Rise and Shine: How to Fix your Sleep Schedule & Wake Up Feeling Rested

Late nights, early mornings, and weekend catch-up naps can throw your internal body clock out of whack. This can leave you feeling groggy, irritable, and depleted.

A recent study showed that around 60% of younger Australian adults don’t keep regular sleep hours. 

Is it possible to fix your sleep schedule in our hectic, always-connected modern lives?

Here, we share how you can improve your sleep patterns with a few changes to your daily habits. Follow these tips to start feeling more alert and refreshed each day.

What is a sleep schedule?

A sleep schedule is simply your pattern of sleep time and wake time. Your sleep schedule can be consistent or inconsistent.  For example, say you go to sleep around 10.30pm and wake around 6am each day. That’s a consistent sleep pattern.

Inconsistent sleep-wake times can mess with your body’s internal clock, while consistent sleep-wake times can help reset it. That’s because our body clock responds to outside cues such as light and dark.

Your body’s internal clock sets the program for many of your daily patterns. A small area of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) drives this clock via the intensity of light entering your eyes. The SCN keeps our bodies on a 24-hour cycle. It triggers the release of fluctuating levels of melatonin, helping us feel sleepy at night and awake during the day.

But when your internal clock is disrupted, you can experience sleep problems, fatigue, and other health issues.

How can a sleep schedule impact your health?

A consistent sleep routine supports good quality sleep. This, in turn, supports positive biological processes and health outcomes, including:

Hormone release: Your body clock dictates the release of various hormones, including melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that promotes sleep. When your sleep schedule is consistent, your hormone levels rise and fall in a predictable way, helping you sleep well at night, and feel alert in the day.

Restorative sleep: Restorative sleep is essential for physical and mental health. It allows your body to repair itself, strengthen memories, and consolidate learning.

Alertness and energy levels: When you’re sleep-deprived, your brain struggles to function properly. You may feel fatigued and foggy. A regular sleep schedule helps you get the rest you need to feel energised and mentally sharp throughout the day. You also have more energy for physical activity and better coordination.

Digestion: Your body clock also affects how your gut works. It affects the timing of enzyme production, nutrient absorption, and waste elimination. A consistent sleep schedule may support healthy digestion and prevent gastrointestinal issues. When we’re overly tired, we are all prone to eat more and to choose easy options like calorie-laden fast foods. This is one reason being chronically sleep deprived can promote weight-gain.

Mood stability: Sleep problems can affect your mood, making you feel grumpy and stressed. Keeping consistent sleep-wake times can help you reduce stress and improve emotional well-being.

An inconsistent sleep schedule can throw your body clock out of sync. Disrupted sleep patterns have also been linked to a higher risk of some chronic health conditions. That’s why focusing on good sleep is so important.

How can you fix your sleep schedule?

Fixing your sleep schedule might feel like a daunting task, but it is possible. By making small changes to your daily habits, you can set yourself up for better sleep.  

Here are some practical tips to get you started:

Commit to the same bedtime and wake-up time each day: Even on weekends, try to stick to the same wake-up time using an alarm. You can also set an alarm on your phone to help remind you when to go to bed.

Create a bedtime ritual: This could include taking a warm bath, reading a book, or listening to calming music. Your routine signals to your body that it’s time to wind down.

Avoid caffeine and alcohol, especially in the evening:  Caffeine can interfere with sleep, and alcohol may make you feel sleepy at first but can disrupt sleep later in the night.

Remove distractions and limit screen time: Avoid using electronic devices in the hour or two before bed. Electronic devices emit light that may interfere with melatonin production and make it harder to fall asleep. Most devices now have ‘night shift’ or a ‘dark theme’ which you can set to come on at the same time every evening, so choose these if you can’t avoid looking at your phone.

Get regular exercise: Regular physical activity can improve sleep quality. But avoid strenuous workouts just before bedtime, as these can affect how well you sleep.

Remember, changing your sleep habits takes time and patience. It can be discouraging when you don’t see results right away, but don’t despair. Stick to your new routine, and you’ll soon be waking up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.

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