5 Tips on How to REALLY Set and Follow a Sleep Schedule

 

Have you got problems with getting up in the morning? Don’t worry, you’re one of millions. But answer honestly: is your sleep schedule consistent? Are you going to bed and waking up at the same time every day? It’s more than likely that you aren’t, and that is the single most common reason why employees, students, and many other people around the world have trouble getting up in the morning.

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I remember back in the day when I was still at school. On some days, my classes wouldn’t begin until 10 am and that meant that I can sleep in a few hours. But on summer break, I could sleep until 2 pm, sometimes even until 5 pm! I was literally throwing my life away by staying in bed this long. My body didn’t need 12 hours of sleep – it was only trying to adjust to my constantly changing sleep rhythm. One evening, I would go to sleep at 12 pm, and on another at 3 am, staying up late watching Netflix. Funniest of all, I was even more tired when I got 12 hours of sleep than I was when I only got 7-8. It took me a long time to see what was going on.

Maybe you have the same problem – you’re either unemployed, or a student, or working on a flexible schedule – and there’s no fixed 8 am shift you need to clock into. There is no real motivation to get out of bed. You can use tricks to get yourself out of bed, but it’s no use if you’re constantly tired. Here are ways to get back on track, though – and I’ll reveal them to you now.

1. Find Out How Much Sleep You Really Need

Most people need about 8 hours of sleep every night. I have heard people talk about how ‘they only need 4 hours of sleep’ but I don’t buy it. It’s really much better to assume that you need about 8 hours and that’s it. You’ll need to figure it out on your own, though – just be aware of how you feel throughout the day when you get 7 hours and compare it with 8.

People often try to cheat their bodies into ‘just cutting an hour here and there’, but that’s not a good idea. Even getting one hour of sleep less will impair your cognitive functions. Weekend sleep-ins so you ‘make up for the lost hours’ don’t help – see #5.

2. Set A Bedtime Alarm

After you’ve determined your ideal sleep duration, don’t trust yourself to go to bed at the right time. Set a bedtime alarm clock to remind yourself when it’s time to go to sleep.

Simply find the ideal time to wake up and then subtract your ideal sleep length to get to your bedtime alarm setting. For example, if I should wake up every day at 7 am, and I need about 8 hours of sleep, I’ll have to go to bed at 10:30 (assuming I won’t fall asleep immediately). If you need help setting the right time, check out this free web app that will also tell you the exact time according to your sleep phases!

3. Make Small Changes

If you already have some kind of a sleep schedule established, but you’d like to change it slightly, don’t just change the time on your alarm clock! It will confuse your inner clock and you’ll likely have problems with getting up in the morning. Rather, make small, 15 minute incremental changes to your schedule. Every couple of days, make another change.

For example, if I wanted to get up at 7 am but am now waking up at 8:30, I’ll set my clock to 8:15 for the next 4-5 days, and then change it again to 8:00 etc.

4. The Seinfield Method

Stick to the schedule every day. And I mean every day, even the weekends (see #5). For some additional motivation, you can use the Seinfield’s method for building up habits – every day when you’re able to wake up on time, mark that day with a big X on the calendar. In days, the longer the chain of X’s becomes, the more more motivated you’ll feel to get up every day. If you’d prefer a digital version of this method, there are a ton of apps out there, for example Commit for iOS and Habit Streak Plan for Android.

5. Weekend Sleep & What If I Mess Up?

You might be thinking, okay, this is all great, but what about the weekends? I can sleep in, right? And now I’ll tell you why not.

Your body doesn’t care that it’s the weekend. If you don’t follow your sleep schedule, it will get all confused again and Monday morning will be an even more unpleasant, well, Monday morning. So don’t sleep in on weekends either.

If you’re a party goer or just simply like to stay up late on Fridays, that’s fine though. You’ll just need to get up in the morning regardless so that your sleep schedule doesn’t get messed up. To make up for the missed sleep, take a nap in the afternoon – but definitely not in the evening!

So here they are, 5 great tips on how to set up a proper sleep schedule. Note that if you constantly experience overwhelming problems with sleep or getting up in the morning, this may be a sign that you’re suffering from a medical condition like depression, sleep apnea, or what’s called a Circadian rhythm phase delay. Please talk to your doctor about these if they seem at all plausible.

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