I have been trying to get on a better sleep schedule lately, and while it’s been both refreshing and rewarding when my body starts to adjust, it’s been a bumpy road along the way and the finish line is still somewhere on the horizon.
Everyone’s body has its own unique circadian rhythm, and discovering when your body natural gets tired and naturally wants to wake up is the first step towards adjusting your sleep schedule to better fit your lifestyle. Our circadian rhythms are simply our internal body clock. For some, their internal body clock may perfectly match up with when they need to get up in the morning and when they’re comfortable going to bed at night. Those folks have no idea how lucky they are, because for many others your internal body clock is likely not going to match up perfectly with your schedule for everyday life.
Early Bird, or Night Owl?
For me it’s a little difficult to discover my body’s natural circadian rhythm because I don’t fall into either the traditional early bird, or night owl categories. I’m just as likely to get out of bed at 6 am when the alarm goes off as I am to staying up past midnight to watch one more show of the latest Netflix binge.
At some point in the night your body will start to release melatonin a couple of hours before you would naturally start to fall asleep. This on it’s own sounds great, our bodies are designed to fall asleep at a certain time and the melatonin released in advance is meant to help our bodies prepare for sleep. As humans in the 21st century however, we make it a lot more difficult for ourselves than it was back in the day for our internet-less ancestors. Big screen TVs, tablets, phones, even e-reading devices all conspire against us for a restful night of sleep. Some phones do now have “night mode” which reduces brightness and makes the screen “warmer,” which is nice, but almost is simply an excuse to continue to browse our phones in bed.
Get Away From that Phone
I’m not going to lie, I love browsing on my phone in bed and I know I’m not alone. Ideally though, in order to consistently get the best night of sleep our phones would not live in our bedrooms. You can lie to yourself and say you’ll be disciplined about just having it next to you in case you need it. “It has Night Mode!” you’ll declare as an excuse to continue browsing. The truth is that our phones are simply too distracting, and more importantly, too disruptive to our natural body clock, and the melatonin that our bodies naturally release a couple hours prior to sleep can be rendered useless by exposure to light.
Browsing on your phone before bed is the final nail in coffin for a healthy sleep routine. There is light at the end of the tunnel though, because if you just love browsing on your phone in bed and are willing to allot a little extra time into your schedule, the morning browse in bed can be a relaxing way to wake up. The added benefit this has for your sleep schedule is that the early exposure to light will help train your body to naturally wake up earlier.
Luckily living in the 21st century is a lot more helpful for us on the waking up side of the sleep equation. My favorite new piece of technology for helping to train my body to wake up at the right time are the Phillips Hue light bulbs that can be set on a timer to slowly turn on the lights in your bedroom. You can set the timer for as long or short amount as you’d like and the bulbs will help to naturally wake up your body. This is an incredibly useful way to consistently put yourself on a new sleep schedule.
Adjust your Sleep Schedule for Good
The waking up part of adjusting my sleep schedule is not the problem, it’s the going to bed part. I feel that my body is both a lark and an owl, I want to go to bed late but I’m also perfectly happy to wake up early if necessary. This has a way of squeezing my sleep time making it crucially important for me to craft a new sleep schedule that I can consistently follow. I also tend to not fall asleep right away, and with my phone just inches away from my head, it’s way too easy for me to pick it up and get lost in Reddit or Twitter for a half hour, which not only throws off my total potential sleep time it also thwarts the effect of the secreted melatonin which may make it even harder for me to fall asleep.
I know I need to get my phone out of the bedroom, I just need to muster up the strength to do it.