Fixing a sleep schedule

How to Fix Your Sleep Schedule

How long it will likely take to reset your clock depends on what’s causing you to be off. If you’re simply adjusting after being in a different time zone, “the rule of thumb is that it usually takes one day per time zone,” Pelayo says. “But some people take two weeks to adjust, if it’s a really long trip.”

For people with a condition like DSPS, getting back on track depends on how long the pattern has been entrenched. “We tell people to wait one or two months,” says Pelayo. “If people have had poor sleep for years, they’re surprised when they start getting better. And when you’re surprised about your sleep getting better, that wakes you up, because you’re not sure it’s going to keep working. It takes maybe two months for the novelty of sleeping well to wear off.”

Changing your sleep schedule (particularly if you have delayed sleep phase syndrome) isn’t easy, but with the proper discipline it can be done. “Don’t get upset with yourself, because it just makes the problem worse,” Pelayo says. “Know that sleep will always come eventually.”

With additional reporting by Deb Shapiro.

8 Reasons To Buy The Eight Sleep Pod Today

We all know how important a good night’s sleep is for our well-being, but sometimes life gets in the way. Sleeping in on the weekends, work, stress, and traveling can impact our sleep cycle and throw it off its normal rhythm. Going days or weeks without a consistent sleep schedule can be detrimental to your health and well-being. Being aware of your current sleep schedule and circadian rhythm is the best place to start in order to best understand how to improve your sleep patterns. When your circadian rhythm is out of sync, you may find it difficult to fall asleep and wake up at the right times. But like any clock, your circadian clock can be reset. Here’s a guide on how to do just that.

Following the guide above is just one way to reset your sleep cycle. In fact, it can take more than 3 days to adjust to a new time. If you need a little extra help, try these tips.

1. Turn on the lights

Your biological clock is mainly controlled by the daily cycles of light and darkness, and manipulating light exposure may help reset your clock. Turning on the light right when you wake up is super helpful in the fall and winter because it’s typically still dark in the mornings. If you have an Eight Sleep Pod that’s connected to the Philips Hue, sync it with your alarm so you wake up with sunrise simulating lights. You should start dimming the lights at the same time that the sun sets, and try to keep your bedroom as dark as possible. This means lights from screens should be reduced or fully eliminated. Reducing or eliminating the lights from screens will let your body adjust to the actual darkness surrounding you, in order to let you know when you are tired and ready to go to sleep.

2. Fast for 12-16 hours

Research from Harvard suggests that not eating for about 12-16 hours can quickly reboot the sleep-wake cycle. This is because our bodies also run on a “food alarm clock,” which takes over when we are hungry. If you are a jet lag, this technique is extremely effective to help your body effectively readjust to the proper time of day. By fasting for 12-16 hours, you can trick your body into falling asleep sooner than if you were to eat. When you break the fast and finally eat, your body will think it’s morning. For non-jetlag disturbances, try this fast. Eat an early dinner (around 4 PM), and then avoid eating until breakfast (8 AM). Once your sleep is back on a consistent schedule, stick to eating during normal meal times.

3. Stay consistent

A consistent sleep schedule is the best way to achieve a good night’s sleep. This means you need to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends. Everyone likes to let loose on the weekends and stay out later than usual, but this often results in you oversleeping the next morning. When you sleep in on Saturday and Sunday, it will be much harder to wake up for work on Monday. Waking up late on the weekend produces something called “social jet lag” and is associated with poorer health and well-being, worse mood, and fatigue. A great way to monitor all factors that affect your sleep is through “Sleep Fitness Score” from the Eight Sleep Pod. By measuring this you’ll be able to identify common patterns and make the necessary changes for better sleep.

Want to change your sleep habits for the better? A healthy sleep schedule is the first step.

Get the Rest You Need

Fall asleep faster and snooze better by following these tips:

1. Ban blue light. The light that comes from your electronics and energy-efficient lightbulbs, called blue light,has a powerful effect on your “master clock,” says Michael J. Thorpy, MD, director of the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at the Montefiore Medical Center.

At night, blue light keeps you from being able to wind down and fall asleep, he says. Turn off your TV, phone, and tablet, and dim the lights at least an hour before you hit the sack.

Night workers can buy glasses that block blue light during their daytime drive home to “trick” their brain into thinking it’s night time.

2. Skip naps. Avoid taking them if you can, Thorpy says.But if you feel so tired you can’t function, he says it’s OK to give in to a brief snooze. “But keep it to less than 20 minutes. It will refresh you but won’t take away from sleep later.”

3. Get out of bed if you can’t sleep. If you’re still awake 20 minutes after turning in, get up and do something relaxing instead of staring at the ceiling. Staying in bed and tossing and turning trains your brain to stay awake night after night, he says.

4. Wake up at the same time every day. “You can’t always control when you fall asleep, but you can decide when you start your day. Having a regular routine sets the tone for your body for the whole day,” he says.

Som Sleep

We all know bedtime rules are often strictly enforced during childhood. You were probably told to go to sleep at a certain time every night… or else. Parents enforce bedtimes in order to get their little ones to stick to a consistent sleep schedule, but these bedtimes are typically thrown out the window as children grow older and hit adolescence. That being said, it’s probably best that children carry the bedtime rules they’re taught early in life into adulthood. “Why?”, you ask. Here’s what you need to know about the importance of sticking to a sleep schedule:

The Circadian Rhythm & Sleep Schedules

Your body’s internal clock, a.k.a. your circadian rhythm, plays a key role in regulating your sleep-wake cycle. This clock tells your body when it’s time to wake up in the morning and when to start unwinding at the end of the day. It’s impacted by melatonin, which takes its cues from the amount of light present in your environment. As dusk falls, your body releases melatonin to start the natural process of falling asleep. When light streams through your windows in the morning, your brain knows it’s time to rise and shine. Your sleep cycle is closely linked to light in your environment, so your internal clock helps you naturally feel more awake during daylight hours and more tired at night.

Ideally, you should stick to the same sleep schedule every night so your body can find its natural rhythm and settle into a regular sleep-wake cycle. But many people don’t prioritize this, which can throw off the body’s internal clock. If you constantly change the time you fall asleep and wake up, your body won’t be able to adjust to a set schedule.

You won’t feel your best if an inconsistent sleep schedule has thrown off your internal clock. In fact, an irregular sleep schedule can cause irritability, drowsiness, mood swings, concentration and memory problems, headaches, and a decline in cognitive skills. Many people with inconsistent sleep schedules also report restless sleep, meaning you never enter the stages of the deep, quality sleep your brain and body need to restore themselves.

No one wants to experience the negative side effects of an irregular sleep-wake cycle, which is why it’s so important to set a sleep schedule and stick to it.

How to Stick to a Consistent Sleeping Schedule

Listen to your body when creating a sleep schedule. Some people enjoy staying up a little later at night, while others prefer waking up early in the morning. Keep it consistent and make sure you get between seven and nine hours of sleep nightly.

Finding the ideal sleep-wake cycle for your body is only half of the work. Next, you need to put in the effort to ensure you stick to this schedule. Sticking to a sleep schedule requires a bit of planning. For example, if you’ve decided to make bedtime 10 p.m., you need to plan ahead to ensure you are home and in bed by this time. It’s important to think of 10 p.m. as the time you are going to sleep, not the time you should start preparing for bed. You should be under the covers with your eyes closed by this time – not brushing your teeth or washing your face in the bathroom.

Your body will need time to adjust to your sleep schedule, so don’t give up if you feel tired for the first few days. Keep smartphones, tablets, and other devices out of the bedroom at night. These devices emit blue light that interferes with your circadian rhythm and makes it harder for your body to adjust to your new sleeping schedule. If you need to use a device before bed, make sure to turn it on night mode first. This setting dims the brightness of the screen, so it should not impact your sleep.

Another thing you will need to avoid is sleeping in on the weekends. We know how tempting this can be. It’s perfectly fine to sleep in a little bit on Saturdays and Sundays, but don’t spend the day in bed simply because you can. Your body will never adjust to a set sleeping schedule if your weekend schedule is drastically different from your weekday ZZZs.

If you commit to a sleeping schedule, it should only take a few days for your body to adjust. Start tonight so you can finally get the good night’s sleep you deserve!

How to Sleep Well Despite Changes in Your Schedule

How to Get Better Sleep at Daylight Saving Time

As a sleep-deprived nation, we love when daylight saving time ends in autumn: It gives us the gift of an added hour of sleep. Springing forward is somewhat less welcome—though its effects should be short-lived. Tips that can help when this sleep schedule change comes around:

  • Start shifting your clock a week early, and change wakeup time and bedtime by 15 minutes each day.
  • Cut off caffeine usage an hour earlier than normal, and avoid alcohol, smoking, and intense exercise after dinner.
  • Get up when the alarm goes off, even if you’re tired. Your body will adjust quicker if you stick to the new sleep schedule.
  • Seek some morning sunshine to help yourself wake up—it resets your internal clock.

How to Get Better Sleep When Traveling Across Time Zones

As with daylight saving time, traveling across time zones is easier when it means you’ll be getting some extra sleep. Hence the old saying about travel, “West is best.” If you’re traveling east across one or two time zones, use the tips above to adjust your sleep schedule. For bigger leaps, try these suggestions:

  • Expose yourself to bright light as close to your “new” morning as possible, but not until it is about two hours before your “old” wakeup time. If you’re traveling east, avoid bright light in the evening.
  • Change your eating schedule to that of your destination.
  • Be prepared for jet-lag symptoms like excessive daytime sleepiness, nighttime insomnia, headache, appetite and digestive issues, and mood changes. Melatonin and over-the-counter digestive medications and headache remedies may help ease symptoms.
  • Be patient: Your body clock typically shifts only one or two hours per day, so it may take five days to adjust if you’re traveling from America to Japan, for instance.

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Few people really want to work at night. It’s dark, it’s lonely and it sets you apart from pretty much everyone else in the world — folks following the sensible schedule of rising in the morning, working during the day and sleeping at night. Oh, and then there’s the problem that a nocturnal schedule places you at greater risk of heart disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal illnesses and reproductive problems and, for people whose body clocks are misaligned for many years, higher rates of some cancers.

That’s the bad news. The worse news is that nobody knows really why disrupting the dark-light, sleep-wake cycle should have such an impact on health. Though researchers are unpacking the problem bit by bit, there’s still a lot of hand waving about circadian rhythms and body clocks and who knows what. Now, however, a new paper in the journal Science offers some explanation for one biological system that might be involved — and perhaps a bit of a warning for those working the night shift.

The author of the paper — Lora Hooper, a professor of immunology at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center — does not typically study circadian rhythms. Rather, her work focuses on how gut bacteria interact with the immune system. In the course of working with mice engineered to lack a protein known as NFIL3, which regulates immune cells, however, her group realized that all was not well with some of the animals. Specifically, the walls of their guts would come loose and start to poke out of their rears, a condition called rectal prolapse. That’s something even a mouse would just as soon avoid.

(MORE: Colon Cancer’s Newest Culprit: Gut Bacteria)

Looking into what was causing the condition, Hooper’s team discovered that the mice also had much higher rates of T helper 17 cells in their guts than healthy mice, which was not an anticipated result of eliminating NFIL3. Xiaofei Yu, a graduate student in Hooper’s lab, proceeded to examine what was going on in a series of experiments spread out over several years.

Yu and his colleagues knew that in normal mice, NFIL3 is under the control of a protein that is regulated by the circadian clock: certain sleep-wake cycles result in the body producing a lot of the protein, others result in less. That, in turn, would determine NFIL3 levels. In this case, the absent NFIL3 was the result of genetic tinkering, but the unhappy result — the inflammatory gut troubles leading to rectal prolapse — might be the same if circadian misalignment was to blame. The only way to know that for sure would be to mess with the sleep-wake cycles in healthy mice and see what happened.

The researchers began by first turning the lights on in their mouse cages six hours earlier than usual. They maintained that cycle for four days, then they turned the lights on six hours earlier still and gave the mice four days to adjust. They then repeated that clock-jumping process twice more. The result: the mice exposed to this artificial jet lag indeed had more T helper 17 cells in their guts. It would be sensible to conclude that they also had lower levels of NFIL3 — and they may have. The researchers did check for that, but, says Hooper, “The results were uninterpretable for technical reasons.” That’s an admitted shortcoming in the study, but one additional and very telling result at least partly compensates for that: the mice were also more apt to develop colitis, or an inflamed colon, when exposed to an irritant than normal mice, which sounds like the kind of problem that can result from circadian-related immune disruption.

(MORE: Less Sleep Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease)

So what was going on? Hooper, Yu and their colleagues suggest that in the course of its perambulations around the cell, NFIL3 binds to a bit of DNA that, when not bound, encourages the production of T helper 17 cells. But when NFIL3 and that promoter are entwined, the T cell production slows down. That on-and-off cycle may exist to allow only as many T cells as are needed to be manufactured and shuts things down after that. NFIL3 is around mainly in the nighttime, when mice, which are nocturnal critters, get up and go about their mousy business. Thus, the normal system is that during the day, when mice sleep, the circadian clock protein is at a high level and the T cells can develop. During the night, when the mice are active, the clock protein level goes down and fewer T cells are made.

“What’s the evolutionary rationale for this?” Hooper asks. “Candidly, I don’t have a solid scientific answer for that. But my speculation is that having T helper 17 cell development controlled by the circadian clock is a great way to control how many cells you actually produce, because they’re all being produced at the same time of day. It’s much easier to count everybody if they’re in the room at the same time than if they’re coming and going willy-nilly throughout the day and night.”

(MORE: Four Apps to Help You Sleep Better)

The greater meaning of these preliminary observations awaits further tests, especially tests in breeds of mice that are known to mimic the development of inflammatory disorders in humans, says Daniel Littman, a professor of immunology at NYU who was not involved in the research. For example, it would be helpful to see whether mice that are predisposed to get the mouse versions of inflammatory gut disorders get them at higher rates if their sleep-wake cycles are scrambled, which would suggest a link between what we’re seeing in mice and what we see in people. “Ideally, what you want to do is to shift the circadian clock in animals that can get spontaneous autoimmune disease,” Littman says. “That’s where this kind of work is leading.”

None of this will make life easier for the folks who have to punch into work at midnight and punch out when the rest of the world is getting up. But if it eventually leads to new treatments or therapies for body-clock-related illnesses, it could at least make the night owls healthier.

MORE: Irregular Bedtimes Lead to Misbehaved Kids

In order to wake up feeling refreshed it’s important to focus on both sleep quantity—how much sleep you get each night—as well as sleep quality, which indicates how well you sleep. Poor sleep quality can cause you to feel groggy the next day and may even be linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. But determining the quality of your sleep is less straightforward than counting the number of hours you get. Learn the signs of poor sleep quality, and discover how to improve it.

Signs Your Sleep Quality Needs to Improve

  • It takes you more than 30 minutes to fall asleep after getting into bed.
  • You have been diagnosed as having insomnia.
  • You regularly wake up more than once per night.
  • You find yourself staying awake for more than 20 minutes after waking up in the middle of the night.
  • You spend less than 85 percent of your time in bed asleep.

Ways To Improve Sleep Quality

  • Stop watching television or using electronic devices like a laptop or cellphone at least 30 minutes before bedtime. The blue light that’s emitted from these gadgets can make it difficult to fall asleep.
  • Set your bedroom thermostat to somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Sleeping in a room that is either too warm or too cool interferes with your body’s ability to drift off.
  • Follow a consistent sleep schedule. Having poor bedtime habits, such as going to bed too early (before you’re tired) or too late (when you’re overly tired) can make it more difficult to sleep soundly.
  • Create a relaxing pre-bedtime routine, such as taking a bath or reading a book. Engaging in high-energy or stressful activities lowers the odds of an easy transition to sleep.
  • Limit your alcohol consumption to one or two drinks per day.
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages within four to six hours of bedtime, and alcohol within three hours of going to bed.

If you try these suggestions and still feel the quality of your sleep needs improvement, talk to a doctor. A physician can recommend lifestyle changes, medication, or other therapies that may improve how well you sleep.

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Finally, there isn’t a tip in this guide I haven’t personally used. Between being a student, a parent, an educator, a writer here at Lifehacker, and for one horrible year doing it all in addition to working 12 hour graveyard shifts, there isn’t a whole lot about sleep deprivation and putting your “sleep life” back together that I haven’t experienced. Sleep deprivation is brutal and I hope whether you’ve been short-changing yourself an hour of sleep a day or eight that you take something away from this guide that helps get things back on track.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation

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An important part of getting your sleep schedule back under control is understanding what you’re doing to yourself by not getting enough sleep. Your body is a complex machine that evolved over millions of years to the state it is in today. Our modern coffee-swilling, go-go-go, work-until-the-crack-of-dawn-and-collapse culture has only been around for the tiniest fraction of the history of the human species. We haven’t adapted to less sleep, and we’re likely not going to adapt any time soon. You need as much sleep today as your greatest of great grandfathers needed in 2010 BCE. Photo by ZoofyTheJi.

What happens when you don’t get enough sleep? Everyone is familiar with the common side effects, like being tired the next day, sore muscles, and general irritability. Sleep deprivation also has a myriad of side effects you don’t see as easily as yawning or a snippy attitude. Sleep deprivation increases your risk of heart disease, impairs memory retention, increases risk of diabetes and obesity (adequate sleep is required for proper glucose processing and insulin regulation), and increases risk of depression and other mental illness, the list goes on and on. Earlier this month we shared a study with you showing that sleep deprivation is similar to being outright intoxicated. Most people would frown strongly upon someone showing up to work drunk every day, but we all act like sleep deprivation is just the way it has to be.

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Sleep is a critical part of your body’s maintenance routine and depriving yourself of it is the same as running a machine with no down time for preventive care and repairs. You can do it but eventually something breaks and usually catastrophically.

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You can read more about the effects of sleep deprivation and related studies here.

Short Term Recovery: Getting the Ship Back On Course Before It Crashes

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Let’s get a big misconception out of the way. You don’t have a “sleep bank”. If you’ve gone for the last year chronically sleep deprived you don’t have to refill some sort of sleep tank in your tummy in order to start feeling normal again. You can start doing things today to increase the sleep you’re getting and start feeling better immediately. It will take a few weeks of consistent and restful sleep to shake the after effects of sleep deprivation but don’t despair, you won’t need to “sleep off” all 1,498 hours of sleep you shorted yourself over the last year. Photo by analab01.

Another misconception is the amount of sleep people require. The only person who can judge the amount of sleep you need to be happy and alert is you. Studies come out year after year saying X number of hours is the best number of hours—8 hours to feel most rested, 7 hours to live long like the Japanese, 6 hours and you’ll die young—but the only expert on what is best for you is you. We’ll return to the topic of how much sleep you need and how to measure it in a moment; for right now let’s focus on what you can do tonight.

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Practice Good Sleep Hygiene: Sleep hygiene is similar to your end-of-day personal hygiene. Just like you wash your face and brush your teeth before bed, sleep hygiene is an umbrella term that covers all the things you do leading up to sleep that help or hinder restful sleep.

Good sleep hygiene involves getting your body ready for a good night’s sleep and not overstimulating it. How can you practice good sleep hygiene? Start by shifting your perspective on what bedtime and sleep really are. Bedtime isn’t just the point where you collapse from working hard and staying up too late, bedtime is the start of a block of time very important to your body. You need good sleep and you should treat your bedtime with proper respect.

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Don’t drink anything with caffeine in it after dinner. Dependent on age, gender, and other physiological factors the half-life of caffeine in the body is roughly 5-10 hours. In other words, that cup of coffee you drank at 7PM is still with you at midnight. Nicotine is another common stimulant; you should quit or make your last cigarette of the day well before bed.

Don’t drink anything with alcohol in it. Alcohol is a depressant and will help you get to sleep. The problem is it depresses everything in your system including your metabolism. Alcoholics report having no dreams because alcohol disrupts REM sleep, a critical sleep phase for both brain and body health.

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Step away from the screens. Exposing yourself to the glow of a screen before bed will keep you awake. Your body is hardwired to wake up when light is bright and go to sleep when it gets dark. If you shine a bright light in your face before bed you’re telling your body it’s time to perk up and be alert. If you absolutely must use a computer or mobile device later in the day, at least turn the screen brightness way down to semi-counter the effect of the light.

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Change your body temperature. Your body drops in temperature as you drift off into sleep. You can trick your body by simulating this temperature shift. In the colder months take a hot shower or bath late in the day, your body temperature will rise and then fall again as you cool off from the shower making you sleepy in the process. It’s harder to do this in warmer weather, but you can substitute the hot shower with a cold one. While a cold shower seems terribly unpleasant—and trust me, it’s not as fun as a hot bath on a winter night!—it will also induce a temperature swing that will make you sleepy.

Minimize external distractions. It’s especially important while you’re easing yourself into a new sleep routine to minimize external distractions. Have a cat that jumps on the bed at 3AM? Toss them out of the bedroom before bedtime. Neighbor starts up his diesel truck at 4AM to go to work? Wear ear plugs. Spouse gets up and turns on the lights to get dressed before you? Sleep with a sleep mask on—this one is amazingly comfy.

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No napping. Later on when you’ve ironed out the details of your sleep cycle you may find that a power nap early in the day is great for you. Right now though we’re focused on rebooting your sleep cycle. No napping. You need to go to bed at the end of the day when you are tired, not at a later time because you snuck a nap.

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Purge your bedroom. No computers, no television, no balancing your checkbook in bed, no reading over those damn TPS reports, no anything but sleeping and getting it on (in whatever order works best for you). If you have a television in your bedroom and you never turn it on, don’t break your back hauling it down to the basement. If you’re a chronic bedroom channel-flipper however, you need to get it out of the room. Your bedroom should be a place your body associates with nothing else but sleep and sex. Photo by MJimages.

Don’t torture yourself. You didn’t drink any coffee, you turned off the computer at 7PM, you lugged the TV down to the basement, you put in ear plugs and pulled the shades, but it’s 11PM and you’re still tossing and turning. Don’t torture yourself by laying in bed frustrated. Get out of bed and do something that will relax you. Don’t go watch television, play video games, or anything else that will stimulate your brain into thinking it is time to wake up. Go sit in a comfortable chair and read a book for a little while. Sort through magazines you’re going to toss in the recycling bin and clip out a few interesting articles. Do something low-stress and relatively boring for 20-30 minutes and then go lay down again. You don’t want to get in the habit of thinking of bedtime as unpleasant and stressful.

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Your initial energy should be focused on making bedtime pleasant, preparing for bedtime well before the bedtime hour, and making sure to limit stimulating activities (exercise, coffee drinking, action movie watching) to earlier in the day. You need to start doing these things right now. Reading this at 5PM after getting home from work? Put that cup of coffee down right now. Stop telling yourself you’re going to get around to finally getting a good night’s sleep and start getting one.

Long Term Recovery: Charting a Course for Pleasantville

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Once you’ve started with the basics outlined above, like decreasing bedtime stimulation, it’s time to get serious about the big picture of your sleep needs. Good sleep isn’t accidental. Unless you’re a baby fresh off the breast and passed out in a milk-coma you’re responsible for your own good sleep. It might seem counter-intuitive since sleep looks like the most passive sport around, but preparation and study is key. Once you start working in our earlier tips it’s time to start measuring how effective they are and ensuring you get enough sleep. Photo by ba1969.

Analyze your sleep needs. Do you know how much sleep you actually need? Could you tell someone with certainty that you’re happiest after 7 hours of sleep? Do you wake up when the alarm goes off or do you wake up before it and turn it off on your way out of bed? There is only one good way to find out how much sleep you need and that’s going to bed earlier than you think you need to. Creep your bedtime forward by 15 minutes every few days until you start waking up on your own in the morning. When you start waking up before your alarm clock consistently—for a minimum of one week, weekends included—you’ve found your optimum sleep window.

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Waking up shouldn’t be a jarring affair that involves you smashing your fist on your alarm clock and growling. For months now I’ve been waking up ahead of my alarm clock and let me tell you, it feels awesome to wake up on your own and not to the sound of a buzzer. “Beating” the alarm clock every day is like a little victory right out of bed.

Obey the Routine. I can’t tell you what your perfect routine is. Maybe your routine is no coffee after 3PM, dim the lights around your apartment at 7PM, and read in bed for 20 minutes at 9PM before it’s lights out—or maybe it’s none of those things. What is important is that you find a routine that works for your schedule and you stick to it. You might not be 7 years old anymore but your adult body appreciates a routine bedtime just as much as it did when you were a kid. Whatever routine you decide on, stick with it long enough to see if it works and tweak it gently and one thing at a time if it doesn’t.

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Anticipate Lack of Sleep. Sometimes lack of sleep is one hundred percent unavoidable—somebody in your family gets in an accident and you’re up all night at the hospital, you get snowed in at the airport and you just can’t sleep well on a plastic bench, etc.—but most times we see an event coming that will cut into our sleep cycle. If you know you’re going to be up late, take a power nap in the afternoon. If you’re coming off a late night bender make sure to adjust your bedtime the day after to get you into bed sooner. Short term sleep deprivation can be quickly remedied with adequate rest. Don’t let a wild weekend throw off your sleep schedule for the rest of the month as you stay up too late, sleep in too late, and spend two weeks slowly—if at all—recalibrating your sleep schedule.

You don’t have to tell me how hard it is to get your sleep schedule back on track. After I got off third shift I wondered if I’d ever stop feeling like a zombie and start feeling like a normal person again. It’s hard to do and easy to screw up. Take the above advice to heart though and you’ll be sleeping deeply, waking refreshed, and wondering how you ever got by on caffeine and grit alone.

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Travel can mess up your normal rhythm of life, especially your sleep schedule! Crossing a few time zones can disturb your inner sense of time, meaning your body is in Europe at midnight while your mind is still in the United States in the early afternoon! You may feel groggy, imbalanced, even nauseated.

Here are some tips to get back on a normal sleep schedule after traveling!

Start Adjusting Before Your Trip

There’s no sure-fire way to avoid jet lag, but one of the best ways to reduce its effects is to get on the local time schedule before you leave. A few days before your flight, start to go to bed closer to the destination’s time zone.

If it’s five hours later where you’re headed, go to bed an hour or two later, and wake up the next day an hour or two earlier. Doing this for just two or three days can give your body a much-needed boost on arrival.

Get Back Into a Routine Once You Return

Your body loves its habits—so start a healthy habit early by getting into a regular routine. Wake up at the same time, eat lunch at the same time, go to bed at the same time. Give your body biological cues to feel hunger or sleepiness.

Chill Out

Be kind to your body—relax an hour or two before sleep. Turn off electronics such as T.V.s, cell phones, e-readers, tablets, and laptops. Listen to soothing music. Stretch out the kinks with some yoga. Take a long bath (this is my favorite thing after a long plane ride!).

Work Out

Speaking of stretching, try working out! Exercise is fantastic for sleep. Not only does it burn fat and build strength, it tires your body so you can enjoy a deep and restful sleep. Just be sure to exercise in the morning or early afternoon—the closer to bedtime, the more disruptive exercise can be.

Drink Montmorency Tart Cherry Juice

It’s a little-known fact that these little cherries may improve the quality of your sleep. The cherries are a natural source of melatonin, which promotes the efficiency and duration of sleep and reduces chances of insomnia—nobody wants that after arriving home from a long trip.

Try a glass of Montmorency tart cherry juice every morning and night before sleep for a few weeks, and you’ll see improvement.

Keep Your Mornings Bright & Evenings Dark

Light and darkness are cues to your body when it’s time for alertness and when it’s time for sleep. Take actions to reset your body’s clock. In the morning, encourage your brain to wake up with open windows, bright lights, or a walk in the sunshine.

As for nighttime? I already mentioned turning off your laptop right before sleep; dimming the lights in the room will also help.

Eat Dinner Early

Your stomach also responds to routine. Eat dinners between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. A large late-night meal can disrupt your daily rhythm. Your body also stores more fat with a midnight meal. Avoid these risks altogether and keep your suppers to an earlier hour.

Naptime

Naps can be a blessing on a long travel itinerary. You may find yourself nodding off at various intervals—on the airplane, in your taxi, during the first moments after you’ve checked into your new hotel.

My tip: keep these naptimes brief.

An optimal time is about 20 minutes—your body gets a break but doesn’t get bogged down with sluggishness. Keep it short and sweet, and there will be no chance that your body is fooled into thinking that naptime equals new sleeptime.

This article was written in partnership with the Cherry Marketing Institute. For more information on the research and science supporting the health benefits of tart cherries and delicious cherry recipes, visit the Choose Cherries website. As always, opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

Reset Your Broken Internal Sleep Clock & Fix Sleep Schedule

Are You on the Right Mattress for Your Needs?

Everything we mentioned above assumes you aren’t sleeping on a bed that is so uncomfortable you spend all night tossing and turning.

It may surprise you to know we can actually pinpoint the best mattress for you based on your factors such as sleeping position, weight, body shape, and more.

For example, side sleepers tend to prefer softer mattresses. The plushness of a soft mattress helps alleviate common pressure points on their shoulders and hips.

Finding the right mattress for you will help you practice better sleep habits and, once your clock is reset, keep up a consistent sleep schedule.

Have you ever had to reset your sleep clock before? What tricks worked for you when trying to reset your sleep clock?

About the author

Rosie Osmun regularly contributes to the Amerisleep blog writing about topics including, reducing back pain while sleeping, the best dinners for better sleep, and improving productivity to make the most of your mornings. She finds the science of sleep fascinating and loves researching and writing about beds. Rosie is also passionate about traveling, languages, and history.

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Circadian Rhythm and Your Body Clock

Understanding your body’s internal clock—or circadian rhythm—is the first step to better sleep.

Your circadian rhythm (also known as your sleep/wake cycle or body clock) is a natural, internal system that’s designed to regulate feelings of sleepiness and wakefulness over a 24-hour period. This complex timekeeper is controlled by an area of the brain that responds to light, which is why humans are most alert while the sun is shining and are ready to sleep when it’s dark outside.

Your circadian rhythm causes your level of wakefulness to rise and dip throughout the day. Most people feel the strongest desire to sleep between 1:00pm and 3:00pm (a.k.a. the post-lunch, afternoon crash) and then again between 2:00am and 4:00am, but this can vary from person to person. That’s why some people are “morning people,” while others function best in the evening. Your circadian rhythm can also change as you age. When you were a teenager, for example, your body was programmed (so to speak) to sleep for more total hours, as well as go to bed and wake up later.

If you follow your body’s natural cues regarding when to go to sleep and wake up, your circadian rhythm should stay balanced, but a change in your schedule (like if you stay up late pulling long hours at work one day or sleep in one Saturday), can disrupt your body clock. Follow these three tips to keep your circadian rhythm functioning as it should.

1. Stick to a Consistent Sleep Schedule. A regular bedtime is one part of the equation, but waking up at the same time daily will also help keep your circadian rhythm in check. It may be tempting to grab some extra shut-eye on weekends, but doing so can throw off your body clock during the week.

2. Go for an A.M. Walk. In the morning, exposure to the sun (or indoor light), won’t just give you an energy boost—it can also reset your circadian rhythm. A quick outdoor stroll in the morning will give you enough sun exposure to signal to your brain that it’s time to start the day. No time to walk? Simply raise the blinds or switch on your brightest light instead.

3. Limit Evening Tech. Bright lights in the evening hours can throw off your body clock by confusing your brain into thinking it’s still daytime. Artificial blue light (the type that laptops, tablets and cell phones emit) is the worst culprit, so try to power-down tech devices at least two to three hours before bed.

How to reset your body clock for daylight-saving time and jet lag, according to science

Dean Drobot/

Ah, daylight-saving time, that point in the year when — because of what almost seems like a joke by Ben Franklin — we shift our clocks forward an hour.

Not all states or countries observe the time change, but it is nice to suddenly be able to leave work before sunset. The first morning after you’ve lost an hour of sleep can be rough, though. (There are actually more auto accidents the week after the change.)

Fortunately, science can help.

We all have a natural internal clock of sorts, our circadian rhythm. It’s what makes us feel tired when it’s time to sleep and wakes us up in the morning, provided we’re on some kind of regular schedule. As a species, our clocks have evolved to mostly match the 24-hour natural light/dark schedule (our internal clock is actually a little longer than 24 hours, but gets naturally re-synchronized by environmental cues). Artificial lighting can wreak some havoc on that system, but exposure to light or darkness generally causes our bodies to produce hormones, particularly melatonin, that tell us when we should be alert or asleep. Most of us are drowsiest around 5 a.m.

Our internal clock can be manipulated, however, to help us adjust to a new schedule. Exercise can help shift that clock, and internal melatonin production has an effect as well (though the effects of supplemental melatonin are less clear). But the most effective way to shift that clock is getting exposure to light — from the sun or certain lamps — at the right time.

How to shift your internal clock for daylight-saving time

According to one recent study, the most effective way to reset your schedule so you wake sometime around sunrise and go to sleep soon after sunset is to go camping. Even in the winter, there’s enough natural light to shift your internal rhythm.

But if that sounds like too much hassle, there are less planning-intensive methods that work too.

Nature will do the trick. BergeIm Licht/

Try to take in some bright sunlight early in the morning for a few days at the time you want to be awake, and avoid light in the evening, making sure you are in a dark environment by bedtime.

“Full spectrum lighting is probably optimal in terms of the management of all these clockwork hormones that direct the complex physiology we have,” Dr. Richard Rosen, director of retina services at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai and ophthalmology research director at the Icahn School of Medicine, told Business Insider. Even wearing sunglasses when you are trying to get your body into “ready for bed” mode has been shown to work.

Morning exercise may help too, according to some research, though the data on how effective it is at shifting circadian rhythms is not conclusive (late-evening exercise has been shown to push our natural bedtime cues a bit later).

Taking supplemental melatonin, a pill packed with a synthetic version of the natural hormone, for a short period may help instill “bedtime cues” for some people, though other research finds it doesn’t have any effect. (Pregnant women and young people should avoid it either way.)

“The quality is mixed,” says Rosen, since they aren’t regulated by the FDA.

An American Airlines airplane prepares to land at the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba Thomson Reuters

Dealing with jet lag or night shifts

For bigger schedule shifts (traveling to a new time zone or adjusting to an evening shift at work), more intervention is needed.

Some data shows that using flashing lights — like camera flashes — at carefully defined intervals can shift your schedule. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation found that setting up flashes can establish a new “morning cue” that effectively shifts the body clock.

“If you are flying to New York tomorrow, tonight you use the light therapy. If you normally wake up at 8am, you set the flashing light to go off at 5am,” Dr. Jamie Zeitzer, the lead researcher of that study, told The Guardian. “When you get to New York your biological system is already in the process of shifting to East Coast time.”

Another effective strategy (that doesn’t rely on flashing lights) is to strategically avoid exposing yourself to light, according to research published in the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine.

The researchers created guidelines you can follow on your own, and there’s also a website that will do the calculations the researchers recommend for you.

Here’s a breakdown of their instructions, with help from an explanation by Scientific American:

  1. Figure out when your body temperature naturally hits a minimum, around when you are drowsiest. If you normally sleep for seven hours or fewer, that point should be around two hours before you wake up. If you sleep longer than that, figure it’s around three hours before your alarm.
  2. Generally, if you are flying east, you’ll want to advance your circadian rhythm; when you fly west (to an earlier time zone), you’ll want to delay that rhythm.
  3. To advance your rhythm, avoid light for three hours before your core temperature hits its minimum and expose yourself to light for at least three hours after that time. To delay your rhythm, you’ll do the opposite — expose yourself to light before hitting that core minimum, and staying in the dark for a few hours after.
  4. To shift your core temperature minimum time (when you are drowsiest), start from your home time zone time and change the periods in which you’re avoiding and exposing yourself to light day by day. Make that time earlier by one hour each day if you are trying to advance your rhythm. Its easier to delay your circadian rhythm, so you can shift your core temperature time by two hours later each day if you’re doing that.

Here’s what a chart of that would look like for someone switching their sleep schedule seven hours earlier:

Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine

If you have to go eight hours or more forward, researchers say it’s easier to simply delay your clock, as if you were flying west. Here’s what a shift to a time zone nine hours east would look like:

Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine

It’s an effective strategy, though the website calculation is perhaps a bit easier than figuring it out on your own.

The best way to adjust your internal clock, however, is simply to get outside as much as possible.

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