Waking Up the Wrong Time? Here’s How To Fix Your Sleep Schedule Naturally

In 2018, a study from Mattress-Inquirer reported that over 30% of people oversleep at least once a week. Many want to fix their sleep schedule– wake up earlier or later, or go to bed earlier or later. This can be difficult. Fortunately, scientists have pinpointed several solutions, from bedroom lighting to white noise to the right late-night snacks. If you want to modify your sleep schedule, look no further.

As Soon As You Get Up, Open The Curtains

A woman opens window curtains to let the light in.
MATTHIEU ALEXANDRE/AFP via Getty Images
MATTHIEU ALEXANDRE/AFP via Getty Images

According to the National Sleep Foundation, your natural circadian rhythm (the body’s sleep-wake schedule) relies on light. The body naturally wakes up when we see sunlight.

As soon as you wake up, open your curtains. In 2017, a study in Sleep Health found that people who do this feel more alert, less depressed, and less stressed in the morning.

Choose Your Times And Stick To Them

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DANNY G/Unsplash

Before anything, choose a bedtime and a wake-up time, and stick to them. You will not feel well-rested if you go to bed and wake up at different times every day.

According to Harvard Health, sleep doctors have found that people sleep better when they have a consistent sleep schedule.

Adjust Your Bedtime/Wake Up Times Gradually

A man sets his phone alarm while lying in bed.
Nubelson Fernandes/Unsplash
Nubelson Fernandes/Unsplash

If you want to wake up earlier, alter your bed and wake up times gradually. You’ll be more likely to stick to a new schedule if you give yourself time to get used to it.

Rafael Pelayo, a clinical professor at Stanford’s Sleep Disorders Clinic, recommends shifting your sleep schedule by 15 minutes. Repeat this every few days until you reach your desired schedule.

If You Nap, Do It Right

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Victor Hughes/Unsplash

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to avoid naps to fix your sleep schedule. Dr. Ramiz Fargo, the medical director of the Loma Linda University Sleep Disorder Center, says that most people can nap and sleep fine at night.

To nap correctly, do it in the early afternoon, not the evening. Also, keep it short–no longer than 30 minutes.

Turn Down The Volume (Even White Noise)

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Elyas Pasban/Unsplash

Although some people feel comforted by white noise such as nature sounds, a fan, or an air conditioner, studies have found that they might harm sleep. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School found that white noise lowers the quality of sleep.

If you need white noise, turn the volume low. Do not play the TV, radio, or music while you sleep.

Avoid Digital Light

A woman scrolls through her phone in bed.
Godong/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Godong/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Digital light–officially known as blue light–is worse for your sleep than sunlight. Neuroscientist Anne-Marie Chang said that even eBooks can make people struggle to fall asleep.

Harvard Health advises people to avoid bright screens two to three hours before bed. You can purchase blue light glasses that protect your eyes from these screens.

Stop Hitting Snooze

A man sits up in bed, tired and groggy.
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H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images

Many think that hitting snooze will help them feel more awake later, but this is not true. According to Cleveland Clinic, those extra ten minutes will disrupt your REM sleep and make you feel drowsier.

To prevent this, place your alarm clock across the room. You will have to stand up to turn it off, and by then, you’ll feel more awake.

Make Your Room As Dark As Possible

A boy's silhouette is seen in front of curtains in a dark room.
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Universal Education/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

If you want a higher quality of sleep, darken your room. A 2018 study in Psychiatry Investigation found that even dim light–such as light from outside street lamps–can worsen your sleep.

Do not sleep with the light on. If you need to, cover digital clocks or use blackout curtains. You might be surprised by how much this makes a difference.

Lighten Up Your Midnight Snacks

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Late-night dinners or snacks might be messing with your sleep. In 2019, a Japanese study determined that people need to wait a minimum of two hours before sleeping after a meal.

If you need to eat a snack, keep it light. Try nuts, cottage cheese, fruit, milk, cereal, or yogurt.

Cut Caffeine Earlier Than Expected

Customers pick up cups of coffee at a cafe.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Most people know not to drink caffeine before bed. But did you know that an afternoon coffee can also affect your sleep?

In 2013, a study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that drinking caffeine even six hours before bed can disrupt sleep. Conduct a “final caffeine call” at least six hours before you hit the hay.

Schedule Your Sleep Around REM

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Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

REM sleep follows a specific schedule. During the first schedule, it takes around 90 minutes to gain ten minutes of REM, and this increases throughout the next two cycles.

So how do you schedule your sleep around REM? Head to websites like sleepyti.me. It will calculate a sleep schedule based on when you want to wake up and how many hours of sleep you need.

Lower Your Bedroom’s Thermostat

A woman sleeps on a cooling pillow.
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bruce mars/Unsplash

In 2012, research in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology concluded that people sleep better in a cold room. When people sleep, their body temperature drops. Cool rooms can help that process go faster.

Christopher Winter, a medical director at Charlottesville Neurology & Sleep Medicine, recommends keeping your room between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mind Your Sleeping Position

An animation shows a woman in various sleeping positions.
JUVEA/Pinterest
JUVEA/Pinterest

Researchers have found that certain sleeping positions work better than others. The National Sleep Foundation claims that the best sleeping positions have a healthy spinal alignment from your hips to your head.

Sleeping on your sides and back tend to provide the best rest, while sleeping on your stomach can inhibit breathing and worsen your sleep.

Establish A Relaxing Night Routine

A woman smiles as she reads in bed.
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Jonathan Borba/Unsplash

A consistent bedtime routine can help you fall asleep more quickly. In 2015, researchers from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine discovered that people with night routines tend to have a deeper, more restful sleep.

During your nighttime routine, find ways to relax. Take a bath, listen to music, read, or draw. Avoid digital light and stressful activities.

Plan A Morning Activity That You Will Look Forward To

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Clinical sleep professor Rafael Pelayo recommends giving yourself a morning routine to look forward to. If you feel excited about your mornings, you’ll be more willing to wake up.

Pelayo claims that getting out of bed is more difficult than waking up. “You need a reason to get out of bed,” he told Everyday Health.

Stop Sleeping In On Weekends

A woman sleeps in one morning.
manbob86/Pixabay
manbob86/Pixabay

Sleeping in on weekends has some health benefits. For instance, a large study found that it could help you live longer. But when you are re-doing your sleep schedule, stop oversleeping for a while.

Since your body is not used to a new sleep schedule, it will want to go back to the old one. A weekend might set you back. Keep your schedule consistent for at least a few weeks.

Exercise Regularly

A man jogs outside.
Sebastian Gollnow/picture alliance via Getty Images
Sebastian Gollnow/picture alliance via Getty Images

Did you know that exercising during the day can improve your sleep at night? In 2015, researchers examined 55 studies. They concluded that exercise can enhance sleep, and vice-versa.

Exercise releases endorphins and these hormones can help the brain “wind down,” according to Charlene Gamaldo, the medical director of Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep.

Try Stretching Before Bed

A woman practices yoga in her bedroom.
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BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In 2012, a national survey found that 55% of people who practice yoga before bed slept better. Yoga has a positive impact on stress, depression, and anxiety, says the International Journal of Preventive Medicine.

A few stretches before bed can relax you enough to sleep better. Even five minutes of simple stretches might help.

Only Use The Bedroom For Sleeping

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Tina LaPort/Pinterest
Tina LaPort/Pinterest

Do not work, watch TV, or do any hobbies in your bedroom. According to the American Sleep Association, if your brain associates the bedroom with activities, you will struggle to sleep.

Limit your bedroom to its essentials, such as sleep and changing clothes. That way, your brain will link the bedroom with sleeping.

Talk To A Doctor About Melatonin Supplements

A bottle of melatonin lies on top of the pills.
James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images
James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images

Every time your body prepares to sleep, it releases a hormone called melatonin. But sometimes, people cannot produce enough melatonin on their own, says sleep expert Luis F. Buenaver of John Hopkins Medicine.

You can take melatonin supplements in the short term, such as while recovering from jet lag. But if you want to use it long-term, talk to your doctor.

Replace Your Mattress Or Pillow

Pillows for sale are on store shelves.
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

If your sleep quality has declined, you might need a new mattress or pillow. A report from NBC News stated that pillows only last for around one to two years.

Mattresses can survive for ten years before they lose their spring. If you don’t take care of your mattresses and pillows, you might get neck, hip, or back pain.

Go Camping For A Weekend

People camp in a tent underneath a starry sky.
Halil Sagirkaya/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Halil Sagirkaya/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Have you ever gone to bed earlier while camping? That is because your body adapts to natural darkness and sunlight. Usually, artificial light prevents the body from doing so.

According to research in Current Biology, a short camping trip might reset your circadian rhythm. Limit artificial light for a few days, including TVs, laptops, and phones.

Meditate To Sleep Better

A woman meditates in her room.
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Ben Blennerhassett/Unsplash

Meditation, mindfulness, and breathing exercises can relax you before bed. In 2015, scientists found that consistent meditation can improve sleep in people with insomnia and other sleep disorders.

Short guided meditations can be found on YouTube and several apps. Pair a few minutes of slow, leveled breathing with nature sounds or music, and you might fall asleep more quickly.

Stop Drinking Before Bed

Water and wine glasses are highlighted in a dimly-lit restaurant.
James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images
James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images

Despite what some may think, alcohol hinders your sleep. It might make people feel drowsy, but it disrupts REM sleep, according to a 2005 study in the journal Substance Abuse.

Research in Alcohol Metabolism claims that it takes one hour for alcohol to be metabolized. So if you have two drinks, you should wait two hours before bed.

Avoid Stressful Topics At Night

At night, a woman works on her taxes with her laptop.
Getty Images
Getty Images

The night is not the time to check your emails, read up on news, or watch true crime shows. Tracy Chisholm, a behavioral sleep medicine psychologist, told WebMD that this could activate your fight or flight response.

This response produces stress hormones that will make it harder to fall asleep. Even social media can do this. Focus on calming or neutral subjects at night.

Redecorate Your Sleep Environment

A bedroom is decorate to look and feel cozy.
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If your bedroom is messy, filled with unfinished projects or homework, or just dissatisfying, it could weaken your sleep. The CDC claims that a calming sleep environment can increase your quality of sleep.

Clean your room, remove distractions, or redecorate. Ensure that you have soft, cozy bedding. A throw rug or set of curtains can muffle sounds from outside.

Focus On Eating Healthily

People reach into a bowl to grab celery and carrot sticks.
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Gideon Mendel/Corbis via Getty Images

Did you know that your diet can affect sleep? In 2016, researchers found that people who eat more fiber, less fat, and less sugar tend to have a more restful sleep.

The body requires nutrients to produce neurotransmitters and hormones related to sleep, according to TODAY. If you lack these nutrients, you might struggle to sleep.

Set Realistic Expectations

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StartupStockPhotos/Pixabay
StartupStockPhotos/Pixabay

Do not change your sleep schedule too quickly or drastically. Before setting your sleep hours, consider how much rest you need and when you begin to feel tired for bed.

Most people require between seven and nine hours of sleep, although this varies from person to person. When you first alter your sleep schedule, give yourself more rest, not less.

Shift Your Schedule By No More Than 30 Minutes At A Time

A woman carries a pillow and a tea mug to bed.
Laura Chouette/Unsplash
Laura Chouette/Unsplash

What if you want to sleep in later than usual? Or what if you want to go to bed later? According to a 2020 study, regular sleep schedules only have a 30-minute difference.

If you alter your sleep by an hour or two, you’ll have a harder time getting it back to normal. Stick to 30-minute changes, if possible.

Understand That This Will Take Time

A woman tiredly presses her hands against her forehead in bed.
BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images
BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images

Most people cannot adjust their sleep schedule after one week. Usually, people might feel “off” for a couple of weeks before the body adjusts to its new circadian rhythm.

According to clinical professor Rafael Pelayo, many people take two weeks to alter their sleep schedule. Some will need even more time.