“I woke up feeling rested and rejuvenated after tossing and turning all night long,” said no one ever. And while you may have had the stamina in your youth to go on and on like the Energizer Bunny, one sleepless night in adulthood may just have you looking for solutions on how to fix a sleep schedule.
There are plenty of things that can keep you from getting your night’s rest, either willfully or not. But knowing the ideal time to go to bed specifically for you can drastically change how you show up in your day.
The thing is, lack of sleep can have you dragging about your day like Lurch in The Addams Family. But resetting your sleep schedule can greatly improve your chances of getting the rest you need and actually waking up feeling great.
Why Does a Regular Sleep Schedule Matter?
Without us even having to consciously say so, our body will signal that it’s wiped out. However, that doesn’t always mean we’re going to bed at a reasonable hour to get the rest we need. So having a sleep schedule can help our bodies do so.
Here are three studies that demonstrate how beneficial a solid sleep schedule can really be:
- One study examined the effects of an irregular bedtime schedule on quality sleep. Its results suggest that having a schedule bolsters better-quality rest.
- Another study looked into the association between sleep patterns and body composition. Its findings indicate that the practice can lead to a decrease in fat mass and an increase in lean mass.
- The researchers of a 2020 study explored sleep irregularities and the risk of cardiovascular disease. They found a link between the two, suggesting that having regular sleep duration lowers the risk of heart disease.
“Sleep affects every area of your life,” says Dr. Michael Breus, a.k.a. the Sleep Doctor and trainer of The Mastery of Sleep Quest on Mindvalley. It helps maintain your circadian rhythm, which is the body’s internal clock that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. And when this happens, it can lead to various benefits for your overall well-being.
How Does a Sleep Schedule Go Off-Track?
There are countless reasons you may not be getting your beauty sleep as you should. The demands of our modern lifestyles could be leaving you counting sheep ‘til the wee hours of the morning.
According to Harvard Medical School, there are four main reasons why this can happen:
- Your age. Your body secretes less melatonin (a hormone that promotes sleep) as you get older, which can greatly affect your circadian rhythm.
- Your lifestyle. Habits bolster your lifestyle. If you have good habits, your lifestyle tends to be healthier, and vice versa. So drinking alcohol or eating too close to bedtime, napping too much throughout the day, or consuming too much caffeine are all habits that can disrupt your sleep.
- Your medication. There are some, like antidepressants or corticosteroids, that cause you to wake up at night or shorten your sleep time.
- Chronic health problems. Some underlying conditions and sleep don’t go well together. These can include anxiety, depression, chronic pain, neuropathy, and sleep apnea.
It’s important to note that if you have trouble sleeping or want to know how to get more deep sleep, it’s advisable to seek medical advice from your health practitioner. Learning how to fix a bad sleep schedule is one thing, but getting an evaluation for your sleep deprivation can help you rule out any underlying medical conditions.
What’s the Ideal Sleep Routine for Your Chronotype?
Some people naturally wake up and go to sleep early, while others do so at a later time. Knowing your chronotype—your body’s natural inclination to fall asleep at a certain time—can help you learn how to fix your sleep schedule and practice better sleep habits.
Here’s a closer look at the different chronotypes and their ideal sleep routines:
- Lions. They are the early risers. These are the go-getters, like the CEOs of companies, according to Dr. Breus. And, he adds, because they wake up super early, like around 5 a.m., they tend to also fall asleep early, usually by 9 or 10 p.m.
- Bears. The majority of people represent this sleep type, and as a consequence, society revolves around the bears’ nine-to-five schedule.
- Wolves. They’re considered “night owls,” waking up later in the morning (around 9 or 10 a.m.) and sleeping later in the night (around 2 or 3 a.m.).
- Dolphins. This type is added by Dr. Breus to include those “who have difficulty sleeping—so, erratic sleep schedules, short sleep drives. But they are oftentimes very highly intelligent people, but they’ve just got a little bit of an obsessive-compulsive disorder.”
Curious to find out yours? You can take the chronotype quiz to see which one you are.
Ideal sleep routine for your chronotype
Chronotypes are part of your biology, so it’s not possible to change them. However, you can adjust your sleep habits so you can get high-quality rest at night.
“Everybody’s sleep need is individualized,” explains Dr. Breus. So how do you find the best bedtime and wake-up time for your chronotype? It seems that it simply takes a little bit of math.
Here are a few things to first keep in mind:
- One sleep cycle lasts, on average, around 90 minutes.
- We go through about four to six sleep cycles per night, which equals the recommended six to nine hours of sleep.
So to find your bedtime, take your “socially determined wake-up time” and count backward about seven and a half hours. For example, if you have to wake up at 7 a.m. to get to work by 8 a.m., then count backward and your bedtime should be 11:30 p.m.
It takes a little experimenting, though, because your sleep cycle is unique. It took Dr. Breus a few times to find that his sleep cycle is six-and-a-half hours of sleep. So for him to wake up at 6:30 a.m., he goes to bed at 12 p.m.
You can watch him explain it more on Mindvalley Talks:
5 Tips for Better Sleep Habits From Dr. Michael Breus
“Everything you do, you do better with a good night’s sleep,” says Dr. Breus. That’s not just another sleep quote but a fact.
While you can’t change your chronotype, you can absolutely learn how to fix your sleep schedule. But how long does it take to fix a sleep schedule? The process may take some time, but taking it one step at a time can help move you in the right direction toward quality rest.
And you can start with these tips from Dr. Breus:
1. Give the sun a high-five every morning
Light is the key control of our day-night cycle, influencing everything from our body temperature to our metabolism and sleep. It controls our brains, bodies, and hormones, helping us stay awake during the day and informing our bodies when it is time to unwind and get ready to sleep in the evening.
To sleep better at night, Dr. Breus suggests you expose yourself to sunlight as early as possible in the morning for at least 15 minutes. Step outside or open your curtains and sit close to a window with the light in your face. And try to take as many breaks outside as possible during the day.
If necessary, use a light therapy lamp, especially in the short winter months.
2. Stop caffeine by 2 p.m.
It can take up to six hours for caffeine from a single cup of coffee to leave your body.
If you are sensitive to caffeine, even a single cup of coffee taken a few hours before bedtime can leave you feeling jittery and undermine the quality of your sleep. And even if you’re the kind of person who can fall asleep easily after taking caffeine close to bedtime, Dr. Breus says your sleep quality will still be undermined.
So to consolidate your new sleep schedule, try stopping your caffeine intake at least six hours before bedtime.
3. Take a nap-a-latte
Speaking of caffeine, Dr. Breus does suggest taking what he calls a nap-a-latte. It combines coffee and a power nap taken “somewhere in the early afternoon.”
Here’s how to do it:
- Get a cup of black coffee,
- Add three ice cubes,
- Chug it down really quickly, and
- Go take a nap.
If you’re a new parent, this is also a great sleep tip. Dr. Breus advises you to do it as your child is napping. He adds, “You’ll have more energy, more patience, and more focus for your child and all other parts of your busy life.”
4. Stop drinking alcohol 3 hours before bedtime
A glass of wine (or similar) taken before bedtime might make you feel drowsy at first, but as the night progresses, you will sleep less soundly and wake up feeling fatigued in the morning.
It takes your body one hour to completely get rid of one drink, so if you take two drinks before bedtime, it will take two hours for the alcohol to leave your system.
For a healthy sleep schedule and heightened focus during the day, Dr. Breus advises that you stop drinking alcohol at least three hours before bedtime.
5. Exercise regularly
Research has shown that regular, moderate aerobic exercise increases the amount of slow-wave sleep you get. (Slow wave sleep refers to deep sleep, where the body gets a chance to rejuvenate itself.)
Exercise can also help stabilize your mood and decompress the mind, a cognitive process important for naturally transitioning to sleep and, thus, a very important component to include in your sleep schedule implementation.
However, exercising has an impact on your sleep. According to Dr. Breus’s five-action sleep schedule plan, you should try to stop exercising four hours before bedtime to ensure that you get that much-needed effortless slumber for optimal overall function.
Better Sleep, Better Life, Better You
Certainly, you’ve experienced the warmth and energy in your vibes after a good night’s sleep. But if you need help getting it on a more consistent basis, you can learn how to with Dr. Michael Breus at Mindvalley.
His The Mastery of Sleep Quest can help you get the shut-eye you need. You’ll learn how to:
- Identify your chronotype,
- Figure out your ideal bedtime,
- Discover how many hours of sleep you really need,
- Learn how to reprogram your mind and body to sleep properly, and
- Wake up with the energy and pep you need to get on with your day.
You can preview the first few lessons when you sign up for a Mindvalley account. What’s more, you’ll have access to the vast library of meditations, so you’ll have additional resources specifically designed to help you sleep.
The thing is, your slumber is a personal one. So learning how to fix your sleep schedule should be, too.