Changing your sleep schedule so that it more gracefully fits with your lifestyle can help you feel better all day long. Whether you’re changing your work hours, traveling to a different time zone, getting ready to tackle a new slate of classes at school, or just looking for a way to get more out of your daily life, now is a great time to get your sleep schedule on track. Instead of fighting your body’s built-in sleep clock and feeling restless at night and groggy in the morning, adjust your sleep schedule so that your body’s rhythms will work with your lifestyle. By gradually adjusting your sleep patterns through light exposure and melatonin, you can teach yourself to fall asleep and rise when it is most convenient for you.
Exposure to light is the way that your body knows when to sleep and when to wake up. This mechanism evolved so that primitive humans would want to sleep at night, when darkness made them easy targets for predators. At the start of the day when the sun was bright, our bodies were set to wake up. This sleep schedule was smart for cave-dwellers, but in today’s modern world where indoor lighting is the norm it can be easy for our bodies to get confused. To reset your sleep schedule, make your bedroom as dark as possible before you try to sleep. Switch off the television and the nightlight, and get heavy curtains so that ambient light won’t sneak in. If it isn’t possible to change your environment, get a sleep mask that will cover your eyes so that you can trick your brain into thinking that you’re in a dark place. Then, when your alarm goes off in the morning, bustle outside and give yourself a healthy dose of natural sunlight as soon as possible after waking. Even a brisk stroll around the block will let your body know the day has begun. If you start your day with exposure to bright sunlight, your body will learn to wake at that time. After a few weeks, your sleep schedule will naturally shift so that you are ready to bound out of bed at the same time each morning instead of waiting for your alarm to rouse you.
Sometimes, regulating your light exposure isn’t enough to change your sleep schedule. Luckily, you can give nature a helping hand. When your brain senses darkness, it floods your body with the hormone melatonin, which makes you tired so that you will want to sleep. In addition to regulating your light exposure, you can give this mechanism a boost by taking a melatonin supplement before bed. By giving your body a regular dose of melatonin at the same time each night, about half an hour before your ideal bedtime, you will train your body to expect to fall asleep at that time. Non-addictive, homeopathic melatonin capsules can be a valuable tool as you reset your sleep schedule. Although melatonin is available over the counter at any shop where vitamin supplements are sold, check with your doctor before taking melatonin or any other supplement. Once you get the go-ahead from your medical professional, you can start using melatonin to achieve the sleep schedule that is right for you.