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How You Can Establish a Sleep Schedule

How You Can Establish A Sleep Schedule

As I’ve stated in my post “50 Ways to Get Rid of Insomnia” establishing a consistent sleep schedule for yourself can help you tremendously in overcoming insomnia. Establishing a sleep schedule also means better sleep quality. What is a sleep schedule? I define a sleep schedule as a consistent routine which you can follow to sleep and wake up at the same time everyday. Yes, everyday; weekends too.

Why a Sleep Schedule?

Why would anyone do that? First let’s figure out the reason behind setting a sleep schedule. According to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS),

Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in an organism’s environment. They are found in most living things, including animals, plants and many tiny microbes. The study of circadian rhythms is called chronobiology.

In other words, having different sleeping routines, or more specifically, inconsistent times in which you wake up and get to bed, can affect your circadian rhythm or biological clock. This in turn affects how well you sleep at night and is even a contributing factor to insomnia.

Common Excuses For Not Establishing a Sleep Schedule

I never used to have any sleeping schedules. I would wake up at 7 AM on one day and 11 AM on another. Likewise, there are days where I would go to bed at 10 PM, while there are others where I head to bed only at 2 AM.  I might be speaking for myself here, but I think many people don’t have sleeping schedules because of one or a combination of the following reasons:

  1. I like freedom and I don’t like to stick to a rigid schedule.
  2. I have work to do / I’m too tired.
  3. It’s the weekend – I don’t have to get up early so I can stay up late.

I have definitely given myself all three excuses before whenever I try to set up a sleeping schedule in the past. These three reasons do make sense, but for me, my health comes first. Of course, there are days such as when I’m travelling where I don’t follow my sleep schedule. And that is fine, as long as you’re following your own sleep schedule for the majority of the time.

Getting Started With a Sleep Schedule

Introducing a new sleeping schedule into your daily life is not an easy task…if you’re not doing it correctly. The fact is, there is the right way of getting started with a sleep schedule, and then there’s the wrong way. The right way is when you:

  1. Figure out how many hours you should sleep to feel refreshed.
  2. Determine at what time you’d like to sleep and wake up while ensuring you get the number of hours of sleep you need based on #1.
  3. GRADUALLY start shifting your current sleeping schedule (if any) to the new schedule.
  4. Evaluate how you feel and repeat if it doesn’t suit you.

The wrong way is when you dive right into the new sleep schedule without doing any prior preparations. Changing the time you go to bed from 2 AM to 10 PM does not happen overnight.

Below are detailed explanation for each of the four steps discussed above.

Figure Out How Many Hours You Should Sleep

Many people believe getting about 8 hours of sleep everyday is ideal for feeling fully rested.  For me, I can feel just as rested most of the time if I slept 25% less, or 6 hours a day, provided I follow my sleep schedule. The best way to determine how many hours of sleep you need per day is to see how you feel throughout the following day when you vary the number of hours you sleep the night before.

Determine At What Time You’d Like To Sleep and Wake Up

Alarm Clock

Now, say that you figured out that with 7 hours of sleep, you feel fully rested; the next step is to try to fit those 7 hours into a particular time period. For instance, you need to determine if 10 PM – 5 AM or 12 AM – 7 AM works best for you. Some things you might want to consider are your work hours, what time your kids have to get to school and which one sounds more appealing to you personally. Once you’ve decided on that, you can start implementing your sleep schedule.

 Gradually Start Adapting to Your New Schedule

This is usually the phase where many people give up. The trick is to GRADUALLY implement your schedule. As I stated earlier, changing the time you go to bed from 2 AM to 10 PM does not happen overnight. I’ve experimented doing it before and it definitely makes sticking to a sleep schedule much more challenging that it actually is. Instead, I would recommend implementing 15-minute changes everyday.

Evaluate How You Feel

After adopting your new sleep schedule for awhile, ask yourself: “How do I feel?” If you’ve tried the sleeping schedule for about two weeks and don’t feel comfortable about it, don’t give up and keep trying! Ask yourself what don’t you like and try to establish a new sleeping schedule. Only by experimenting will you know what works and what doesn’t!

Closing Words

Intentionally or unintentionally (due to my work schedule), I have been sticking to my new sleep schedule pretty well. Nowadays, I even get up at 7 AM sharp on weekends! I’ve noticed feeling much more rested and refreshed since establishing my own sleep schedule. As a plus, waking up early on weekends mean I get to accomplish more and complete more tasks without any disruptions since everyone’s still asleep!

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