Sleep 101: How to Set and Stick to a Sleep Schedule
There is no denying that getting the required amount of sleep for your age is the best thing to do to keep not only a healthy body but a healthy mind and spirit as well. For those who suffer from insomnia, this can be a challenge, as it can be a challenge to anyone who travels a lot, has to study for exams, or works a swing shift on their job. It’s important to note that insomnia is nothing to play with and can lead to serious health problems and sleep deprivation if not treated.
There are, of course, sleep remedies that you can use to help you catch some Z’s, from prescription meds to over the counter sleep aids and from natural to herbal remedies. However, it is said that the best way to get into the five stages of sleep that are required for your body and mind to function at the highest levels is to set a sleep schedule and stick to it. Everyone knows that not getting enough sleep can slow down not only your body but disrupt your brain function as well, causing you not to do as well on daily tasks that you usually excel at. However, there are also dangers of being on an erratic sleep schedule as well, that we will talk about here today.
In this blog, we will discuss how to set and stick to your sleep schedule, the dangers of having an erratic sleep schedule and even some myths that might be causing you not to get the sleep you need to function normally, and even a little bit about resetting that inner clock when you have to break that set sleep schedule and can’t seem to get back on track.
With that being said, grab a mug of your favorite herbal tea, curl up under a blanket on the couch, and let’s get started with this journey into sleep 101 and how to set and stick to a sleep schedule.
Setting Your Sleep Schedule
As previously stated, it’s all too easy to forget about your sleep schedule, especially if something different happens to disrupt it. A new job, a newborn baby or even a busy schedule can leave you physically exhausted, mentally tired, and super apt to have an accident or be distracted. The last thing you need is to have a car accident or fail that major test because your sleep schedule is out of whack. Okay, now let’s get started on this section and help you get some sleep the right way.
Find Your Ideal Sleep Schedule
Contrary to popular belief, not everyone has the same sleep schedule. The experts recommend a certain amount of hours for different ages, meaning that you need to find the right sleep schedule for your age.
Determine How Many Hours You Need
The first thing you want to do is your research to determine the number of hours you need to be sleeping for your age or the person who you are setting up a sleep schedule for age. Below, you can find the recommended hours for different ages.
- Babies and children up to two years of age are required to get anywhere from 11 to 17 hours of sleep, this includes sleeping at night and naps during the day
- If your child is school age up to 17 years old, they should be getting from eight to 13 hours of sleep a night
- From 18 years of age and up, you should be getting from seven to nine hours of sleep a night
- Once you reach 65 or older, you’re required to get seven to eight hours of sleep a night for optimal functioning
These are recommended guidelines, however, everyone is different. Arrange your sleep schedule on the guidelines for your age, then make adjustments as needed.
Pay Attention to what Your Body is Trying to Tell You
As previously stated, every person is different, which means their bodies and needs are different as well. It is possible that your body will need one to two hours of sleep less or more than the recommended guidelines. Listen to your body to ensure that you’re getting what’s right for you. Pay attention and your body will tell you when you need to rest and when you’ve rested enough.
Set a Certain Bedtime and a Certain Wake-Up Time
Going to bed at a certain time and waking up at a certain time is key if you want to get on a steady sleep schedule. Of course, no one wants to wake up at 6 am on the weekends, so make sure to stay within one to two hours of your normal bed and wake up time, in order to stay on track. This is the way you’ll be able to reset your Circadian rhythms to where you want them to be.
Now that you’ve set up that sleep schedule, you’ve done the easy part, now it’s time for the hard part. You need to put that set sleep schedule into practice. Find out how below.
Put Your Sleep Schedule into Effect
You can’t go into your sleep schedule all at once. It takes time to get the schedule under control. It’s best to do it in 15-minute increments over time. For example, go to bed fifteen minutes earlier or even later every night, until you hit the sleep schedule goal you’re aiming for. Plan to wake up earlier or later as well, until you’re where you want to be.
Start by Using Alarms
When you start working towards your sleep schedule goal, making sure to set an alarm is the best way to start. It’s recommended to not only set an alarm to wake up but also set an alarm for when it’s time to start your bedtime routine. Once you follow that routine for a while, your body will get used to it and you won’t need the alarm anymore at all. Instead, your body will wake up when it is refreshed.
Let the Sunshine In
As soon as you crawl out of bed in the mornings, open your curtains and let the sunshine in. If not, then try getting outside in the sun, this will help your body realize it’s time to be awake and ready to face the day ahead.
Make Up a Bedtime Routine
It’s best if you start getting ready for bed an hour before you want to be asleep. This means setting up a routine that lets your body and mind know that bedtime is coming. Whether that’s a warm bath, a hot shower, a cup of camomile tea or even curling up in bed with a good book, these habits will let you know bedtime is around the corner. Any of these habits and more can help you to get used to your sleep schedule. The choice of habits that help you to relax is yours, of course.
Schedule a Wake Up Routine
Although it might not seem like it, wake up routine is just as important as a bedtime routine to get your sleep schedule on track. Morning rituals like breakfast, coffee, a shower, and even exercise or walking after breakfast can help you get into your morning routine with ease.
Now, that we know how to establish a sleep schedule and how to implement it and stick to it, let’s move onto a few of the dangers of having an erratic sleep schedule to begin with.
Dangers of an Erratic Sleep Schedule Revealed
It’s important to note that getting on a sleep schedule isn’t just about having more energy and being mentally aware in the mornings. Erratic sleeping can be dangerous to your overall health as well. There are quite a few dangers associated with having a schedule that is off balance or having insomnia from it. Read on below for a list of some of those dangers.
- Heart attacks
- Gene disruption
- Has been linked to breast cancer as well
The best way to ensure that you don’t face these dangers because of your sleep schedule is to get on one that you can stick too. Don’t try to force yourself into a mold that doesn’t fit you, however, as we said before every person, therefore everyone’s body is different. Do what works best for you. If you have a major problem with your sleep schedule, it is best to contact your primary care provider to ensure that there isn’t an underlying problem. He can also help you to get on track with your sleep schedule as well.
Now, that we have determined how to set up a sleep schedule, how to stick to it, and go into the dangers of not sleeping well, let’s move into some of the top myths out there that might be stopping you from sleeping the way that you should. Dispelling these myths could help you more than you might think.
Myths About Sleep Dispelled
Now, that it’s widely known that you have to have good sleep to be energized, aware, and healthy, myths have been coming out of the woodwork. Below, we will go into a few of those myths, to help you get the good night’s sleep you not only need but deserve as well.
Myth: Everyone Needs Eight Hours of Sleep a Night
We already know this one is a myth because we talked about it throughout this blog. Again, everyone is different, no two people are the same, so the amount of sleep your neighbor needs at your age, might not be the amount of sleep you need. Remember, these are just recommended guidelines for you to follow when setting your sleep schedule.
Myth: Your Best Sleep Happens Before Midnight
Just because the clock strikes midnight doesn’t mean that your internal clock is set to that being the time that you get the best sleep. The average sleeper will have been asleep for four or five hours before the internal clock strikes the time where their energy reaches the lowest point. Your internal clock is what you should go by, not what someone tells you that you should be doing.
Myth: The Older You Are, the Less Sleep You Need
While it does show that you need less sleep as you age, you still need at least seven to eight hours on average. Although, as you age you tend to wake up more often during the night due to hormonal changes and other things.
Myth: Watching TV Helps you Fall Asleep and Stay Asleep
Although many people do fall asleep while watching TV, the flickering light and the sound coming from the TV keeps you from getting a full night’s sleep. Tablets, cell phones, and computers are even worse for getting healthy sleep. It’s too tempting to wake up when the light flickers to check the messages coming through. It’s best to banish all of these devices from your bedroom. Read a book or meditate instead to help you fall asleep.
Myth: The Full Moon will Disrupt Your Sleep Cycle
Contrary to what some people believe, the full moon hasn’t been scientifically proven to disrupt sleep. As far as we know, this one is a wives tale that needs to be dispelled.
Myth: Exercising Before Bed will Help you Sleep Better
This myth stems from the fact that physical activity makes you tired. While that’s true, it also pumps you up and gets your energy going. It’s best not to exercise in the evenings before bed. Instead, you should do relaxing activities for at least one hour before your set bedtime.
These are just a few of the myths about sleep that could be causing your sleep schedule to be messed up. From the full moon to exercising before bed and from watching TV to everyone needing eight hours of sleep a night, these myths have been around for centuries, but it’s time to put them to bed.
This concludes our blog on how to set a sleep schedule and then stick to it, along with some dangers and myths associated with sleep as well. If none of these methods work for you, it could be time to see your doctor to ensure that you don’t have an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. Until next time, restful sleep, everyone.
- WikiHow: How to Set a Sleep Schedule
- The Benefits Guide: The Dangers of a Regular Sleep Schedule and How You Can Help
- Reader’s Digest: 8 Myths About Sleep