NOT getting enough sleep due to a poor sleep schedule can lead to many health problems, such as an increased risk for insulin resistance, diabetes, hypertension, weight gain, and stress.
As well, lack of sleep decreases physical and mental performance during the day, which can lead to an increased risk of injury while on the road, at work, and at home.
That’s not to mention the negative effects on your mood when you feel
tired. With daylight savings putting the clocks forward, now is a perfect time to get back into good habits by resetting your sleep schedule to one that gives you the quality sleep you deserve.
This may sound daunting at first, so BedKingdom.co.uk have provided six ways to help you reset your sleep schedule.
1) Use light to your advantage: Adjusting the light levels for when you want to sleep and wake up will greatly help reset your sleep schedule because properly timed light triggers can reset the human clock within one to three days.
In the morning, you should try to let the sun wake you up or, if this isn’t possible, use a bright light to act as a stand-in for the sun. Light-up alarm clocks are perfect for this since they use light that gradually increases in intensity to simulate a sunrise, waking you up gradually and gently.
At night, the opposite applies, and you should do your best to have as dark a room as possible when getting to sleep. Blackout curtains are ideal for removing unwanted light from outside, which will be particularly useful as the days get longer heading into summer.
Turning off lights inside your bedroom as you wind down for the night will also help, especially lights with lots of blue light, since blue light has been linked to increased wakefulness.
Some light-up alarm clocks also have a sunset function, gradually decreasing light to help you drift off to sleep at bedtime.
2) Adjust your sleeping and waking times gradually: It is tempting to try to reset your sleep schedule in one go by going to bed early, or by staying up all night so you are completely exhausted come bedtime the next day.
However, this is probably not the most effective way: a 2005 study by C Eastman et al found that adjusting one’s sleep schedule by one hour each day was more effective than larger steps in adjusting sleep schedules; the larger steps provided no benefit over the one-hour adjustment group.
This finding can help you to adapt your sleep schedule by moving your sleeping and waking times by one hour a day, which can be particularly useful in dealing with jet lag after a long flight.
3) Stick to a schedule: Structure helps a lot in keeping a healthy sleep schedule because it lets your body stay in tune with its circadian rhythm more easily.
Sticking to a set bedtime and wake-up time will help keep your body in order, as well as help prevent your sleep schedule from drifting away from your ideal timings, which will provide the best opportunities to get that seven to nine hours of good quality sleep a night.
This will be particularly useful for people who might not have a set daily schedule, since providing structure will help stave off too many unwanted late nights and sleep-ins. To dial in the schedule, you can gradually wind down as bedtime approaches and, if possible, slowly induce wakefulness as your wake-up time approaches.
For bedtime, it is useful not to use electronics an hour before bed since they keep your brain alert. The light from the devices disrupts our circadian rhythm because the bright light, which is usually composed of lots of blue light, they output makes our body think it’s still daytime.
Depending on what the device is being used for, this can also contribute to keeping your brain in a state of wakefulness. Instead of using electronics before bed, try something like reading. If reading isn’t your thing, you can substitute something else that helps your brain relax and unwind such as a nice bath.
If you must use electronics late at night, you can use blue light filters on your devices to mitigate the worst effects of blue light exposure. These are referred to as Night Shift on iOS or eye comfort shield on Android, plus you can find other programs and apps for use on things like computers and laptops.
4) Do intensive exercise in the morning instead of at night: A 2015 study by Yamanaka et al found that vigorous exercise before bed disrupts the body’s natural rhythm and makes it harder to get to sleep.
This then makes it harder to keep to a sleep schedule, as well as reduces the quality of sleep achieved after intense exercise performed before bedtime. This study found that rapid eye movement (REM) sleep was decreased by 10.5% in the people that performed intensive exercise before bed. REM sleep is important because it is the time when your brain consolidates your memories, committing things learned during the day to long-term memory, as well as being the time when you dream most vividly, which is hypothesised to help in processing your emotions.
REM sleep is also hypothesised to help prepare you to wake up, in addition to promoting brain development.
The same study found that sleep quality was improved when the intensive exercise was done in the morning. Therefore, it is best to avoid intensive exercise in the run-up to bedtime, ideally moving the exercise session earlier in the day to accommodate the best quality of sleep and allow for the best sleep schedule.
5) Don’t drink caffeine too late: Caffeine is a stimulant commonly found in things like coffee, tea, certain soft drinks (especially energy drinks), and certain diet and exercise supplements. Caffeine is relatively long-lasting; after six hours, roughly half of the consumed caffeine is still present in the body, and it can take up to 10 hours to leave the bloodstream completely.
6) Eat kiwifruit: Kiwifruit has been a feature in many people’s bedtime routines for many years, and the science backs up the kiwi’s value as a sleep aid. Studies have shown that kiwifruit can help improve sleep quality, sleep timings, and sleep efficiency after a month of regular kiwifruit consumption before sleep.