Sleep deprivation can cause all sorts of health issues, mainly because your body uses that time to repair and refresh itself. It is important to get 6-8 hours of sleep every day or else you will not be able to perform at your best. To improve your sleep quality, it is important that you stick to a healthy sleep schedule. However, sometimes, you have to make subtle changes to your sleep schedule considering events outside of your control. It is possible to learn how to change your sleeping schedule, temporarily or permanently. Let's find out what you can do in this regard.
How to Change Your Sleeping Schedule
It may seem difficult to switch to a different sleeping schedule from the one you already have, but it is very much possible. Here is how you can do it efficiently.
1. Know Your Optimal Sleeping Time
The exact duration of optimal sleep varies a lot from person to person, but ideally, you should get at least 6-8 hours of sleep every night. A great idea is to keep a sleep log – it will help identify when you have to sleep to wake up at your desired time in the morning.
You just have to document the total number of hours you sleep every night. Continue to keep a log for a week or two. Combine those hours and average them. Then, you should work backwards to know when to go to bed to get enough sleep every night. While making the adjustments, be sure to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night.
2. Change Your Sleep Schedule Gradually
Do not make abrupt change to your sleeping schedule. If you have been waking up at 10 A.M. for years and now want to start your day at 5 A.M, you cannot achieve that overnight. The best way is to make only 15-minute increments at a time. It means that if you wake up at 8am but now want to get up at 6am, start by getting up at 7:45am for the first few days. Once you become comfortable, shave off another 15 minutes. Keep doing the same until you reach 6am.
3. Do Not Use Screens at Bedtime
You should turn off your computer, TV, and other electronics at least an hour before bedtime. Electronic devices that emit blue light can affect your eyes in a negative way and also disturb your sleep. They make your brain think it is daytime and it should stay active. You will be better off going to sleep while reading a book instead of looking at a screen.
4. Get Some Sun Exposure
You can really help set your body's internal clock by seeing the morning light daily. That internal clock is very sensitive to darkness and light. This is why any exposure to the sun first thing in the morning will help make necessary changes to your sleeping schedule. Just get your cup of coffee and enjoy some time in the sun to start your day in a positive way.
5. Keep Those Nightlights Dim
You should dim those nightlights to signal your brain that it is time to sleep. You can do it earlier at night to make your brain think that it is nighttime and it should stop being that active. It is an important step towards learning how to change your sleeping schedule. It is better to turn off any bright overhead lights to help your brain relax.
7. Do Not Use the Snooze Button
No matter how hard you try to change your sleep schedule, you will fail if you do not skip the snooze button. You are never going to make that transition if you cannot resist the temptation to get a few extra winks in the morning. That post-snooze sleep is never going to help because it is not high quality sleep. Set your alarm to the time when you want to get up and be sure to respect that alarm.
8. Keep Your Naps Short
If you really enjoy an afternoon nap, it is better to keep it short. While afternoon naps can help recharge your batteries, they are only going to interfere with your nighttime sleep if you do not keep them short. Ideally, your naps should be no longer than 20 minutes. Any longer than this can make your body take your nap as your primary sleep time and that can cause all sorts of problems.
9. Do Not Take Stimulants Before Sleep
It is important to avoid taking any stimulants before bedtime. You should also avoid any activities that would stimulate your nervous system. Here are a few suggestions:
- Do not consume caffeine before sleep. That cup of coffee you have in the morning can make your brain think that it should stay active, which will make it harder to fall asleep. Therefore, do not have caffeine for at least 6 hours before going to sleep.
- Do not consume alcohol after dinner. Alcohol acts as a depressant and slows down your body for a while. It may help you fall asleep easily, but you will wake up in the middle of the night once you come out of the effect of alcohol. It also affects your blood sugar levels that can also disrupt your sleep cycles.
- Do not exercise for at least an hour before bed. Any cardio activity can be taxing for your nervous system and even unsettle your body's internal clock. Your sleep will become a lot more stressful. If you really want to do something, limit yourself to light stretching and low-impact exercises, such as a short evening walk.
10. Be As Consistent As Possible
You are never going to learn how to change your sleeping schedule if you do not understand the importance of being consistent. You have to make gradual changes to your sleeping schedule and once you reach your goal, be sure to maintain the same schedule throughout the week. You should have the same schedule for weekends too.