Do you go to bed with high hopes only to toss and turn all night and feel barely functional when the time comes to face the new day? It’s one of the most common problems out there, yet it has wide-reaching and debilitating effects. The lack of good sleep can ruin your mood, leaving you irascible and anxious. It can damage your ability to think and recall, hampering your work and personal life alike. More worryingly, though, it can impact your mental and physical health.
For some, the key issue seems to be timing. Maybe they don’t get sleepy at the right times, or maybe they’re just entrenched in bad habits. Regardless, they end up getting to sleep in the early morning when they need to be up early or only get tired in the afternoon when they need to be working. When your sleep timing is all wrong, it can feel like your body is against you.
If you’re in that situation, the key thing to remember is that you can change your situation. If you do the right things, you can completely reset your sleep schedule, allowing you to sleep better and feel significantly more refreshed. Here’s how you can get it done:
Identify any medical issues holding you back
If there’s a medical reason why you’re sleeping poorly, nothing you do beyond that will solve the problem, so you need to look into the possibility. For instance, there’s a mutation involving the MTHFR gene that can render someone incapable of naturally producing enough of vital folate called l-methylfolate. This issue often results in anxiety and depression, making it extremely hard for the sufferer to achieve the level of calm needed for good sleep.
The good thing about that issue is that it can be treated through supplementation (here’s some more information), so you needn’t simply cope with the problem. The same can be said about most other issues that can affect sleep. Even if you can’t simply fix the issue with one medical treatment, there’s something you can do to make things better, and the first step is getting checked out to see what’s happening with you.
Work on a productive pre-bedtime ritual
What do you do before you try to sleep? If you’re watching TV in a well-lit room shortly before you go to bed, that’s a problem. Sleep cues can be overwhelmed and distorted by lights in the room. Similarly, exercising intensely before bed can cause problems. In ideal circumstances, you should have a relaxation period leading into sleep. You could read with a weakly-lit e-reader, for instance, or simply lie down and listen to low-level music.
It won’t be easy to make the change, but once you have the ritual in place, you’ll start to go through it without even thinking about it. It’s all about making a commitment to your long-term health. Sacrifice the hours using electronic devices in the evening, and you’ll soon find that you’re sleeping better and feeling better as a result.
Implement a consistent wake-up time
You can’t guarantee when you’ll get to sleep, but you can use whatever combination of alarms you need to determine when you wake up (here are some good tips). And while it will make you feel worse to begin with, it’s really important to prevent yourself from getting the additional sleep you need by sleeping later and allowing your sleep window to lurch ahead.
If you just can’t seem to make progress with this because you can’t sleep at the right time and end up sleeping through all your alarms, you may want to try forcing the issue by skipping a night’s sleep. Resist the urge to take a nap and stay awake until you reach your target bedtime, then get to bed as swiftly as possible. You’ll still be tired if you get eight hours of sleep, but if you can hold out until the same time the next night, you can settle into a healthy pattern.
Get help from a professional
Lastly, while the steps we’ve looked at here should definitely help, they may not be enough to get you the great sleep schedule you want — so remember that you can always ask for help. Getting a sleep consultation might be exactly what you need to unpack your sleep-related problems and come up with a comprehensive plan of action. It’s an investment worth making.