Bed and desk in a student's room
August 27, 2020
4 mins read

How to get your sleep schedule back on track—now

You wake up to the noise of lawn mowers buzzing away. It’s so early, really? You hiss bitterly as you wrap your pillow about your ears, and then you check your phone for the time.

It is 4:04 pm. Whoa there.

While you retrieve your jaw from the floor, you wonder what’d kept you up deep into the night. 

You think. 

You think very hard. 

You start to grunt from the effort. 

And then you admit to yourself that your RAM seems to be a little slow today. That memory of what had kept you up seems to also be...404 (Not Found). You heave a sigh and start making breakfast dinner.

If you're looking to end this cycle—just in time for the school year—we've got you covered!

Your gadgetbox to resetting your biological clock

Here are 3 steps you can take to get your zzzs back on track:

1. Identify what’s keeping you up

Maybe you've been watching some YA drama or some Netflix show, or occupying the magnetic field pulsing from Animal Crossing and Brawl Stars. Or maybe you’re dealing with something more serious, like insomnia or anxiety. No matter what the reason may be, recognizing what’s keeping you up is the first step to correcting your sleep schedule.

2. Tweak your sleeping habits

Start with these helpful sleeping tips from the “Sleep for success" page on the Student Services website. These 3 tips stood out for me in particular:

  • Stop using technology (phone and laptop) at least 30 minutes before bedtime
  • Stay active by exercising and going on long walks during the day
  • Relax before bedtime, like reading a book

The "Sleep for success" page also has some great resources if you feel there are other, more serious issues preventing you from getting a restful night’s sleep.

If you're looking for even more ways to fix your sleep schedule, here are a few other tactics you can try from this New York Times guide to better sleep:

  • Move your bedtime and wake-up time by 20 minutes each day—so start adjusting today/tonight
  • Make sure your alarm is loud enough to ensure you don't sleep through it 
  • Let sunlight, a key wake-up-promoting agent, stream in in the morning
  • Eat breakfast every day (so your body knows when it’s time to get up and get food)
alarm clock, smoothie bowl, and sun

3. Keep your schedule (the newly revised edition!) consistent, every day

Maintain your newly on-track sleep schedule, so your body knows that things are #backtonormal (the back-to-school kind of normal). According to this research study, serious metabolic problems can arise when our sleep schedule—that is, our bedtime and wake-up time—and the amount of sleep we get differ from day to day. 

So, even if you don’t have a bedtime in the nighttime and a wake-up time in the morning, do make sure that no matter when your bedtime and wake-up times are, they are consistent every day.

Should you alter your sleep schedule from weekend to weekday, your health will be rocking along an ungainly road, as Pocahontas would tell you (while running her Olympic marathon in the wind/down a waterfall), “in a [vicious] circle, in a [vicious] hoop that never ends.”

Okay, what if you've heard about (and even tried) some of these tips before, but it's still been tough to build new sleep habits? Here's some science that might just persuade you to maintain a healthy sleep schedule:

What happens to your body when you don’t get enough sleep?

According to Dr. Matthew Walker, author of Why We Sleep, not getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep—a.k.a. “enough” sleep—can lead to serious effects on your health such as:

  • A weakened immune system: 1 night of 4-5 hours of sleep causes a 70% reduction in the cells that help prevent cancer (a.k.a. natural killer cells)
  • Higher blood pressure and a 200% increase in risk of getting a stroke or a heart attack
  • Mental and physiological deterioration after you’ve been up for 16 hours—and after 19-20 hours, your mental capacity is no different from that of a legally impaired driver 


But what if you sleep for what feels like a sufficient number of hours, just...very late at night?


Sleeping “enough” at irregular hours

Maybe you're a night owl who "makes up" for your late bedtime by sleeping until early/mid-afternoon. Even if you manage to sleep for the recommended 7 to 9 hours, you might not be getting the quality rest that you need.

That’s because your body’s biological clock (a.k.a. circadian rhythm) is regulated, in large part, by exposure to light—we tend to sleep when it’s dark and rise when it’s light. When your sleep schedule runs counter to this natural tendency, it can throw your system out of whack.

For example, that 6:00 am sunlight shining through your window as you crawl into bed can prevent the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin from getting secreted into your bloodstream. And since this sleep-promoting agent is MIA, you don’t fall asleep easily. So, even though you may feel like you’re getting enough sleep, you might not be getting quality sleep.

If you can’t change your lifestyle—because you work graveyard shifts or take online classes in another time zone, for example—there are things you can do to sleep better during the day. For instance, you should dim your sleeping area as much as possible to help you fall asleep more easily. Thick dark curtains, which can prevent daylight from streaming in and keeping you w i d e awake may help.

Remember to take care of all aspects of your health and wellbeing during this time, beyond just sleep. Let’s have them no more panda-eyes. Night-o! (Or, for some of you, day-o?)

For another read on maintaining your health, check out these simple 10-minute tricks you can use to feel better.