3 min read

how to fix your sleep schedule - a foolproof guide

how to fix your sleep schedule - a foolproof guide
Photo by Ann Danilina / Unsplash

my broken sleep schedule is causing me a lot of problems right now.

so i’m writing this foolproof guide for myself and for you. follow this word for word and you will see results.

pick a goal wakeup time

  1. pick a goal wakeup time - for me, it’s 6am.
  2. guess or find out your actual natural wakeup time - for me, it’s 8:30am. a quick way to find this out is to see when you wake up on a weekend with no alarm.
  3. select a period of time over which you wake up closer and closer to your ideal wakeup time.

note your circadian rhythm can only shift 15 minutes a day. so for the most foolproof experience, you’d want to wake up 15 minutes earlier each day, and reach your ideal wakeup time that way.

however, if you’re up for a bad time, you can be more aggressive. you’ll have to really follow best practices then, because you’ll be fighting your biology.

i’m planning to wake up at 7am for five days, then wake up at 6:30am for 2 days, then 6am for five days and beyond. the first five days will be very tough.

high level plan

the high level plan is to focus more on waking up at a certain time, than going to bed at a certain time. we want to go to bed when we’re sleepy (or a bit earlier) but wake up at our planned time.

for instance, the first night, i’ll go to sleep eight hours before my natural wakeup time - so i’ll go to bed at 12:30pm. i’ll wake up at my planned time - 7am. this will leave me sleepy during the day, making it easier to go to bed earlier the next day. a fancy name for this is sleep restriction therapy.

the alternative would be to go to bed early, but stay there lying awake. this is poor sleep efficiency and is not great for your psyche - a lot of people, myself included, develop an anxiety around sleeping when we lie awake there for hours.

overall, throughout this program, go to bed only when you’re sleepy, but wake up at your planned time no matter what. use the wake up items to get through the day.

the program

in the hours before bed:

  • keep the room dark
  • do something calming without screens - reading or meditating or long skincare routines
  • hot showers can be good to get your body temp right

right before bed:

  • keep your room slightly cool - do what you have to
  • keep your bedroom dark - do what you have to
  • meditate - can significantly improve your quality of sleep
  • don’t read - tbh reading generally gets me too excited and keeps me up. i’m admitting this to myself after years. i will re-introduce reading only when my sleep schedule is fixed

on wakeup:

  • look at your phone - looking at my phone Slack or email or Messenger tends to wake me up
  • go on a walk - this will get you awake enough to get on with your day. listen to music to make it a pleasant activity to look forward to
  • eat a meal - meal timing helps shift circadian rhythm
  • get sunlight - sunlight helps shift circadian rhythm
  • drink coffee or take a caffeine pill - this will help prevent naps later
  • drink water - dehydration exacerbates sleepiness

the main battle to succeed on this program will be the first morning, but each day the battle must be fought anew.

during the day:

  • do not nap

if you stay out late for a social night, don’t be the last to leave the party. come back as close to your bedtime as possible. in the morning, do all the wakeup items.

note on substances

melatonin is not a part of this guide because i generally experience headaches and sleeping too much when using it. sleeping pills are not part of this guide, mostly bc i don’t have experience with them, but also note they’re technically sedation pills they aren’t real sleep. oh also btw avoid alcohol it might induce sleep but results in a lower quality sleep with more wakeups. not sure about cannabis.

closing thoughts

if you failed to fix your sleep schedule, ask yourself what went wrong. it’s ok! likely, you didn’t follow the guide to a tee. try again.

overall, you’ll definitely have the most success if you try to shift your wakeup by only 15 minutes a day. possibly, shoot for a more realistic wakeup and support that by moving your morning routine to the evening.

best of luck! wish me luck too 😅