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How to reset your sleep plan after it has been discarded


Maintaining a sleep plan makes it easier to wake up.

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After a fun night of binge-watching reruns of your favorite sitcom, you look at the clock to see if you can squeeze in another episode, and – oh, shit – it’s already three hours past your usual bedtime!

You know it’s going to hurt wake up at 6 tomorrow, so you have to make a decision before hitting the hay: Do you want to push through and wake up at your usual time, or do you want to sleep within “catching up” with the missed sleep?

The first option, even if tough, is your best chance if you want to maintain a healthy sleep cycle that supports energy, productivity and good mood. If you choose to sleep in, you risk pushing your bedtime further and further back until you wake up at your usual time (e.g. at work) feeling impossible and you spend the day battling fatigue. If you find yourself in this situation, try resetting your sleep plan with these tips from sleep experts.

Read more: Insomnia: What Causes It And How Many Of Us Have It?

Why your sleep cycle is important


Consistent sleep cycles are linked to healthier choices during the day.

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Having a consistent sleep plan makes it easier to fall into restful sleep, says Annie Miller, therapist at DC Metro Sleep and Psychotherapy CNET.

“Our brains respond very well to routines,” Miller says. “When we create healthy bedtime routines for ourselves, our sleep can become much better. And when your brain begins to link bedtime to relaxation instead of stress, sleep becomes easier.”

When you fall asleep faster and spend less time throw and turn in bedimproves your overall sleep duration and quality so you become more rested and energetic for the next day. “Regular, consistent sleep is the first line of defense to combat anxious or depressive thoughts or lack of energy” during the day, says Dr. Max Kerr, dental expert at Sleep Better Austin, CNET.

Plus, sleep stages are time-dependent, says Dr. Kerr, so inconsistent sleep plans can “shift” your sleep stages and result in less time spent on the important REM and deep sleep stages.

How your sleep cycle gets thrown off

Miller says keeping your morning wake-up time the same every day – no matter when you go to bed – is the key to keeping your body in rhythm (although ideally you would have the same bedtime and wake up time every day). “Varying your waking hours is typically more detrimental to sleep than going to bed later. If you push your waking hours by sleeping late, we create a jet lag-type reaction,” Miller explains. “If you go to bed later and still get up at the same time, you get less sleep, but it does not throw off your sleep cycle.”

Dr. Kerr claims to be pushing your bedtime back able to throw off your sleep cycle. From a scientific point of view, research suggests that if your bedtime varies by more than 30 minutes each night, it can lead to less healthy behaviors during the day such as lack of physical activity. Other studies point to uniform wake-up times as a predictor of better sleep quality. It is best to try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day – but only you can know if it is possible to wake up at. 6 if you went to bed at. 22 or at

Other things can also slow down your sleep cycle. Performs shift work, drinking alcohol, sleeping with a disruptive bed partner (such as children, your spouse or pets), snoring or sleep apnea or temperature changes in your bedroom can everyone throw off your sleep cycle, says Dr. Kerr.

How to reset your sleep cycle

Dr. Kerr offers these tips for resetting your sleep plan:

  • Go out and move. “Fresh air and exercise can help calm and tire you, while vitamin D from sunshine helps regulate the circadian rhythm to keep your sleep consistent,” says Dr. Kerr.
  • Set your bedroom to sleep. Keep the temperature cool, the electronics to a minimum, and the bedding comfortable, yet simple. Check your pillows to make sure they fit you – pillows should comfortably support your head and neck.
  • Nix daytime hours nap. “With extra time on your hands or perhaps due to working from home, it can be easy and tempting to sneak in a nap a day,” says Dr. Kerr. “While an occasional nap can be a good reset for the rest of the day, it can deprive you of the more important and restorative sleep that your body needs at night.”
  • Watch what you see on TV. Listening to dissuasive reports on the evening news before bedtime can make you run through the night, says Dr. Kerr. If you want to watch TV before bed, choose shows that are easier and more entertaining – and ideally, stop watching all the TV an hour before bed.
  • Take a melatonin supplement. If all else fails, you may need one dose of melatonin to push your body back into your favorite sleep cycle, or if you just have trouble falling asleep in general. Melatonin is a safe sleep supplements and should not make you addicted to it. Magnesium can also help.

How to keep your sleep plan in check

Once you have reset your sleep cycle, the actual hard work begins: keeping your schedule in check. Miller offers these few tips for creating one bedtime routine:

  • Create a “buffer zone” about an hour before bedtime. During this time, do not work, watch the news or do anything that could create stress. The buffer zone is for settlement only, Miller says. Stretch, listen to calm music, meditate, read a book or talk to your spouse or roommate.
  • Wake up at the same time every day, no matter when you go to bed at night. “We often think we can ‘catch up’ on weekends, or if we have a bad night’s sleep,” Miller says, “but in fact, it can make insomnia worse by creating what is called social jet lag.” It’s important to keep your waking time consistent and understand that you may be tired in the short term, but this will build sleep drive and eventually allow you to fall asleep faster at night, Miller explains.
  • Use only your bed for sleep. “This is one that a lot of people have heard before, but it’s really important,” Miller emphasizes. “When you create a conditional response that the bed is only used for sleep, it allows you to create a connection between bed and sleep.” That means no reading in bed, not watching TV in bed, not tossing and turning and not snoozing in the morning.
  • Stop trying to sleep. This sounds counterintuitive, but “[w]when we put too much sleep on, it goes back, “Miller explains. Spending time in bed trying to sleep can make insomnia worse. “If you can not sleep, get up and get out of bed and do something quiet until you feel really sleepy. Sleep should be effortless and we should minimize the time we spend trying to sleep,” Miller says.

The information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.

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