Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Hannah Fuhlendorf M.A, LPC
How To Fix Your Sleep Schedule & Get a Sound Sleep
Published Jan 2nd, 2022 & updated on Dec 22nd, 2021
It’s a lie we’ve all told ourselves. “I’ll just watch a few more TikToks” or just one more episode, only one more more chapter, beat the next level, then go to bed. All of a sudden, bedtime was two hours ago, and you spend the night tossing and turning and missing out on that sweet, sweet REM sleep. Your alarm rings waaay too early, and after hitting snooze a few times, you drag your butt out of bed to start your day. Does that sound like your sleep schedule? We maaaaaaay also be guilty of this…
It’s hard to get a sound sleep when you have a messed up sleep schedule. Fear not, tired reader: we are here for you! Put your PJs on and let’s dive thru how to fix your sleep schedule!
How To Fall Asleep
Don’t worry, we’re not going to tell you to count sheep or anything like that! The best advice we can give you is to create and keep a routine. Here are a few tips for adjusting your sleep schedule:
1. Put Your Phone to Bed First
Yes, we know your phone is probably also your alarm clock. But we’re not going to treat you like a teenager and tell you you need to charge your phone in the kitchen overnight.
Using your phone before bed can actually prevent you from getting a sound sleep. When you’re exposed to light, your brain stops producing a hormone called melatonin. That makes a lot of sense when you consider humans used to sleep and wake based on the sun, but with the advent of electricity, that’s not really been the case for a hundred years, give or take.
Sleep experts say it’s best to stop looking at screens one hour before you plan on going to sleep, but there are benefits to even half-an-hour before bedtime too. In addition to being a source of light, your phone also stimulates your brain (even if you’re just mindlessly scrolling through TikTok). Also, chances are you’ll see something that makes you happy (your friend’s dog’s Instagram account) or mad (*gestures vaguely at the state of the world*) and experiencing those intense emotions right before bed can make it harder to get REM sleep.
Your phone has features that are designed to reduce the number of notifications you get before bed. It can be pretty tempting if you get a notification saying your bestie just shared a TikTok with you… so your phone can help you avoid that. If you have an iPhone running iOS 15 or above, you can set up a Sleep Focus. If you have an older iPhone or an Android, it’s called Do Not Disturb. All notifications are still received, but your phone won’t light up and vibrate. You can also set up exceptions for certain contacts or apps, so you’re not totally unreachable.
2. Cool Down Your Cave
There’s something comforting about getting under a big comfy blanket, no matter what season it is. And there’s just something uncomfortable about a hot summer night that makes it so hard to fall asleep. There’s actually science to back those up! Obviously not everyone’s the same, but researchers say it can be easier to fall asleep when it’s 15-19º Celsius/ 60-67º Fahrenheit, which is a few degrees cooler than “room temperature.”
Starting in the afternoon, our bodies begin to lower our core temperature. This is why we feel warm when we’re sleepy, and also why people who are chronically cold can have a hard time falling asleep. When our core body temperature lowers, we can feel cool and blankets help warm us up. Blankets are also part of our bedtime routine, and humans are nothing if not creatures of habit.
Just like light, our bodies react to our external environment when we’re in the process of falling asleep. When it’s too hot, our bodies don’t release the hormones that help us get a peaceful sleep.
3. Don’t Eat Too Late
Another thing that can mess with your circadian rhythm is eating and drinking! It’s best not to eat for about three hours before you go to bed. Alcohol can also mess up your sleep, because it affects your circadian rhythm. If you do need a snack, try something light.
Obviously there will be days where you down a bucket of popcorn at a late-night movie, or go for a night out on the town, but it’s defs something to be mindful of. And it should go without saying, but if you have a physical or mental health condition like diabetes or you’re recovering from an eating disorder where you need to eat an evening snack, DO NOT skip out on that.
Practising mindfulness is a great way to help relax and let go of the stresses of the day before bed. Mindfulness can look very different depending on the person. There’s mindful breathing, meditation, and so much more. It’s all about being more aware of your thoughts and automatic processes like breathing or listening.
You can also try Dr. Justin Puder’s Introduction to Mindfulness course in the DiveThru app. He teaches you how to manage stress, panic, and anxiety, and has 14-day practices to get you started with journaling and mindfulness.
If you find yourself unable to fall asleep or get up in the morning because you’re just lying in bed feeling anxious af, a great option is to talk to a licensed therapist. Everyone feels stressed or anxious sometimes, but if it’s affecting your ability to get a peaceful sleep, it miiight just be a good idea to talk to someone.
Picking a therapist might sound a bit scary, but don’t worry, we got you! We have a whole article on how to find the right therapist for you. It can be a huge weight off your shoulders to talk it out with someone.
Great Advice, But…
You might be saying to yourself, “that’s great advice, but it won’t work for me.” And you’re absolutely right — there are definitely obstacles that can get in the way, so let’s problem-solve!
If you’re in a field that has you working overnight, you’ve already faced the struggle of getting REM sleep during the day and staying up all night. You might also be dealing with something called Shift Work Sleep Disorder.
Some tips for tricking your body include wearing sunglasses on your way home in the morning and getting blackout blinds (or putting construction paper or tin foil over your window) to keep your body from seeing the light and stopping melatonin production. You should also maintain your regular bedtime routine, no matter what time you’re going to bed.
It’s also a good idea to try to keep a regular schedule as best you can. If you’re exclusively working nights, don’t entirely flip your schedule on weekends. It can be tempting to give yourself more time with family and friends, but try to find a happy medium so you’re not readjusting every Saturday and Monday.
Sharing Your Bed
There are lots of benefits to sharing a bed with someone. Physical touch causes your brain to release dopamine and serotonin, which are the happy chemicals! But it can be a big-time adjustment to get used to sharing your bed with someone, especially if it’s the first time you’ve slept beside someone since you climbed into your parents’ bed during thunderstorms. There are so many preferences and routines we have, that you may not share with your partner. Maybe you like the window open and to snuggle as you fall asleep, but your partner likes pitch darkness and prefers to social distance while sleeping.
And don’t even get us started on snoring. You love them, but if they snore that loudly again you might just smother them with your pillow. Sometimes, people don’t know they snore (after all, they’re asleep when they’re doing it!). If your partner tells you that you’re keeping them up with your snoring, it’s up to you to deal with it. Breathing strips might not be sexy, but neither is snoring, so… be a good partner.
When it comes to other things like snuggling, light, or abusing the snooze function, the best thing to do is not say anything and silently resent them—LOL no that’s absolutely not it. Talk it out and compromise. You can snuggle before bed, but then once the lights are off, you roll over to your own side of the bed. If your partner needs it to be dark, you can keep the curtains open in the winter, but not the summer when the sunrise would wake up your partner at the literal crack of dawn. There’s always some kind of compromise, you just have to talk it out.
Kids Keeping You Up
“And I would have gotten a good night’s sleep too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids!”
Newborns are just the cutest. But say goodbye to peaceful sleep—at least during your previous normal sleeping hours. The Mayo Clinic has a few suggestions for new parents to get sleep when their sleeping patterns are tossed out the window:
Sleep When the Baby is Sleeping
It doesn’t matter if it’s two in the afternoon or if you have a big pile of laundry to do; if your wee little one is getting some shut-eye, take advantage of the peace and quiet and take a nap. That Netflix show or household chore will still be there when you wake up.
As with pretty much everything, make sure to keep a relatively even split of duties. Work out a schedule with your partner and then keep to it. Getting a good night’s rest every second night is better than not getting one at all. Plus, is there anything better than sleeping when someone else has to do something? We asked our parents, and they agreed: you’ll never sleep better than after uttering the phrase “it’s your turn to get up” at 3 a.m.
Accept Family Help
When you have family over to visit their precious new grandchild or nibling, don’t feel like you need to play host. Instead, take the time to get some ZZzzZZs. We know the urge to be a good host will probably still be there, but let’s be honest: your family or friends aren’t there to visit you. They’re there to fawn over your kid… so let them. And don’t feel bad about napping. Odds are they already know where you keep the good snacks.
If you’ve tried a few things already to no avail, you could also talk to your doctor about taking a melatonin supplement. It’s available over the counter, but it doesn’t hurt to talk it over before starting on it. Because it’s designed to make you sleepy, it’s very important to take the correct dosage, and be aware of the potential side effects like drowsiness. It’s also good to talk with your doctor before taking anything new, especially if you’re already on medication.
Long story short, sleep is so very important to being a functioning human being (even if you don’t always want to be one LOL) and if you’re struggling to get that sweet, sweet REM, there are tangible actions you can take to help yourself. You’re not the first person to deal with a messed up sleeping pattern, so other people have already done the hard work of figuring out solutions. You just need to find the solution that works best for you.