When it comes to sleep, it’s not just quantity that matters—it’s quality. How you feel during your waking hours hinges greatly on how well you sleep. Similarly, the cure for daytime fatigue and sleep difficulties can often be found in your daily routine.
Your sleep schedule, bedtime habits, and day-to-day lifestyle choices can make an enormous difference to the quality of your nightly rest. The following tips will help you optimize your sleep so you can be productive, mentally sharp, emotionally balanced, and full of energy all day long.
Getting in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, is one of the most important strategies for achieving good sleep. If you keep a regular sleep schedule—going to bed and getting up at the same time each day—you will feel much more refreshed and energized than if you sleep the same number of hours at different times. This holds true even if you alter your sleep schedule by only an hour or two. Consistency is vitally important.
1. Try to go to sleep and get up at the same time every day. Sticking to a consistent sleep-wake schedule helps set your body’s internal clock and optimize the quality of your sleep. Start by setting a realistic bedtime that will work with your lifestyle.
Choose a time when you normally feel tired, so that you don’t toss and turn. If you’re getting enough sleep, you should wake up naturally without an alarm. If you need an alarm clock to wake up on time, you may need to set an earlier bedtime.
2. Avoid sleeping in—even on weekends or nights you’ve stayed up late. It can be tempting to sleep in on weekends, but even a couple hour difference in wake time disrupts your internal clock.
The more your weekend/weekday sleep schedules differ, the worse the jetlag-like symptoms you’ll experience. If you need to make up for a late night, opt for a daytime nap rather than sleeping in. This strategy allows you to pay off your sleep debt without disturbing your natural sleep-wake rhythm, which often backfires in insomnia and throws you off for days.
3. Be smart about napping. As mentioned above, napping is a good way to recharge and make up for lost sleep hours. But if you tend to have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night, napping can make things worse. If insomnia is a problem for you, consider eliminating naps altogether or limiting them to 15 to 20 minutes in the early afternoon.
4. Fight after-dinner drowsiness. If you find yourself getting sleepy way before your bedtime, get off the couch and do something mildly stimulating to avoid falling asleep, such as washing the dishes, calling a friend, or getting clothes ready for the next day. If you give in to the drowsiness, you may wake up later in the night and have trouble getting back to sleep.