Woman sitting on a couch and planning sleep schedule

Tips on how to fix your sleep schedule

Medically reviewed on August 1, 2022 by Amy Harris, MS, RN, CNM. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


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Getting the proper amount of sleep is crucial to ensuring your body’s overall health and wellness. Your body takes advantage of your unconscious hours to recharge itself, recoup your energy, and refresh your brain. Getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night can even help maintain your cognitive function and fight disease. [1, 2]

But when falling asleep isn’t as easy as putting your head on a pillow and closing your eyes, you could be missing out on vital rest that keeps you and your body functioning properly. [3]

Has your sleep pattern been interrupted, or you’re just not sleeping well? Keep reading to find out how to fix your sleep schedule for a full night’s rest.

What disrupts sleep schedules?

Although sleep is important, our modern lives make it easy for our sleep schedules to get off track. It would be nice if going to bed a reasonable hour—and getting the full amount of sleep—were possible every night. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. The truth is, life has a way of ruining even the best-laid plans.

What are some of the biggest impediments to a good nights sleep? According to sleep studies, common obstacles include:

  • Travel – When you’re jetting through different time zones, it’s easy for your regular sleep schedule to get thrown off. Jet lag occurs when your body’s internal clock or circadian clock falls out of sync with real time. [4]
  • Stress – Elevated stress levels can contribute to sleeplessness or even cause stress-induced insomnia. According to the Sleep Foundation, prolonged stress can be a cause of a sleep disorder known as insomnia. [5] This is likely because, in response to stress, your body produces a hormone known as cortisol, which has been linked to insomnia. [6]
  • Diet – What you eat a drink can play a part in how well you sleep. According to studies, sleep disruption can occur in people who lack sufficient nutrients, like calcium, magnesium, and a range of vitamins. [7]
  • Work schedules – If you work overnight, your schedule alternates between a day and night shift, or your schedule is erratic, you could experience trouble sleeping. [4]

That said, there are several ways to mitigate poor sleep and support a healthy sleep cycle.

Go to bed earlier

If deviations to your sleep routine are caused by late-night movie marathons that cause you to stay up later than usual, you can reset your sleep schedule by going to bed at a reasonable hour, such as 10 or 11 p.m or at a time that guarantees you receive at least 7 hours of sleep a night. [5]

Being intentional about bedtime may help support a restful deep sleep. Make bedtime a priority by choosing a consistent time to start winding down. If you’re having trouble falling asleep at consistent sleep schedule, try:

  • Taking a warm shower – Studies show that taking a warm shower just before bed can lower your body temperature, making it easier to fall asleep. [6]
  • Meditating – Spending a few minutes sitting quietly and being present in the moment may help prepare you for bed. Studies suggest that meditation may lower anxiety levels that could keep you up at night. [7]
  • Listening to music – Can’t sleep? Try listening to a playlist of calming music. There’s research to indicate that music can help you relax and sleep more deeply. [8]

Create a bedtime routine

When it comes to getting the restful sleep your body needs, consistency is key. As such, it may be beneficial to partake in a bedtime routine to help reduce feelings of stress or anxiety before bed and fall asleep faster. [9]

A bedtime routine works in the same way as building a habit. [10] The repetition of sipping on a cup of tea before you get into your pajamas or washing your face each night can help our brains recognize when it’s time to sleep. Essentially, you’re training your brain to anticipate sleep by teaching it the signs that indicate bedtime is near. A bedtime routine is a ritual that you perform every night before pulling back the covers. It should include activities that promote relaxation and prepare your mind and body for sleep, such as:

  • Breathing exercises
  • Stretching
  • Journaling

Other aspects of your routine can include things like going to bed at the same time every night, eating and drinking wisely in the hours leading up to bedtime, and avoiding bright light exposure that can keep you up at night. [11]

Avoid sleeping in

The risks of not getting enough sleep are numerous—high blood pressure, impaired immune function, and even depression have all been linked to lack of sleep. [12] That said, getting too much sleep may lead to other health complications like diabetes and heart disease. [13]

The sweet spot, then, must be the midpoint between too much sleep and not enough. Establishing a bedtime routine and going to bed earlier are crucial first steps. Just make sure you aren’t hitting snooze too many times once morning comes.

Avoid daytime naps

Due to your body’s natural circadian rhythm, it’s typical to experience some fatigue in the afternoon or early evening. [14] However, it may also be a sign of chronic sleep deprivation. [15]

That said, if you’re looking to maintain a healthy sleep schedule, you should resist the temptation to catch a few winks during the day. Regular daytime napping may lead to cardiovascular disease and can make it more difficult to fall asleep come bedtime, particularly for the elderly. [16, 17]

Additionally, if you already experience a sleep problem, daily naps may worsen persistent:

  • Insomnia
  • Poor sleep quality [8]

On the other hand, naps can occasionally be a good thing. If you find yourself desperate for a few minutes of shut-eye, there are ways to nap responsibly. Short naps aren’t likely to interfere with sleep later, so set an alarm and don’t sleep for more than 20 minutes. Additionally, try not to nap any later than early afternoon. [18]

Reduce blue light before bed

Like any 21st-century sleeper, you might be accustomed to spending some time scrolling through your phone, reading on your tablet, or watching TV before falling asleep. However, to promote healthy sleep, these activities should stay far away from the bedroom.

The light from your electronic devices emits a light known as high-energy visible light or blue light. It’s a specific light color that your eyes aren’t very good at filtering, which means that more of it reaches your retina. And if you need an idea of just how bright blue light is, just consider the fact that it’s the same light that the sun gives off. [19]

In combination with other light in your home, blue light can disrupt your sleep pattern and derail your sleep schedule. [20] For that reason, it’s best to avoid activities that expose you to too much light before bed.

Avoid exercising too close to bedtime

Sometimes, the end of the day is the only time you have left to fit in your daily workout. While daily movements and exercise are critical to your health and wellness, it’s recommended to avoid strenuous exercise before bed. [21]

In general, a low-intensity workout isn’t going to keep you from getting a good nights sleep. That said, be sure to leave at least 90 minutes between your workout and bedtime. This allows for:

  • Your body temperature to return to normal
  • Your endorphins to level out [21]

However, rigorous workouts are thought to be a detriment to sleep. This may be especially true if you’re someone who tends to go to bed earlier or if you consider yourself a morning person. [22] For this reason, it’s best to save your high-intensity workouts for the daylight hours.

Talk to your healthcare provider

Although there are steps you can take on your own to fix your sleep schedule, you may need to consult with your healthcare provider to identify how to improve your routine. Many things can be at the root of sleeplessness, such as: [23]

  • Stress
  • Irregular sleep schedule
  • Poor sleeping habits
  • Mental health disorders
  • Physical illness or discomfort
  • Certain medications
  • Melatonin deficiency

Your healthcare provider can determine whether your sleep problem iscaused by choices you’re making or forces beyond your immediate control, like a mental health or clinical sleep disorder. Common sleep disorders include:

  • Circadian rhythm disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Parasomnia
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Sleep apnea [24]

Cushion your sleep routine with Everlywell

To fix your sleep schedule, curate your nighttime routine around a consistent sleep schedule, practice sleep hygiene, and avoid strenuous activities before you lie down for the night.

For a comprehensive look into your sleep, the Everlywell at-home Sleep and Stress Test is an easy, safe, and secure way to measure daily hormones and plan for a better sleep—all from the comfort of your own home.

The test measures three hormones influential in your stress responses and sleep wake cycle—cortisol, cortisone, and melatonin—to note fluctuations or abnormalities that may be affecting your rest.

Once you take the test, you’ll send the results to a CLIA-certified laboratory and receive physician-reviewed results sent to your device.

If you’re looking for a healthier tomorrow, there’s no time like the present. Get started with Everlywell today.

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References

  1. Sleep and Cognition. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  2. National Sleep Foundation's sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary. National Library of Medicine. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  3. What Are Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  4. How to Reset Your Sleep Routine. Sleep Foundation. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  5. How Much Sleep Do I Need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  6. Before-bedtime passive body heating by warm shower or bath to improve sleep: A systematic review and meta-analysis. National Library of Medicine. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  7. Meditation and Mindfulness: What You Need To Know. National Library of Medicine. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  8. Music-assisted relaxation to improve sleep quality: meta-analysis. National Library of Medicine. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  9. Bedtime Routines for Adults. Sleep Foundation. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  10. Psychology of Habit. Annual Review of Psychology. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  11. Home lighting before usual bedtime impacts circadian timing: a field study. National Library of Medicine. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  12. What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep? Cleveland Clinic. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  13. Oversleeping: Bad For Your Health? Johns Hopkins Medicine. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  14. Sleep and circadian rhythms in humans. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  15. Is your daily nap doing more harm than good? Harvard Health Publishing. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  16. Daytime Napping and the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease and All-Cause Mortality: A Prospective Study and Dose-Response Meta-Analysis. Sleep. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  17. Effects of afternoon "siesta" naps on sleep, alertness, performance, and circadian rhythms in the elderly. Sleep. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  18. Napping: Dos and don'ts for healthy adults. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  19. Protect your eyes from harmful light. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  20. Home lighting before usual bedtime impacts circadian timing: a field study. PubMed. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  21. Moderate-intensity exercise performed in the evening does not impair sleep in healthy males. PubMed. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  22. Sleep quality and high intensity interval training at two different times of day: A crossover study on the influence of the chronotype in male collegiate soccer players. National Library of Medicine. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  23. What Causes Insomnia? Sleep Foundation. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  24. Sleep disorders. National Library of Medicine. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  25. Stress and Insomnia. Sleep Foundation. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  26. On the Interactions of the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) Axis and Sleep: Normal HPA Axis Activity and Circadian Rhythm, Exemplary Sleep Disorders. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  27. Diet and Sleep Physiology: Public Health and Clinical Implications. National Library of Medicine. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
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