Summer vacations, travel, holidays—there are plenty of reasons that a sleep schedule can fall off the tracks. If you have a habit of staying wide-eyed until midnight, but have an alarm that blares at 6:00am, then it’s time to shift back to reality and get the sleep that you need. Luckily, it’s easy to train your body to feel tired when it should, so you can fall asleep earlier and wake up when your alarm beeps.
Trying to convince your body to make a bedtime leap in a single night can leave you tossing and turning. After all, you can put yourself to bed, but you can’t make yourself sleep—if your body isn’t ready, that is. Instead, move your bedtime earlier, by about 15 minutes a night. It might seem like a miniscule change, but stick to it and you’ll be in bed an hour earlier after just four nights. Consider setting a bedtime alarm to remind you when it’s lights out.
Once upon a time, people knew that it was time to go to sleep simply because the sun went down. With an abundance of electricity nowadays, that’s hard to imagine. After all, you can easily stay up all night shopping online. But there’s a downside to that convenience: Bright lights at night can disrupt your body’s natural sleep signals, making it harder to drift off. To get your body cued up for sleep, turn off or dim as many overhead lights and lamps as you can in the evening. And don’t forget about tech: Cell phones, computers, TVs, and tablets all give off a form of artificial blue light that is especially disruptive to sleep, so power those off at least one hour before bedtime.
At night, artificial lights may be guilty of keeping you up, but in the morning, those same lights tell your body that it’s time to get up. The reason: Your body’s internal clock produces a hormone called melatonin that makes you sleepy. Typically, melatonin levels rise when it’s dark and fall when it’s light. So open all the blinds as soon as you wake up if it’s light out, or turn on all the lights if it’s not. Exposing yourself to bright lights first thing in the morning helps shut down melatonin production and set your internal clock to wake up at the right time.
Sure, it can feel luxurious to bask in bed as late as you feel like on the weekend. But, unfortunately, doing so can all-too-easily erase whatever progress you had made toward establishing a healthy sleep schedule, leaving you wide-eyed on Sunday night. Resist the urge. Or, if you must, limit sleeping in to an hour or so later than your usual wake-up time. You’ll thank yourself on Monday morning.