The sleep pattern and its recurring cycle each night are based on a natural phenomenon of adaptation that our body is used accustomed to over a period of time. That is the reason why we tend to wake up at pretty much the same time even if the alarm didn’t go off.
Unless we’re not traveling to a different time zone, our body tends to follow a timely sleep pattern and that in a way is good for maintaining the minimum number of sleep hours.
Sometimes, your circadian rhythm can get thrown off due to:
- Traveling across time zones
- Jet lag
- Shift work
Fortunately, there are some simple tips which can be followed to fix the disrupted sleep schedule (Source)
Our sleeping pattern varies according to the way individuals’ daily activities – when we tend to be active during the day, what activities we do, the dietary intake and time we got to the bed.
When your sleep schedule is in flux, you feel more tired, fatigued, and exhausted. you might find yourself more tired than usual. Though, a very short nap of 15 – 20 minutes during the day offers a boost of energy, yet day time long naps will confuse your body’s sleep rhythms even more than they already are.
Our sleep pattern is triggered by the signals that we give ourselves – “let me watch this final rugby match live, instead of watching the recorded one” – this is evidence that we can send a message to our brain to regulate the sleep schedules as well. Just because you are adamant to stay awake for the match, does not necessarily mean that you cannot break the rhythm.
To get on track with your sleep pattern, you will need to reset the body clock. According to the National Institute of Health, your body clock manages the body’s circadian rhythm – the structure of physical, mental and behavioral adaptations that includes your sleeping cycles, the body temperature, secretion of hormones and factors like adequate light or darkness.
The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) held in the brain maintains a clock system that receives light information through the retina and simulates it to the brain and into the glands that transmit melatonin, a hormone that signals to the sleeping pattern to the mind.
Transmission of light reduces the production of melatonin that affects sleep. Hence the light signals from your laptop, mobile phone screens or from the table lamp manoeuvres your sleeping patterns – keeping it either on track or disrupting it.
So, to sum up, it can be said that our internal clock is located in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. It responds to external cues that tell your body it’s time to go to bed.
Why Our Sleep Schedules Get Off Track?
As our body clock maneuvers the sleep schedules, it accounts for the amount of sunlight we are exposed to during the day and the type of light in the night. In addition, if you were to travel to a different time zone or stay awake late, that slips off our sleep pattern as our mind transmits messages to keep ourselves awake in odd times.
Similarly, shift workers that work according to different rosters have difficulty sleeping as their body clock needs to change and shift time patterns on a regular basis, causing sleep disruptions. The greater problem with this is that it leads to misalignment of the body clock, resulting in affecting your sleep. Over a period of time, this can lead to chronic health issues including obesity, depression, stress, diabetes, sleeping disorder to name a few.
Other reasons include sleep disorders such as restless leg syndrome (RLS), sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD), Narcolepsy, breathing-related sleeping problems, and REM behavior disorder, are all associated with aging. Some medical issues such as Juvenile Arthritis can disrupt our sleep patterns too.
The problem of obstructive sleep apnea increases with age. Some medications and drugs also make it difficult to fall asleep. Several psychiatric disorders are twice in old people and affect the quality and quantity of sleep. Life is impacted deeply with the death of a loved one, physical limitations due to some injury or illness, staying away from home and family for long can also result in sleep difficulties and disruptions.
According to a study, there is a very small percentage of adults who follow a proper sleep pattern of regularly going to bed and rise on time. This is due to the evolving busy lifestyle in modern living. On the other hand, younger genres experience delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS) – in other words going to bed late and getting up equally late.
This sleep disorder is associated with not being able to sleep and wake up at the desired time. Due to work or personal obligations individuals are unable to sleep on time and often struggle to wake up, the next day. This leads to severe issues like sleep deprivation, low morale, declination in the performance and depression (Source)
Tips for Resetting Your Sleep Schedule
It could be possible that your body’s clock is out of sync and you are staying up too late, struggling to wake up in the morning, or you are burning the candle at both ends. If for some reason you have fallen in a trap of unregulated sleep patterns, where you struggle to sleep or get up early next day – these tips could be a boon to get your sleeping patterns back (Source)
1. Set your sleep time
If you want to get into a habit of sleeping early, try pacing it with patience, until you reach a point of satisfying sleeping pattern. You might also want to consider consulting a physician for the same. Start with getting up later, as it might not be easy to suddenly go to bed early. Set up a goal and take baby steps towards achieving them, maybe 15 to 20 minutes earlier to bed or later to rise.
2. Avoid naps, no matter what
Often taking short naps breaks the sleeping schedule. Naps might also cause grogginess, which is the result of waking up from deep sleep. A way to rid that is by doing some exercise to chase away the sleep or fatigue. Later this will help to get a night of sound sleep, instead.
3. Follow a consistent sleep routine
Consistency in sleep patterns is essential to maintain a proper sleeping schedule. Set your alarm, but do not snooze. Give your clock realistic expectations for sleeping. Brain anticipates that an individual should try to sleep and wake up at almost the same time. The concept of traveling in a different time zone is not easily acceptable to the brain and it makes it upset. Construct your mind to get out of bed and not just wake up and sleep. Find yourself a good reason to kick yourself out of the bed.
4. Stick to your routine
Once your body and mind get used to a proper sleeping pattern, maintain consistency. Even a single exception could cause deviation.
5. Avoid Blue light exposure At Night:
According to a study, bright lights during the evening hours can have a negative influence on your circadian rhythm. Hours before going to bed, try and reduce outside or bright light. Especially avoid lights from mobile phones, laptops, and television. On the other hand, exposure to bright light during the day is beneficial. Here is a very interesting take on “Bright light therapy” from ABHDBoss and how it can help you to manage anxiety and improve sleep quality.
6. Do not eat or work out closer to bedtime
Exercising increases your heart rate and food can lead to burning heart and stomach. Preferably avoid stimulants like caffeine and nicotine during evening hours.
7. Create a relaxing mood
Take a warm shower and/or put on some relaxing music on, just before bedtime. Ensure the bed is set comfortable, the room has sufficient darkness and temperature is just perfect.
consult your physician and get supplements that contain melatonin. Keep in mind that there could be potential side effects though.
9. Exercise more
Exercise expels energy and makes you exhausted. So, a little bit of work out and some activities like swimming, running, walking, and cycling can help you get a good sleep in the night. Though, a caveat is there. Do not attempt to do any exercise activity close to bed time, as it will make you extra alert and delay your sleep cycle. If you have the insatiable urge to work out right before bed so that you are able to get a relaxing sleep, try light yoga positions and a stretching to prepare for sleep.
10. Stress management
Managing worries, anxiety and any stress may be helpful. Just think in your mind about the worries and concerns before bedtime and then set it aside for tomorrow. Stress makes your disrupted sleep pattern worse. When you are stressed or tense, the body releases more stress hormone – cortisol. The higher the cortisol, the more awake you feel.
Begin with the basics of stress management. For example, setting priorities, getting organized, and delegating tasks. Little yoga and mindful meditation can also ease stress and anxiety.
11. Therapeutic rhythm
There are many therapies available online – a popular one being bright-light therapy, early in the morning. However, before considering any therapy ensure you do not have any eye disease, and hence better to get the doctor check you up. There are also some OTC devices available for this. Amongst young people, it is highly unlikely to get any side effects due to these devices.
12. Avoid Alcohol, Caffeine, & Cigarettes
Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and cigarettes, as these have the tendency to disrupt sleep. Avoid alcohol for at least four hours before going to bed. It will disrupt your sleep cycle during the night. Nicotine is a stimulant that may make it more difficult to go to sleep and to stay asleep.
13. Visit your doctor
If you feel for some reason the above strategies do not align with your work requirements and responsibilities, organize a visit to your healthcare provider. Not getting a night of good sleep can have devastating effects on your health, damaging your physical and moral ability. If your healthcare provider is unsure of the remedy, they can refer you to the specialists.
Shift work, traveling across different time zones, jet lag, and all-nighters, can mess with your sleep cycle. Following a disciplined sleep pattern can be quite challenging, particularly if there have been prolonged disruptions in your sleep pattern and If you have delayed sleep phase syndrome. It is not easy. However, following the above tips can definitely help to fix your sleep schedule. Avoid bright lights (blue lights), electronic gadgets and heavy meals before hitting the bed. Make sure your sleeping environment is quiet, comfortable, and cool. Avoid naps during the day so you can sleep better at night. Know that sleep will always come eventually (Source)
Chris was a psychiatrist and neurologist with board certification in sleep medicine Clinical Associate Professor at the University of California. For over 10 years, he served and helped patients at Stanford Health Care-Stanford Hospital with their sleeping disorders.
After suffered from sleep disorders for years, Chris has been passionate about sleep health ever since. He wants to help others sleep better and wanted to make the world of sleep easy to understand for everyday people.