We all know bedtime rules are often strictly enforced during childhood. You were probably told to go to sleep at a certain time every night… or else. Parents enforce bedtimes in order to get their little ones to stick to a consistent sleep schedule, but these bedtimes are typically thrown out the window as children grow older and hit adolescence. That being said, it’s probably best that children carry the bedtime rules they’re taught early in life into adulthood. “Why?”, you ask. Here’s what you need to know about the importance of sticking to a sleep schedule:
The Circadian Rhythm & Sleep Schedules
Your body’s internal clock, a.k.a. your circadian rhythm, plays a key role in regulating your sleep-wake cycle. This clock tells your body when it’s time to wake up in the morning and when to start unwinding at the end of the day. It’s impacted by melatonin, which takes its cues from the amount of light present in your environment. As dusk falls, your body releases melatonin to start the natural process of falling asleep. When light streams through your windows in the morning, your brain knows it’s time to rise and shine. Your sleep cycle is closely linked to light in your environment, so your internal clock helps you naturally feel more awake during daylight hours and more tired at night.
Ideally, you should stick to the same sleep schedule every night so your body can find its natural rhythm and settle into a regular sleep-wake cycle. But many people don’t prioritize this, which can throw off the body’s internal clock. If you constantly change the time you fall asleep and wake up, your body won’t be able to adjust to a set schedule.
You won’t feel your best if an inconsistent sleep schedule has thrown off your internal clock. In fact, an irregular sleep schedule can cause irritability, drowsiness, mood swings, concentration and memory problems, headaches, and a decline in cognitive skills. Many people with inconsistent sleep schedules also report restless sleep, meaning you never enter the stages of the deep, quality sleep your brain and body need to restore themselves.
No one wants to experience the negative side effects of an irregular sleep-wake cycle, which is why it’s so important to set a sleep schedule and stick to it.
How to Stick to a Consistent Sleeping Schedule
Listen to your body when creating a sleep schedule. Some people enjoy staying up a little later at night, while others prefer waking up early in the morning. Keep it consistent and make sure you get between seven and nine hours of sleep nightly.
Finding the ideal sleep-wake cycle for your body is only half of the work. Next, you need to put in the effort to ensure you stick to this schedule. Sticking to a sleep schedule requires a bit of planning. For example, if you’ve decided to make bedtime 10 p.m., you need to plan ahead to ensure you are home and in bed by this time. It’s important to think of 10 p.m. as the time you are going to sleep, not the time you should start preparing for bed. You should be under the covers with your eyes closed by this time - not brushing your teeth or washing your face in the bathroom.
Your body will need time to adjust to your sleep schedule, so don’t give up if you feel tired for the first few days. Keep smartphones, tablets, and other devices out of the bedroom at night. These devices emit blue light that interferes with your circadian rhythm and makes it harder for your body to adjust to your new sleeping schedule. If you need to use a device before bed, make sure to turn it on night mode first. This setting dims the brightness of the screen, so it should not impact your sleep.
Another thing you will need to avoid is sleeping in on the weekends. We know how tempting this can be. It’s perfectly fine to sleep in a little bit on Saturdays and Sundays, but don’t spend the day in bed simply because you can. Your body will never adjust to a set sleeping schedule if your weekend schedule is drastically different from your weekday ZZZs.
If you commit to a sleeping schedule, it should only take a few days for your body to adjust. Start tonight so you can finally get the good night’s sleep you deserve!