How to adjust my sleep schedule

How to Sleep Well Despite Changes in Your Schedule

How to Sleep Well Despite Changes in Your Schedule | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Since many Americans’ sleep habits are already less than ideal, it can be particularly tough to adjust to time changes that affect sleep schedule. The good news: “The human clock can shift about an hour or two per day,” says Johns Hopkins sleep expert Mark Wu, M.D., Ph.D. “So adults should be able to adapt to minor changes fairly quickly.” Bigger jumps—such as shift work and international travel—can have a decidedly bigger impact. Try these strategies to help yourself adjust.

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.

Try It Filter Out Blue Light Before Bed

Whatever your sleep schedule, try to avoid or at least reduce exposure to blue light within three hours of bedtime. Research shows that the blue light emitted by computers, smartphones, TVs and LED lightbulbs can prevent the body from producing the sleep hormone melatonin. One simple intervention is to dim the brightness on these devices. Many electronic devices now offer apps or filters you can use to dim the blue light. Another highly effective way of blocking blue-light exposure at night is putting on a pair of orange-tinted glasses that block blue light. This eyewear can be particularly helpful for night-shift workers who work on their computer or watch TV in the hours before sleep. People who play video games and do work on their computers late at night can also benefit from wearing these glasses.

How to Get Better Sleep with Shift Work

People who permanently work the night shift may be able to flip their sleep schedule completely, but off-days can create problems if social and family obligations cause them to reverse their sleep-wake habits for a day or two per week. Likewise, workers who cycle from one shift to another may feel as though they’re constantly battling jet lag. These tips may help you adjust:

  • Expose yourself to bright light during the night to trick your brain into waking up. Blue light such as that from a computer, smartphone or TV is particularly helpful.
  • Consume small doses of caffeine throughout your workday. (This may work better than fewer large doses.)
  • During the day, sleep in a quiet basement or a room with light-blocking window coverings, and turn off your phone’s ringer.
  • Exercise or nap during your work breaks—but not too close to bedtime.
  • Go to bed immediately after work, then get up and go about your routine.

Ultimately, says Wu, shift workers should do “whatever is necessary to survive.” Being awake all night is very hard on the body. In fact, researchers are exploring the link between shift work and serious health conditions including diabetes, depression, heart disease, obesity and cancer.

The takeaway: If you don’t have to do shift work, don’t do it—particularly if you have a diagnosed sleep disorder or a serious health condition such as heart disease. One exception, says Wu, are those who have severe delayed sleep phase syndrome. These people, sometimes called night owls, often feel better when working a consistent night shift instead of during the day.


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How to Fix Your Sleep Schedule

First step to fix your sleep: Get your body clock back on track.

By Kristen StewartMedically Reviewed by Chester Wu, MD


Medically Reviewed

Yes, you can retrain your body to want to go to bed and wake up earlier.Jodie Johnson/Stocksy

There’s a reason we tend to feel sleepy around the same time each night — and why, if we don’t set an alarm, we tend to wake up at the same time in the mornings. As long as we’re not pulling all-nighters or traveling across several time zones, our bodies tend to want to follow consistent sleep patterns, which is key for getting the high-quality sleep we need.

Our sleep schedules do vary from person to person, depending in large part on the environmental cues we give our bodies — when we set our alarms, when we are most active during the day, when we eat, and when we let ourselves hit the hay.

And because our sleep schedules depend on the signals we send our bodies (“It’s not time to go to bed yet — there’s another episode of [insert whatever show you’re currently bingeing here] queued up!”), that means we can send our bodies signals to adjust our sleep schedules, too. Just because you’re in a rut of going to bed at 2 a.m. doesn’t mean you can’t change that!

If you do want to get your sleep schedule back on track, you’re going to need to reset your body clock. Our body clocks regulate our bodies’ circadian rhythms, the patterns of physical, mental, and behavioral changes, including sleep patterns, regulated by body temperature, hormone secretion, and external factors like light and darkness.

Our body’s master clock is located in a part of the brain’s hypothalamus called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which receives light information from the retina in the eye and sends the information to other parts of the brain, including the gland that releases the sleep-signaling hormone melatonin, says Rochelle Zozula, PhD, a sleep specialist and owner of Sleep Services International in Bridgewater, New Jersey. “Light suppresses that production of melatonin, which is directly involved in sleep initiation,” she says.

That means the light signals you send your brain, whether from sunlight or a glowing computer and cell phone screens, are some of the key factors that can either keep your sleep schedule on track, get it back on track, or throw it off significantly.

Why Our Sleep Schedules Get Off Track

Because our body clocks, which control our sleep schedules, are sensitive to light, things like how much sunlight we’re exposed to throughout the day and what types of light we’re exposed to at night affect our sleep schedules.

Additionally, things like traveling across time zones or staying up a lot later than usual can throw off sleep patterns, because we’re asking our bodies to sleep at different times than our bodies’ internal clocks are telling us to sleep.

Similarly, people who do rotating shift work, such as overnight workers or truck drivers — who aren't able to stick to a consistent sleep schedule — tend to have difficulty with sleep because their body clocks run on a different schedule than they’re allowing their bodies to follow.

It’s problematic, not only because having a misaligned body clock and sleep schedule on a day-to-day basis can result in poor sleep quality (and you not getting the sleep you need), but over time, that misalignment has been found to be linked to several chronic health problems, such as sleep disorders, obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder, among others.

Having a severely misaligned body clock and sleep schedule is itself considered a sleep disorder. About 1 percent of adults have advanced sleep phase disorder, meaning they go to bed early, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and wake up early, between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

Others, especially younger people, may experience the opposite: delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS), or going to bed extremely late and waking up late. It’s estimated to affect as many as 15 percent of teenagers.

“DSPS is a circadian rhythm disorder associated with an inability to fall asleep at the individual’s desired time [typically several hours later] and an inability to wake up at the desired time,” says Dr. Zozula. “Due to the individual’s daytime obligations, a person with DSPS may be forced to wake up earlier and go against their natural circadian tendency.” This can lead to chronic sleep deprivation, poor performance, and depression.

Tips for Resetting Your Sleep Schedule

If you have fallen into a sleep schedule that’s not working for you, because you’re having trouble getting up in the morning, staying up later than you want, or whatever the case, what can you do? Try taking these steps to get your sleep patterns on the track that works for you:

  • Adjust your bedtime, but be patient.  If you’re aiming to go to sleep earlier, try slowly scaling back your bedtime until you are at the desired hour. Often you may need help from a physician with this. “As a general rule, it’s easier to push away sleep than to advance sleep,” says Rafael Pelayo, MD, clinical professor at the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and the Stanford University School of Medicine in California. “So you could stay up later an hour at a time, but going to bed earlier is hard to do.” To get to sleep earlier, Dr. Pelayo recommends going slowly and in small increments, adjusting no more than 15 minutes earlier every two or three days.
  • Do not nap, even if you feel tired. Napping can interfere with going to sleep at night. Pelayo recommends scheduling exercise when you feel like napping. “The exercise will chase away the sleepiness. Then you can save up that drive to sleep for later,” he says.
  • Do not sleep in, and get up at the same time each day. Being consistent is important in maintaining a functioning sleep schedule. Get a good alarm clock and don’t hit snooze. “The clock in your head needs instructions,” says Pelayo. The brain expects that people more or less wake up at the same time every day — and either doing so or not serves up those instructions to the brain. “The idea of weekends or travel across time zones is foreign to how the brain works. That’s what throws it off,” he says. Once you’re in a good pattern when it comes to bed and wake times, stick to it as best you can. Even one late night can disrupt the progress you’ve made, Pelayo says. Predictability is key.
  • Avoid exposure to light before sleep. Research shows that exposure to evening light can shift your body clock to a later schedule.Remember: Light sends signals to the brain that it’s time to be awake. If you’re trying to go to sleep earlier, avoid bright and outdoor light close to bedtime (that includes light from cell phone, laptop, and TV screens) and keep your surroundings dim at night.
  • Avoid exercising too close to bedtime.  While staying active during the day generally promotes good sleep, a workout too close to bedtime can help keep the brain and body on (by upping heart rate and body temperature) and make it tougher to sleep.Some research suggests that evening workouts can improve sleep, as long as you aren’t exercising within an hour before bedtime, but it depends somewhat on the individual and how your body responds to exercise.If you are going to exercise later in the day, consider choosing low- or moderate-intensity workouts, which will be less stimulating; and be sure to incorporate a cool down at the end of your workout.
  • Watch what you eat close to bedtime. Try to avoid snacks packed with sugar, which could cause a sugar spike, as well as caffeine and nicotine, both of which are stimulants. Spicy, acidic foods may also cause heartburn or acid reflux.If you’re feeling peckish, you can reach for a light snack like tart cherries or kiwis, both of which have been shown to promote sleep.
  • Set the mood and create a relaxing bedtime routine. Take a warm bath and play some relaxing music, or do something else you find relaxing. Make sure that your bed is comfortable, the room is dark, and the temperature is not too warm. “You want to look forward to sleeping. Going to sleep should not be a chore,” adds Pelayo.
  • Use sunlight to your advantage. Exposure to sunlight (or other bright light) when you wake up helps tell your body that it's time to be awake and helps set your circadian rhythm for the whole day, so that your body indeed feels sleepy when it's time to go to bed.Exposure to natural sunlight is ideal, but if there's no sun or you can't get outside, there are special indoor lights to help.
  • Schedule a visit with your healthcare provider. If your sleep schedule is interfering with job and other responsibilities, if the above strategies don’t work, or if you’re struggling with sleep in any way, tell your doctor. Sleep affects our functioning and our health now, as well as our long-term health. Chronically not getting good sleep can do a lot of damage, and there are healthcare providers out there who can help. If your primary care provider does not have expertise in sleep, they can refer you to a sleep specialist who can help.

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 come eventually.”

With additional reporting by Deb Shapiro and Carmen Chai.

Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking

  • What Is the Sleep-Wake Cycle? March 12, 2021.
  • Circadian Rhythms. National Institute of General Medical Sciences. September 9, 2021.
  • What Is Shift Work? Sleep Foundation. October 16, 2020.
  • Sleep Disorders. Sleep Foundation. December 1, 2020.
  • Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase Disorder (DSWPD) in Children and Adolescents. Cleveland Clinic. January 20, 2020.
  • Burgess HJ, Molina TA. Home Lighting Before Usual Bedtime Impacts Circadian Timing: A Field Study. Photochemistry and Photobiology. January 19, 2014.
  • Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. August 13, 2019.
  • Myllymäki T, Kyröläinen H, Savolainen K, et al. Effects of Vigorous Late-Night Exercise on Sleep Quality and Cardiac Autonomic Activity. Journal of Sleep Research. March 2011.
  • Stutz J, Eiholzer R, Spengler C. Effects of Evening Exercise on Sleep in Healthy Participants: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine. February 2019.
  • Healthy Bedtime Snacks to Eat Before Sleep. Sleep Foundation. October 1, 2021.
  • Does a Bad Night’s Sleep Affect Your Health? Cleveland Clinic. October 28, 2021.
  • How the Timing of Light Exposure Could Be Affecting Your Health. Michigan Health. August 6, 2020.

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How to properly restore sleep

August 8, 2021 Likbez Health

Starve, go camping and don't lie down if you can't sleep.

You can listen to the article. If it's more convenient for you, turn on the podcast.

It doesn't matter what causes you can't fall asleep and wake up at the desired time - a change in time zone or insomnia. Only one thing is important: it is quite possible to normalize sleep patterns.

Here are some research-backed recommendations from experts at the authoritative medical resource WebMD.

1. Control the light

It's an obvious fact that we fall asleep when it's dark and we wake up when it's bright. The hormones melatonin and cortisol are responsible for this.

The first is produced in the pineal gland (pineal gland) only in dark conditions: the part of the brain that is responsible for the biological clock, the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the hypothalamus, beacons about it. Melatonin lowers body temperature, blood pressure and blood glucose levels. Together, these processes cause our body to go into hibernation. When it brightens again, melatonin levels drop and drowsiness subsides.

Cortisol, on the other hand, decreases in darkness and increased melatonin levels. Less cortisol - less stress - deeper relaxation and easier sleep.

If with difficulty darkness, melatonin is not produced in the right amount. And cortisol rises.

Conclusion is simple. If you want to fall asleep at the desired time, make your brain dark. Hang blackout curtains on your windows, turn off all the lights, and don't use social media before bed. The last point is especially important.

Electronic devices are a source of so-called blue light, which particularly reduces melatonin levels. And at the same time increases concentration. We would like to relax and sleep, but if you have seen enough of the "blue" screen, the body will resist. In general, turn off your TV and computer, and put your cell phone and tablet away at least an hour before going to bed.

2. Forbid yourself from daytime sleep

If you need to restore the regime, give up the siesta. Daytime sleep with a high probability will make it difficult to retreat to nighttime.

An important point: if you feel so tired that you literally fall off your feet in the middle of the day, you can still take a nap. But try to dedicate no more than 20 minutes to it. And preferably before 15:00.

3. Don't just lie in bed

If you can't fall asleep for 20 minutes or more, get up and do something relaxing (breath deeply, meditate, dim the lights and read a book) instead of staring at ceiling.

By staying in bed, you train your brain that you can lie in the dark and not sleep. It risks becoming a bad habit.

4. Wake up at the same time every day

It is not always possible to convince the body to fall asleep at the right time. But it is quite possible to schedule a wake-up time.

Waking up at the same time every day, you give your body a rhythm and thus set your biological clock to function according to a certain schedule.

5. Practice good sleep hygiene

Here are a few tips to help you fall asleep at the right time:

  • Be quiet. Close windows, doors, try to keep outside sounds from entering your bedroom. If not, use a white noise generator.
  • Sleep in a cool room. The ideal temperature is 15–19 °C.
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks, especially in the afternoon. These include not only coffee and tea, but also all kinds of energy drinks and often even ordinary soda.
  • Make sure your bed is comfortable. A tumbled overly soft (or, on the contrary, very hard) mattress and lumpy pillows lead to the fact that you will unconsciously twist in bed in search of a more comfortable position. And these movements reduce the quality of sleep.
  • Be sure to exercise during the day. Regular physical activity will increase your chances of a healthy rest.

6. Don't eat before bed

Your biological clock also reacts to your diet. We eat during the day, we don't eat at night. Therefore, if you eat (or your gastrointestinal tract is busy actively digesting what you eat), the body believes that it is still a day. Which means it's too early to fall asleep.

Try to eat no later than 2-3 hours before you are supposed to go to bed.

An additional unpleasant effect: knowing that they are fed in the evenings, the body will try to stay awake at this time tomorrow (the day after tomorrow, and so on). Therefore, it would be good to make early dinners regular so that the body gets used to it: there is nothing to wait for food late, it is better to sleep.

7. Try to starve

Harvard scientists have found that in animals, circadian rhythms (as the internal biological rhythms of the body are called) shift depending on the availability of food. Based on this, the researchers suggest that 12-16-hour fasting may help with insomnia that occurs due to jet lag - jet lag.

Try a 16-hour fast to restore sleep patterns, even without jet lag. Eat dinner early for a few days (for example, around 4:00 PM) and then avoid eating until breakfast (around 8:00 AM the next morning). When the regime is normalized, go for a 12-hour gap between dinner and breakfast. It is not only good for sleep, but also for health in general.

8. Go hiking

With backpacks and tents. At least for three days, but preferably for a week - to increase the effect.

The natural cycle of day and night helps to restore the body's circadian rhythms.

Thus, a study published in the journal Current Biology provides the results of testing this theory.

Eight participants of the experiment went on a hike, where they spent a week without artificial lighting, phones and laptops. During this period, the biological clock of all the volunteers was rebuilt, synchronizing with solar time: people began to wake up easily at dawn and fall asleep after dark. This effect was most pronounced in those who prior to the experiment positioned themselves as an owl.

9. Try sleep deprivation

Another effective, albeit controversial, way to restore sleep is to stay awake for 24 hours. When the long-awaited evening finally arrives, you will surely fall asleep as soon as your head touches the pillow.

This method is, of course, cool. But researchers have been able to link daily lack of sleep with the activation of a certain type of brain cell that produces the protein adenosine. It is extremely important for the regulation of sleep: a sufficient amount of adenosine helps to normalize the sleep-wake cycle.

Important nuances:

  • Since the method is quite harsh, you can resort to it only after consulting a doctor - the same therapist.
  • Avoid driving and other tasks that require alertness and concentration when you are sleep deprived.

10. Talk to a therapist

It's normal to have sleep problems from time to time. In most cases, it is enough to change your lifestyle in accordance with the list above - and you will begin to get enough sleep again.

However, if insomnia and other inconveniences persist despite your best efforts, it is worth contacting a therapist. You may have an undiagnosed sleep disorder. Such conditions require treatment - sometimes even medication.

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Press about us - 8 tips from a somnologist: how to restore sleep patterns after quarantine

Press about us

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Press about us

8 tips from a somnologist: how to restore sleep after quarantine

Sleep is one of the most important processes in the body, affecting the adaptive capacity and resistance to stress. Lack of sleep or a broken schedule increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, psychological disorders and lower immunity. Therefore, the editors of Beautybackstage decided to ask the expert how to restore the sleep mode that was knocked down during the quarantine.

1. Determine your target sleep and wake time.

A few days before returning to work, it is advisable to start getting up half an hour earlier every day. Some are used to going to bed in the morning, and for some this journey to normal will take just a couple of days, while others will need a week or two.

2. Consider your chronotype.

Not all people have the same need for sleep. This is usually 8-9 hours, but it can be from 4 to 12. Many people try to go to bed before midnight and thereby acquire insomnia. This is misinformation about going to bed before midnight. You need to focus on your chronotype. Larks and owls are real characters, and it is better to go to bed in accordance with natural features. But ideally, it should not differ by more than 30 minutes on weekdays and weekends.

3. Practice good sleep hygiene.

Comfortable temperature and humidity in the bedroom, no phone or laptop in bed, blackout and silence are a must. If you do not like to sleep in silence, white noises (the sound of the sea or rain) are the best option, audio books are also a flow of information, give your brain the opportunity not to absorb information before going to bed.

4. Use light therapy.

For an alert and active morning, wear blue or green light therapy glasses for 30 minutes after waking up. You can cook breakfast or brush your teeth in them. An alternative is alarm clocks that mimic sunrise. The brain wakes up in the morning only if it has enough light, the necessary release of morning cortisol occurs, we are active and feel cheerful.

5. Get ready for bed early in the evening.

One hour before bedtime is the minimum mandatory time not just without a phone, but preferably without other means of receiving information from outside - TV, computer, etc. Switching the brain and getting ready for sleep takes some time. Give it to your body. Reading an endless news feed or watching videos quietly steals time for a night's sleep.

6. Minimum alcohol and coffee.

Avoid coffee and tea after 3 pm. Alcohol - no more than 1-2 times a week. Otherwise, it will be more difficult for the body and brain to return to working mode.

7. Fresh air and physical activity.

Include workouts in your daily routine, ideally 3-4 times a week. Choose physical activity that you enjoy. If it is difficult to return to regular classes, start exercising with a trainer. Outdoor activities are a great alternative to a fitness club.

8. Consult with a somnologist if sleep and routine cannot be restored within 1-2 weeks.

Your doctor will perform a sleep exam, if needed. It will connect the possibilities of neurotechnologies to increase the adaptive capabilities of the brain and reduce the level of anxiety, increase neuroplasticity.

Learn more