“Nothing good happens after 2 AM,” at least according to the popular sitcom How I Met Your Mother.
There’s a high chance this is true – especially when you’ve got to be at work by 8 AM the next morning!
Some of us are natural night owls, so breaking the habit of sleeping late may be challenging. It’s normal to feel you deserve the free time after a tiring day at work. Putting your feet up, reading a book, or watching television is more relaxing. EITHER WAY, the first step to changing your bedtime routine is acknowledging that these habits are unhealthy. And if you want to feel less grumpy in the morning, sleeping late has to end.
You’re already halfway there once you acknowledge it. All you need to do next is to follow the next few steps, which will fully transform your sleeping habits.
1. Condition Your Mind and Plan Your Day/Night Ahead
So you don’t fall into the proper sleep cycle again, try establishing your schedule for the day or at least your sleep routine for the night. Visualise how the steps leading to bed will go. Psyching your mind that you need to do a thing or two a tad bit earlier is crucial.
You wouldn’t want to sacrifice anything without being briefed first, right? (I mean, missing an entire night’s worth of series is a sacrifice. Who knows when you’ll see a spoiler?) But in all seriousness, having a concrete day and/or sleep schedule can make all the difference if you’re aiming for an early bedtime.
Plan for a GRADUAL Change
Don’t go big and sleep earlier just yet! Remember that you’re dealing with a bigger enemy – your body clock. The internal clock knows everything about you – what time you wake up, sleep, work, eat, and watch TV. And it’s been pre-conditioned to do that same routine for a long time now.
If you currently hit the sack at midnight, conditioning your mind to sleep at 9 PM the next night and expecting to wake up early, simply WON’T CUT IT.
At the end of the day, your circadian rhythm regulates your sleepiness and wakefulness by manipulating the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. It’s not as easy as a haphazard shift. The change takes time. Forcing yourself to sleep early can get counterproductive in the end.
Changing your bedtime is trial and error. You have to see what works best for you.
2. Work Out Earlier
Pop culture has romanticised late-night jogging in the neighbourhood. But it could be a culprit in keeping you awake!
Working out vigorously late at night can spike up your adrenaline, negatively affecting your quality of sleep. If you force bedtime, you may wake up in the middle of the night.
Studies suggest having at least two hours between working out and bedtime will workbest to get your mind back to a relaxed state. You’ll then feel more sleepy, ending with a good night’s sleep.
If you can, work out in the morning instead. This way, you’re using the adrenaline rush correctly, and your energy can be well distributed into daylight hours. That’s if you are successful in your first attempt at sleeping early!
3. Avoid Stimulants and Nicotine
Stimulants such as caffeine or nicotine work precisely to stimulate and keep your mind in the works hours after a beverage. If you know how much caffeine tolerance you have, you’d know when to stop consuming it. If you don’t, sizable portions of coffee, chocolates, or tea 3 hours before bedtime are a big no-no if you want enough sleep.
Did you know that caffeine can fully infiltrate your bloodstream in just an hour and may take hours more to wane? So sorry, co-coffee-holics. We’ve got to battle this one out!
As for nicotine, using it four hours before bed will significantly lessen your hours of sleep. In fact, nicotine use can lead to the development of sleep disorders or sleep problems like sleep apnea. Even if you keep nicotine use during the daytime, you may sleep shorter and feel more restless the next day. So, as a good rule of thumb, get rid of the nicotine, if you can, as part of excellent sleep hygiene and overall wellness.
Try Sleep Aids or Sleep Medicine with Medical Approval
If you’re having difficulty adjusting to your new sleep schedule, you can consult your healthcare provider about taking sleep aids or sleep medicine. Sleep aids are usually natural supplements you don’t need a prescription for, while sleep medicine (pills) are the opposite. Nonetheless, whichever you choose, it’s best that you ask your healthcare provider for guidance.
4. Avoid Napping Close to Bedtime
Naps are great – but you have to choose when to do them. Napping 30 minutes before your bedtime may cause a slight spike in energy levels. Afterward, you’ll be too pumped up to lie down and sleep.
5. Take a Hot Shower
The timing for taking a night shower is important. You don’t want to be taking it directly before sleeping.
Shower at least 90 minutes before bedtime. This allows your body to cool down to the right body temperature, which preps your body for bed and induces healthy sleep. You’ll be fresh, dry, and relaxed for bed!
6. Lights Off
Your melatonin levels are also impacted by light exposure. It’s why the sun’s bright light tells your body it’s time to get up. In contrast, if you try to dim or turn the lights off completely, it creates an environment conducive to sleep.
Avoid Electronic Devices That Keep You Awake
You know well what to avoid at night – no cell phones nor laptops! Phones emit blue light that can signal your brain that it’s not sleeping time just yet. Give up your electronic devices an hour before bed. Listen to music, meditate, journal, or read instead.
Give it up. Really.
7. Get In Bed Earlier than Usual
Remember to do it GRADUALLY. You may want to start 15-30 minutes earlier to avoid being abrupt. Do it in healthy increments and work your way up. Eventually, your body clock will adapt to your new patterns and will adjust accordingly.
For instance, if you sleep at midnight, try doing 11:45 PM, 11:30, and then 11:15 until you reach your desired sleeping time.
8. Wake Up Earlier than Usual
Can’t seem to get in bed earlier than usual? Try reversing it – wake up earlier than usual, just for ONE DAY. The goal is to feel tired earlier to get in bed earlier.
Interestingly, some people find more solace in quality sleep than quantity sleep. If you wake up in the deep sleep stage of your slumber, chances are you’ll feel groggy in the morning – regardless of how many hours you slept.
This has led to some people timing their sleep to complete at least 5-6 cycles of each stage per night! When done right, you can avoid waking up mid-cycle. See if it works for you, too.
If You Still Can’t Sleep after All These…
- Move to another room. Try to establish the association that your bed is only for sleeping. Any other activities must be performed elsewhere.
- Listen to soothing music. Look up some playlists on Spotify or use some apps to lull you into sleep. (e.g., white noise apps, podcasts)
- Adjust the temperature. A slight drop in temperature may be the answer to your late-night sleeping!
- Seek professional help. If none of the steps is working, it’s time to pay your GP a visit.
Once You Find Your Rhythm, Be Consistent
When your body finally adapts to sleeping earlier, keep it consistent. In fact, studies show that regular sleeping habits lead to better performance.
At the end of the day, it’s a win-win situation. Better sleep, better performance, better mood, and a better you!
(PRO TIP: Watch TV when you get home or on the weekends instead)