How to repair a broken sleep cycle

Even with the best will in the world, you'll occassionally look at the clock in the evening and see that it's later than you thought, and you've stayed up past when you'd normally go to bed. Whether you mistimed when a movie would end, or you got tied up with work, you're then faced with a choice - do I sleep in to make up for the time, or get up as usual?

It's tempting to take the sleep in option, attempting to regain the time you lost the night before, and avoid the pain of dragging yourself out of bed on less sleep than you'd like, but these extra stolen hours in the morning can come back to bite you later! Pushing back the time you wake up can compound the distruption to your sleep routine made by missing your bedtime; risking pushing your bodyclock onto a different pattern.

It's not all doom and gloom though, if you do find that your sleep pattern has slipped and you've fallen out of your snooze groove you can fix it with these specialist tips.

Is my sleep cycle even that important?

It's pretty essential actually, we shouldn't have even written that as a question! Study after study into sleep has shown just how essential a good night's sleep is, we've written about it a few times, affecting your weight and how your brain functions.

Getting a great night's sleep is much harder if you're ignoring your body clock, you're body loves routine, as sleep therapist Annie Miller says:

Our brains respond very well to routines," Miller says. "When we create healthy bedtime routines for ourselves, our sleep can greatly improve. And as your brain begins to associate bedtime with relaxation instead of stress, sleep will become easier.

Allowing your body to find it's natural rythm leads to deeper more reliable sleep and less time tossing and turning in bed. Your overall sleep quality and sleep duration will also improve, helping you to feel better rested and full of energy. Plus getting into a rythm lets you nail the timings on your sleep stages, which should take 90 minutes to get through.

How tight is this schedule?

You might be thinking that this sounds a bit tricky, life is messy and it can be hard to get to bed at the same time every night, even harder to get to sleep at the same time. Luckily for us it's actually the wake time that makes the biggest difference to the sleep schedule; rather than the time you actually get to sleep (this doesn't mean that you should stay up late!). If you start pushing back your wake time to cover for a late night you can create a jet lag type response.

As for the time you go to bed, it's best to try and keep this within a consistent 30 minute window to keep you at your best. Make sure you avoid the common habits which can ruin your sleep, and prepare for bed by winding down and getting in the right head space; a weighted blanket is a pretty awesome helper for getting your stress levels down and levels of soothing hormones and melatonin up, check out our Knitted weighted blanket, which is the best weighted blanket for the sofa wind down session!

Of course there are things we don't have control of that can get in the way of our routines, such as shift work, a disruptive environment, or high temperatures; if there are steps you can take to reduce the impact of these then it's worth making the effort.

How to repair your sleep cycle

If you have a disrupted sleep cycle then these are the steps we recommend to get it back on track:

Get outside and get active

Nothing helps you get to sleep faster than feeling worn out! Getting physically active will help you to get a good night's sleep; team this up with the effect of sunshine and vitamin D which helps to reset your circadian rhythm and you'll be snoozing in no time

Sort out your bedroom

Your bedroom should be your sleep sanctuary. Make sure that you keep the temperature cool and remove all the electronics you can. If you'd like our advice on getting your bedroom set up you can check our top tips for the bedroom

Don't overdo daytime naps

There is a trick to napping successfully, and if your sleep cycle is solid then you have a bit more leeway, but if you've fallen out of rhythm a daytime nap can make it worse! Even if you've got a bit of a lull in your day during these work at home times you should do your best to keep yourself alert and awake so you don't eat into the sleep you need at night.

Moderate your content

It's all to easy to get yourself stressed out by what you see around you, whether it's social media, tv or film, make sure that you don't expose yourself to things that are going to put your mind into high gear just before you hit the pillow. Opt for light viewing or a good book/audiobook before getting ready for bed.

Use a weighted blanket

We're big fans of weighted blankets, if you've not worked that out already. They're not magic, but they're a really good tool to help you push your body and mind towards sleep. By applying a gentle even pressure your parasympathetic system is triggered in the same way as by a hug, pushing out same the feel good and calming hormones. A weighted blanket is great for use before bed on the sofa or in the place of a duvet, our standard weighted blanket can also act as a weighted duvet for use on your bed.

How to avoid disrupting your sleep cycle

As the old adage goes, prevention is the best medicine! Avoiding disrupting your sleep cycle in the first place is easier than fixing it when it goes wrong; here are our top tips for keeping your sleep cycle solid

Wind down before bed

Great sleep starts at least an hour before you get tucked in to your bed. Make sure you make time before bed to get in a relaxed and calm space, doing something you enjoy, away from bright lights; good activites are:

  • Listening to calm music
  • Meditating
  • Reading or listening to a book
  • Talking to a spouse, roommate, or friend

Get up at the same time every day

As we've covered before in this article, the best thing you can do to keep your sleep cycle in check is to make sure you get up at the same time every day, regardless of the time you managed to get to sleep. Take it from the experts

We often think we can 'catch up' on sleep over the weekend or if we have a bad night of sleep, but in fact, that can make sleeplessness worse by creating what's called social jetlag.

It might be a bit painful in the short term but it brings long term benefits.

Keep your bedroom a sleep only zone

We're creatures of habit, and we can leverage those habits to help us achieve what we want to, in this case that's a really good night's sleep. You might have heard this advice before, and there are certain caveats to this rule, but keeping your bedroom as a place that is only used for sleeping helps to train your brain to associate the space with sleep, and trigger that response. This means no reading in bed and no watching tv in bed.

Don't try too hard

Stress and pressure are the enemies of sleep, the more you try the further you push it away. If you're struggling to get to sleep then stop tossing and turning, instead get out of bed and do something quiet and calming until you feel ready to sleep.

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