Learn your chronotype
We all have natural inclinations for when to fall sleep and when to wake up and they are called chronotypes. Artificial lighting and screens often tend to create the illusion that we are all night owls. But, in reality, most people fall middle of the road between an early bird and night owl. You can find out what your chronotype is with the help of a questionnaire.
After you determine your chronotype, you can try to adjust your sleep schedule accordingly. Here are some recommended times.
- Early bird: wake up 5:30, wind-down to sleep 20:30-21:00, fall asleep 21:30
- Middle of the road: wake up 7:30, wind-down to sleep 22:30-23:00, fall asleep 23:30
- Night owl: wake up 10:00, wind-down to sleep 1:00-1:30, fall asleep 2:00
Wake up at the same time on the weekend
It might be tempting to sleep in on the weekend, especially if you’ve been struggling with sleep during the week. Try to fight the urge and keep the same schedule including the weekend. That’s because oversleeping can reduce your sleep drive. Your sleep drive accumulates while you’re awake. If you wake up late, you’re going to be feeling sleepy late.
Create a calm and safe sleep space
The right sleep environment can make all the difference. As someone who tried many things to improve sleep, you probably know the basics. You room should be cool, dark, and your bed reserved only for sleep. But one overlooked factor is safety. If you find yourself jolted awake by noises or feelings of unease, you have to find a solution. Here are few ideas that helps might help you create a more comfortable and safe sleeping space.
- Get a big dog and have it sleep with you
- Install an alarm system and quality door locks
- Wear earplugs, play calming nature sounds or white noise at a low volume
- Get soft sheets that feel comfortable on the skin
- Declutter your bedroom
- Resolve arguments with your friends and family members
Change your inner dialogue
Experiencing bad sleep can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. You can’t fall asleep at night and the stress of yet another bad night of sleep just keeps you up. Your inner dialogue might go something like this:
- “I have to fall asleep now. I have an important day at work/training session/social event tomorrow. If I have a bad night’s sleep again, I’m going to blow it.”
- “If I don’t sleep well, my health is going to decline, I’m going to get Alzheimer’s and cancer.”
If you notice thoughts like these, try to intentionally replace them with better self-talk. It will put you in a different state of mind, lower your stress levels and increase chances of falling asleep.
- “Even if I don’t feel my best tomorrow, I can still do some exercise, do some decent work, and find a few moments of joy.”
- “Sleep is just one aspect of good health. I can still do well with my diet, social connections, exercise, and spending time outdoors, even if I don’t get great sleep tonight.”
- “I might lose sleep occasionally but other nights will probably be good.”
Trust your body
Your sleep might not actually be as terrible as you think. What often feels like a sleepless night might consist of a decent amount of light sleep and at least a few moments of deep and REM sleep. That’s because your brain is really good at forcing sleep when it needs it. Plus, it’s easy to miss the fact that you’re drifting into light sleep. Most people that are chronically struggling with sleep still get 5-6 hours a night. This is not to say that you should be happy with that amount of sleep long-term. But it’s important to remember that your body is very smart and makes sure you get at least the minimum necessary amount of sleep to function.
Getting in touch with your chronotype, adding regularity to your sleep schedule, improving your sleep space, and changing your inner dialogue can all be powerful tools. Give them a try and you will find a way to get that good sleep more often.