So, your sleep schedule is completely out of whack. Maybe you’re jetlagged from a recent trip, have been kept up late by a new baby or a demanding work deadline, or you suddenly find yourself sleeping at incredibly weird hours. What can you do to fix your current schedule and get back into a healthy routine?
Though you may feel like naps are the only way you can possibly survive because your nighttime sleep is so unpredictable, napping is not doing you any favors when it comes to creating a consistent routine.
You should cut out napping altogether, but if that isn’t feasible, try cutting down on the length of your naps so they don’t interfere with your nighttime sleep. The National Sleep Foundation says that an ideal nap is about 20 minutes long.
Introduce a relaxing bedtime ritual.
Figure out what your ideal bedtime is, then create a soothing ritual in the hour or so leading up to it. The National Sleep Foundation recommends “a relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights.”
No idea where to start? Try taking a bubble bath, following a guided meditation, reading a book (a real paper one, not an ebook on a tablet or phone), stretching, or listening to music.
Use light to tell your body when to wake up.
You could open the curtains to let sunlight in, use an alarm clock that mimics the sunrise, or even go outside for a quick walk when you first get up. A light will help wake you up by cueing to your body that it’s “awake” time — not snooze time.
Keep an eye on your caffeine intake.
Generally speaking, you should avoid drinking caffeine in the afternoon and evenings since that could keep you up at night. But caffeine affects everyone in different ways, so there’s no one-size-fits-all rule. Figure out what amount of caffeine works for you, then make sure you aren’t overdoing it.
If you get sleepy in the middle of the afternoon, try taking a walk around the block or grabbing a glass of water instead of going on a coffee run — skipping that extra caffeine boost could make a huge difference to when you fall asleep that night.
If all else fails, talk to a doctor.
Have you tried everything you can think of, and you’re still struggling? It may be that there’s an underlying issue affecting your sleep. Chat with your doctor about any concerns you have, and see what their thoughts are on the matter.
[Editor’s Note: The content provided on this site is for general informational purposes only. Any information provided is not a substitute for professional medical advice. We encourage you to consult with the appropriate health expert if you have concerns.]
Featured image: Ljupco Smokovski/Shutterstock
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