Make small changes to promote good sleep habits

How to Change a Sleep Schedule Back to Regular

by Brenda Scottsdale

You aren't alone in experiencing sleep disturbances -- lots of people deal with having their Zs interrupted. Sleep patterns can become disrupted for a host of reasons: demanding work schedules, kids who don't sleep, hormonal changes, jet lag, stress and anxiety are all culprits. Whether your sleep is troubled or you need to return to your regular pattern after a period of being off-schedule, you can return to your normal routine in a short period of time by making a few changes.

Sleep Hygiene

Establish and maintain a list of nighttime practices, known as a sleep hygiene routine, by following a bedtime and waking schedule. Even if you aren't sleepy, your body will get used to this routine and, over time, will begin to wind itself down when you go to bed. Maintain your sleep and wake times even on the weekends.

Stay awake for the entire day, without giving into an urge to nap. Daytime naps disturb normal sleep and wakefulness patterns, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Decrease or eliminate your use of alcohol and caffeine. The effects of caffeine last for eight to 14 hours, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Caffeine increases the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep, disrupting your total sleep time. While it might be tempting to drink alcohol before bed to help you fall asleep, as your body begins to digest the alcohol your sleep in the second half of the night will be disrupted.

Exercise vigorously in the morning or mid-afternoon and you'll get a better night's sleep. The exercise will tire you out making it easier to sleep at night. Switch to more relaxing forms of exercise, such as yoga during the evening.

Keep your bed for sleep only. Relax and rest while in bed without watching television, reading or otherwise engaging your mind. If you just rest in your bed, your body will associate your bedroom with shutting down and sleeping.

Change Your Patterns

Make adjustments to your sleep cycle gradually in 15-minute increments, according to psychologist, author and sleep specialist Steven Silberman on the website PsychCentral. Wake up 15 minutes early for the first three or four days, for example and then wake up 30 minutes early for the next three or four days.

Keep your room dark all night long. If necessary, wear sleep goggles or sunglasses to block out light. Your body's sleep cycle, known as your circadian rhythm, begins to shut down when it's dark outside. Use blinds or curtains to shut out light if it's still light out when you go to sleep. Wake yourself up by shutting on the lights to trigger alertness.

Get up when your alarm goes off, instead of using the snooze button.Using a snooze button disrupts your body's need for to rouse itself steadily for an hour before you actually get up by going into a disruptive sleep-awake-sleep pattern, according to a Daily Mail article on sleep disturbances.

Spend time during the day out in the sunlight. Natural sunlight helps to reset your circadian rhythms with daylight hours. Spend extra time in the sunlight when you visit or return from a different time zone to recover from jet lag. Spend more time outside during the winter, when your exposure to the sun is likely lowest.


  • Consult a physician if your problems sleeping or disruption of sleep cycle is severe or persistent.

About the Author

Brenda Scottsdale is a licensed psychologist, a six sigma master black belt and a certified aerobics instructor. She has been writing professionally for more than 15 years in scientific journals, including the "Journal of Criminal Justice and Behavior" and various websites.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/ Images