Most of us like to think we have a fixed sleep schedule. That is, if we don’t count the assorted weekends, vacations or stressful days spent rationalizing an all-nighter. Even if we come to terms with our inconsistent sleep schedule, we should take the issue more seriously. The media have told us that it is possible to catch up on sleep when it’s more convenient. This mindset communicates that sleep is an unimportant part of the day that can be compromised. The casual rhetoric surrounding sleep hygiene gets in the way of achieving a steady schedule.
Information about a fixed sleep schedule is crucial to counteract the easygoing perspective on sleep. Research suggests that consistent sleep timing leads to better quality rest, body composition, and a lower risk of heart disease.
Why is that?
A consistent sleep schedule maintains the circadian rhythm, which is the body’s internal clock. The circadian rhythm dictates our heart rate, blood pressure, and cardiovascular functions. Inconsistent sleep over the long term causes mild sleep deprivation and can restrict the Human Growth Hormone (HGH) release, which helps build muscle. Reduced muscle building can significantly compromise the skeletal system and normal metabolic function.
On the other hand, those who follow a consistent sleep schedule experience the following:
- Better cognitive function
- Emotional well-being
- Higher immunity,
- Improved cardiovascular health
What Sleep Schedule is the Best?
Finding the best timing depends on your chronotype. Chronotype is a person’s natural inclination about the time of day they prefer sleeping or when they are most alert or energetic. According to sleep specialist Dr. Michael Breus, whether you are an early bird or a night owl depends on your DNA.
For instance, If you prefer sleeping late and waking late, your body may naturally produce melatonin (the hormone that signals your body that it is time to rest) at a later hour in the evening.
The only good factors to remember are consistent times and sufficient hours. Sleep specialist Dr. Marcus from the University of Rochester Medical Center states that even if you go to sleep every night at 1 AM and wake up at 9 AM and feel well rested, there’s no issue with that.
Things you can do to improve your sleep schedule
If you cannot sleep and wake within your natural limits due to work timings or other responsibilities, there are steps you can take to change your schedule slowly.
- Start by changing your bedtime or wake time by 15-minute increments. If you usually sleep at 2 AM, start by sleeping at 1:45 AM. Small steps lead to sustainable lifestyle changes.
- Focus on your daily routine as well. If your regime is haphazard, that will inevitably affect the time you sleep that day. Create a timetable where you pencil in mealtimes, work time and other activities.
- Create a relaxing evening routine. The routine should begin with putting your devices away. Reading a book, meditating, or doing light stretches can signal to your mind that it is time to put the day behind you. If you stick to an evening routine, your body will eventually understand that every time you put your devices away, it’s time to start releasing melatonin.
You will know your sleep schedule works for you when you can eventually wake up with no alarm and consistently feel rested. It can typically take 7-10 days to adjust to sleep timings, so don’t fret if things aren’t falling into place immediately.