How to fix your sleep schedule and wake up earlier
Some of us might feel as if the world is against us when it comes to getting up in the morning. With kids who wake up bright and early, meetings added to your calendar for 8.30 am or pets who want their breakfast when the sun rises, you’re far from alone if waking up early feels like a lifelong battle.
You might reluctantly conclude that your sleep patterns and body clock are just not cut out for modern life. But there is good news. It’s possible to carefully reset your sleep schedule and teach yourself to wake up earlier. We’ll dig into this topic and share advice from Feather & Down’s resident sleep expert, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan.
Why you may be struggling to wake up early
Many factors determine how well we sleep, including our health, job, stress levels, age and lifestyle. But ultimately, our sleep routine is down to our body clocks.
If you’re feeling constantly tired – with excessive yawning, low energy levels, hunger and irritability, there’s a chance your body clock isn’t aligned with your lifestyle.
Understanding your body clock
Almost every organism on the planet has a biological clock – also referred to as a body clock or circadian rhythm - which normally operates on a 24-hour cycle. This clock controls many of our bodily functions such as our sleep patterns, immune system, when we feel hungry and body temperature. People who struggle to wake up early do so because their circadian rhythms are different to those of other people.
Despite this, it is possible to reset your body clock. Known as chronotherapy, there’s a whole branch of medicine dedicated to resetting body clocks and helping people sleep better. However, if you’re simply trying to get better at waking up in the morning, you’re unlikely to need medical intervention. Instead, with a little dedication, you can adjust your body clock on your own.
How to reset your sleep schedule
If you find that you’ve fallen into a sleep schedule that isn't working for you there are plenty of things you can do. Try some of the following tips to get back on track.
Work out your rationale for the early start
Why do you want to get up early? This might sound like a strange question, but it’s important to have a good reason to do so! That’s because if you don’t have a strong enough reason to get out of bed early then it is very likely you'll talk yourself out of it. So give yourself a goal. Perhaps you want to make your mornings less stressful or make time to enjoy a walk with your dog before work. Whatever your reason is, make sure it’s there! And guess what, if you don’t need to wake up early every day, then don’t force it.
Adjust your sleep schedule gradually
Your sleep is no place for drastic measures. Start slowly, perhaps waking up 15 minutes earlier than normal for a few days. Then once you’re used to that wake-up time, cut back by another 15 minutes. Keep rolling your wake-up time forwards until you get to your goal time. If 15 minutes feels like too much, then go for a smaller period – 5 minutes or 10 minutes – every step counts!
Get into bed earlier than normal
If you’re waking earlier, you will need to sleep earlier. However, this shouldn’t mean changing your lifestyle too much. Even if you’re not tired and don't go to sleep straight away, it is still better to get into bed earlier than you do normally. Try snuggling up with a book or relaxing podcast to help yourself wind down.
Introduce light in the morning and limit it at night
Melatonin – one of the hormones responsible for helping us sleep – is produced in response to light levels. Melatonin production ramps up when we’re in darker conditions and decreases when we’re in the light. With this knowledge, you can hack your body’s natural responses and sleep better.
Introducing morning light into your bedroom makes it easier to wake-up and boosts your energy levels. This might mean simply opening your curtains the moment your alarm goes off or using pre-timed blinds that open on their own. Alternatively, you could invest in a sunrise wake up alarm clock, something that’s especially useful during dark winter mornings.
Of course, this means you need to limit the amount of light you get in the evening. Dimming the lights or using softer side lamps will help create an evening environment that encourages your body to produce melatonin. When it’s time for lights out, make sure your room is truly dark enough to sleep in. Many blinds and curtains don’t block out enough light and if you have streetlights near your window, you might find too much light gets through. If this is the case, investing in an eye mask is an effective way to block out the light and is far more affordable than buying a new set of curtains!
Eat a well-balanced diet and limit caffeine
It may seem obvious, but caffeine really does mess with our sleep schedule. Ideally, you shouldn’t have caffeine on an empty stomach – aim to have something to eat first. Dr Ramlakhan explains that by having your morning cuppa instead of or before breakfast, you’re artificially putting stimulants into your body which can, in turn, stop it from producing melatonin later in the day. It’s also best to avoid caffeine after 3 pm, as its effects can take up to 6 hours to wear off.
The rest of our diet also affects our sleep patterns. A balanced diet that involves lots of vegetables and avoids processed food and white carbs is better for us on every level and that includes your sleep! Drinking plenty of water is essential too. Dr Ramlakhan recommends drinking 2 litres of water throughout the day to improve your sleep biochemistry.
Be careful about when you eat too. Eating later in the evening will make it harder for you to drop off and will affect the quality of your sleep, as will drinking alcohol an hour or so before bed.
Get some regular exercise
There’s good evidence that regular exercise will help you fall asleep more quickly. Exactly why is not clear to scientists, but it’s known that moderate cardio exercise increases the amount of deep sleep you get. Exercise also helps stabilise our moods and release pent-up negative energy – something that’s really important for dropping off to sleep quickly.
There is a word of caution however – taking vigorous exercise close to bed will disrupt your sleep. As well as raising your core temperature – something which tells your body it’s time to wake up, exercise increases endorphins which can keep you awake at night. It’s best to finish your workout a couple of hours before you head to bed. Alternatively, you may find that switching your workout to the morning kickstarts your day.
Find peace and relaxation
Taking the time to proactively build some relaxation into your bedtime routine will help you sleep more soundly, which in turn will give you a spring in your step the next morning. Some gentle yoga or stretching is a lovely way to signal to your body that it’s time to rest, while meditation and deep breathing are also a great way of calming your mind and stopping the ‘chatter’ that can so often stop us from nodding off.
Taking a warm bath or shower before bed is another great way to relax, especially if you add soothing oils and use that time for some deep breathing or mindfulness activities. You could shut your eyes and focus on the feeling of the water against your skin, the scent of the products you are using and the sound of the water around you. Doing this can help your brain calm down, ready for a better night’s sleep.
Establish a consistent sleep routine
Use the tips above to establish a consistent sleep routine and you’ll be on your way to better sleep – and easier waking. Good ongoing sleep hygiene – the habits which help you get a good night’s sleep – will mean you start to fall asleep more easily, sleep more soundly and wake to feel refreshed more reliably.
Get comfortable for a better night’s sleep
Of course, sleeping comfortably is essential for a better night’s sleep. Choosing unrestrictive, breathable nightwear and soft bedding in natural fibres will help prevent overheating for a restful night’s sleep that’s less likely to be disturbed. Your pillow and mattress are important too, so choose a pillow that supports your neck and shoulders and a mattress that’s firm enough to support your resting body. This will help you fall asleep more easily and wake up with fewer aches and pains the next day. A comfy bed is another key factor in getting a better night’s rest. We at Soak&Sleep have compiled some more important tips on making your bed more comfortable so you can fall asleep faster and easier.
Sleeping schedule FAQs
How can I force myself to wake up early?
Need to get up early for an important event or appointment? Use an alarm clock and place it out of reach so you have to get out of bed to turn it off. Most importantly, do not hit snooze! Instead, head straight into the shower or brush your teeth and wash your face to shake off any feelings of tiredness.
Can pulling an all-nighter fix your sleep schedule?
Pulling an all-nighter – or going without sleep for a full day and night – is believed to help some people reset their sleep schedule, however, it’s not something we’d recommend. It’s best done under the supervision of a doctor as it can have harmful effects. It may also make it dangerous for you to drive and carry out otherwise everyday tasks.
Why is it so hard for me to sleep early?
There are many reasons that you may find it difficult to fall asleep early. This might include:
- Drinking too much caffeine during the day
- Eating too close to bedtime
- Exercising too close to bedtime
- Stress and anxiety
- Hormonal fluctuations
- Your body clock
How can I reset my sleep cycle?
To reset your sleep cycle, it’s best to take things a step at a time. Try moving your bedtime and waking time forwards by 15 minutes or so every few days. Doing this will gradually help your sleep cycle adjust. You should also try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day so that your body gets used to the new pattern.
How can I fall asleep in 5 minutes?
Preparation is key if you want to fall asleep within 5 minutes. So, take the time before bed to relax your body and mind, make sure your bed is comfortable and that your bedroom is calm, dark and at the right temperature. You should also avoid caffeine, alcohol, rich food and exercise in the run-up to bedtime as well.
Once you’re in bed, use proven relaxation techniques to help you drop off quickly. One of the easiest to follow is the 4-7-8 breathing technique where you breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds and exhale for 8 seconds. As well as calming your body, it focuses your mind on your breath and leaves you unable to think about the things that may otherwise keep you awake.
If you sleep on your back, a medium-firm pillow will be a good support.
If you sleep on your side, you should opt for a firm pillow to fully support your neck.
If you sleep on your stomach, a soft pillow will provide cushioning and support.
Need some more help on choosing the right pillow for your sleep style? Visit our Pillow Buying Guide for more information and suggestions.
We hope that you’ve enjoyed this guide to having a better night’s sleep, and are ready to put these sleep tips into practice. If you’d like to learn more about promoting a good night’s sleep and choosing the right products for you, head on over to our Better Sleep Hub for expert advice.
Sleep Expert, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, shares her small tips that can make a huge difference to your sleep. Give them a try and see how you get on.
The inspiration for Feather & Down was consumers who were speaking out about struggling to get a good night’s sleep.
With busier lives becoming more apparent, there was a need for a sleep dedicated brand that contained calming and relaxing essential oils, was accessible to the consumer and allowed the consumer to enjoy taking time out from their day to wind down.