtime or morning wake-up time can hinder your body’s ability to adjust to a stable circadian rhythm. Therefore, sticking with a realistic schedule by maintaining consistent sleep timing only makes sense.
By inference, you should go to bed and wake up simultaneously every day, including weekends. You can even develop a routine around this time to help you prepare for sleep.
For example, some people opt for relaxing music, meditating, reading, praying, or journaling to help them wind down before bed. These habits hours before bed can serve as stress relievers and ensure sound sleep.
2) Control nighttime light sources
The biological clock is predominantly affected by light exposure and darkness. However, light sources are everywhere in our modern world, even in our pockets.
To keep a balance and ensure a good sleep, avoid blue light during the 2 hours of bedtime to prevent overstimulation. Thus, cutting out the lights from screens will let our bodies adjust to the nighttime darkness and activate chemicals such as melatonin that make us sleepy. Now, apps enable you to dim the blue light on phones and even settings that promote sleep.
3) Ensure you get some sunlight
In addition to following a consistent sleep schedule, doctors recommended getting at least 20 to 30 minutes of sunlight in the morning.
Early exposure to natural light, especially in the morning, helps reinforce the most potent circadian cue and will ensure that you will be naturally sleepy by nighttime.
4) Start exercising
Physical activity during the day can help to regulate the circadian clock and help make it easier to fall asleep at night. In addition, getting daily exercise increases serotonin, which reduces psychological stress.
Intense physical activity is also known to elevate body temperature. Hence, a drop in temperature after exercising and the general feeling of tiredness can help facilitate adequate sleep.
However, avoid exercising too late in the evening to prevent you from feeling overstimulated. Instead, you can opt to exercise during the day.
5) Avoid coffee and alcohol
Stimulants like caffeine can keep you awake as it blocks the effects of adenosine and prevents sleepiness. Of course, everyone is different, but we should avoid caffeine at least six hours before bed to ensure sound sleep.
Also, alcohol contributes to wakefulness and disrupted sleep. It is metabolized quickly and affects excitatory cells. Thus, causing people to feel hyperactive. This effect counters alcohol’s initial sedative properties.
6) Avoid napping for long hours
Although naps are healthy, people with sleep issues should avoid them. Typically, the longer you stay awake during the day, the sleepier you should be at night.
But be wary that long and late naps can disrupt your sleep schedule by pushing your natural bedtime further into the night. However, if you want to maintain naps, then keep naps short and early in the afternoon because a monophasic sleep cycle is better than fragmented sleep.
Note that other additional steps may be necessary, depending on the situation. For instance, some people may require doses of melatonin to help them sleep.
Therefore, if you have a problematic sleep schedule, persistent insomnia, or a similar condition, don’t hold back from your healthcare provider or doctor. They will diagnose the cause and offer the most appropriate treatment.
7) Try a natural sleep supplement
Our dietary melatonin supplement, Deep Sleep, contains ingredients clinically proven to help you fall asleep faster, normalize your sleep cycle, ensure restorative and adequate sleep, and help resolve sleep disorders – without any drowsiness or side effects.
If you want to achieve better quality sleep or restore a normal sleep pattern, Deep Sleep can help you achieve longer-lasting REM sleep. So, by achieving a good night’s sleep and combatting sleep deficiency, you will wake up feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and energized every day.
How long does it take to reset your sleep schedule?
Fixing a sleep schedule can take more than three days. Some researchers say it can take ten days to two weeks to have full effect.
Resetting your circadian clock is not simple; it can take several gradual modifications. Hence, reestablishing a consistent sleep cycle takes time and consistency.
Can pulling an all-nighter fix your sleep schedule?
No, fixing your sleep schedule with an all-nighter is not advisable. While an all-nighter can be helpful if cramming before a test, it is detrimental to your sleep. It can have unhealthy effects on your body and may lead to an even worse sleeping pattern.
A better alternative will be using a sleep clock or sleep scheduler. Now, apps like these help track your sleep, tell you the best times to sleep and wake up to feel rested, and when you experience REM sleep.
In conclusion, sleep is a vital part of our lives that keeps us healthy, rested, and re-energized. However, signs your sleep schedule is messed up include low energy, quickly getting irritated, daytime sleepiness, loss of attentiveness, and a depressed mood.
Several factors can lead to a messed-up sleep schedule, such as taking long naps, stress, chronic diseases, poor sleep hygiene, traveling across time zones, caffeine intake, and alcohol.
Fixing your sleep schedule should involve creating a routine, controlling light sources, exercising regularly, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, and not napping for long hours.