You’ve spent 15 hours traveling from New York to Tokyo and now face severe jet lag. Your were short of money and spent two weeks doing night shifts because they are better paid. Or perhaps you are simply not satisfied with the amount of sleep you get and want to learn how to fall asleep earlier. These situations and many others require resetting your sleep cycle in order to get enough healthy sleep, which is important for your health, physical condition, and psychological well-being. Surely it’s difficult to find a magic way to entirely reset your sleep cycle in one night. But if you follow some of our tips, if not all, you will certainly see a significant progress in this task.
#1. Get Enough Sleep
It’s more of a general cliché rather than a specific recommendation on how to reset sleep cycle. But it’s really important because it is a premise to all the other tips in this article. If you want to set a healthy and efficacious sleep cycle, you should normally get at least 7 hours of sleep, which is a minimum amount recommended by scientists. By the way, if you need to adjust to working in night shifts, this rule is especially relevant for you because you need to compensate night working hours with enough sleep during the day. Try to prevent exposing yourself to sunlight when returning from the office in the morning — and still sleep for at least 7 hours.
#2. Follow Consistent Sleeping Schedule
Consistency is perhaps the most important rule out of all discussed here. In order to adopt certain sleep cycle, you need to fall asleep and wake up at approximately the same time, even on weekends. If you want to reset your sleep cycle and, say, learn to fall asleep at 11 PM, you need to make yourself fall asleep at 11 PM and wake up at 7 AM every day. Even when it’s Sunday, and you can sleep until 11 AM, wake up at 7 or 8 nevertheless. According to the National Sleep Foundation, only slight adjustments to your sleeping schedule can be allowed, not more than an hour or two. Our bodies need regularity, and there’s no better way to reset sleep cycle than sticking to one schedule.
#3. Develop New Sleeping Cycle Gradually
While you should stick to a consistent schedule, it’s extremely difficult (though not impossible, as we’ll see later) to establish it and reset your sleeping cycle overnight. Instead, especially if you want to achieve long-term progress rather than simply recover from jet lag, you might want to implement gradual changes in the time you fall asleep and wake up. That is, don’t try to go to bed at 11 PM if you’re used to falling asleep at 3 AM, but retire to bed at 2:45 today, at 2:30 tomorrow, and keep it through until you are able to actually fall asleep at 11 instead of lying in the bed and thinking about the problem of global poverty in Africa.
#4. Don’t Torment Yourself If You Can’t Fall Asleep
Sometimes, especially when you are trying to go to bed earlier than you normally do, you might end up lying in the bed and struggling to fall asleep. If it lasts longer than 30-40 minutes, don’t torture yourself trying to fall asleep as if your entire life hinged on it. Instead, get up and try to do something easy and relaxing. Don’t watch TV or scroll Instagram feed because it can even further prevent you from falling asleep, it will be better to read a book. You also can do some repetitive and boring work as it will enhance your willingness to sleep.
#5. Create Comfortable Sleeping Conditions
To reset your sleep cycle, you need to get enough amount of sleep, which should be of high quality. Thus, in order to achieve it, you need to ensure that your sleeping conditions are comfortable for you. Establish a separate bedroom where you don’t work, keep this room quiet and cool (not hotter than 67–68°F / 19.4–20°C). Don’t turn on bright light in the evening and especially during the night because, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, it will suppress secretion of melatonin, a hormone which regulates sleep. Besides, you can establish a pre-sleep routine, such as listening to light music and taking a warm bath or shower.
#6. Eat and Drink Healthy
If you are to reset your sleep cycle, you need also to stick to the rules of healthy nutrition, which regulate sleep health. There are just a few simple recommendations. First, don’t eat heavy food before sleep because it will prevent you from falling asleep and may result in troubles described in the Tip 4. If you really need to eat, take a protein snack instead of a sugared one. Don’t drink coffee and other caffeinated drinks (strong tea, soda) 6-8 hours before sleep — and don’t take alcohol since it will dehydrate your body. Following all these tips won’t guarantee you full success, but will definitely save you from some difficulties.
#7. Avoid Naps During the Day
Naps can be a highly useful source of sleep when you are living in constant sleep deprivation and try to get at least some sleep. Yet they are not a friend of resetting sleep schedule because your body needs consistent sleeping naps. Of course, this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t nap at all, even if you are tired. But if you do need to sleep during the day, keep your nap short, no more than 20-30 minutes. Long evening sleep before main night’s sleep might destroy the achievements you’ve already gained trying to reset your sleep cycle.
#8. Try Specific Techniques
We’ve described some general rules, but there’re plenty of different techniques how to reset sleep cycle, and some of them promise that you will manage to do it overnight. One of the most popular such methods is the fasting technique discovered by the Harvard Medical School (and described in the normal English by WiseBread). In short, if you need to reset the sleep cycle, the scientists advise you to stay away from food for 12-16 hours before the time you need to wake up and have a big meal after sleep. For example, if you need to be awake at 8 AM, don’t eat from 4 PM the day before and don’t skip the breakfast once you wake up. This way, your “food-related clock in the brain” will be reset and consider the time you wake up a beginning of a new day. You can try this method or google others as long as they don’t seem suspicious.
#9. See a Doctor If Nothing Helps
If nothing of all this helps and you feel you have problems with sleep, there’s nothing better than to contact a doctor. Although it is better to consult a somnologist, i.e. a specialist in treating sleep disorders, even seeing your therapist might help. You can take nonprescription sleeping pills for a short time without consulting a doctor (if you’re not pregnant and don’t take other potentially conflicting drugs), but taking medications in the long term might hide real health problem, so it’s better to contact a doctor anyway.
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So what are the main recommendations on how to reset your sleep cycle in a nutshell?
- Get enough sleep (this rule is relevant in all situations, even if you don’t want to reset sleep schedule).
- You should stick to one sleep schedule and allow only minor changes, even on weekends.
- At the same time, don’t try to radically change your sleep schedule overnight, develop it gradually.
- If you can’t sleep, relax and don’t force yourself to do it.
- Create comfortable conditions for sleep (quiet and dark bedroom, cozy bed) and be careful with heavy food, coffee, and alcohol.
- Don’t nap during the day or at least take only short naps.
- Try different methods, such as the fasting method.
- Consult a doctor if nothing else helps.