Getting in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle 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. Consistency is vitally important.
- 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.
- 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.
- Be smart about napping. As mentioned above, napping is a good way to recharge and make up for lost sleep hours. But limit them to 15 to 20 minutes in and if possible do them in the early afternoon.
- 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.
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.
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