How to Reset Your Body Clock
Looking to fix your sleep schedule and wake up feeling refreshed every morning? While it’s tempting, napping to ‘catch up’ on sleep isn’t always the best idea, so here are some tips for how to reset your body clock.
What is your body clock?
Your ‘body clock’ is part of your circadian rhythm, 24-hour cycles that carry out essential functions, including the sleep-wake cycle1.
During the day, light exposure usually causes the master clock to send signals that generate alertness, helping to keep us awake. At night, the production of melatonin is initiated, a hormone that promotes sleep – and helps us stay asleep. This allows us to have a restorative rest, while feeling active during the daytime.
What can affect your body clock?
Your natural body clock, or sleep-wake cycle, can be disrupted by many things, including:
- Shift work
- Pulling all-nighters
- A busy schedule2
While it’s common for a sleep schedule to be disrupted, a regular lack of sleep can have a negative impact on overall health. This includes memory loss, weakened immunity, high blood pressure and weight gain3. The average adult needs between 6-9 hours sleep a night4.
So, how can you stop feeling groggy, and start improving sleep quality?
How to reset sleep schedule
Here are some top tips for how to reset your body clock and say goodbye to sleepless nights.
1. Cut back on naps
Many of us choose to nap to ‘catch up’ on lost sleep, however, this isn’t the most effective solution. Our bodies prefer to follow a consistent sleep schedule instead.
Having said that, napping has been shown to have its benefits, including improved mood and increased alertness5. However, there’s a fine line: you need to keep your naps short. Manage them so they’re only 15-30 minutes, as long or frequent naps can interfere with sleep at night.
2. Avoid blue lights at night
Screens, e.g. your laptop or phone, should be avoided at night. As mentioned, your body clock is regulated by light, and blue light can trick the body into thinking it’s daytime and suppresses melatonin production6. This can not only make it harder to fall asleep, but stay asleep as well.
3. Block out all light
Similarly, trying to fall asleep with the lights on can be much more difficult. Instead, try sleeping in the pitch black, or blocking out as much light as possible. Dim the lights at least an hour before bed to get the body ready for sleep.
4. Create the right environment
Creating a healthy sleep environment encompasses many factors, such as:
- Blocking out noise
- Getting the temperature right (not too hot – 15.6 to 19.4 degrees celsius is best for the most comfortable sleep7)
- Reducing caffeine intake, particularly after lunch (it stays in your system for around 8 hours)
- Ensuring your mattress is comfortable
- Getting breathable sheets that don’t make you overheat
5. Exercise more regularly
As well as helping avoid daytime sleepiness, moderate-to-vigorous exercise can increase sleep quality for adults and reduce the time it takes to fall asleep8. This decreases the amount of time people lie awake in bed at night, likely tossing and turning.
However, avoid vigorous workouts at least one hour before bed, as these can raise your core temperature, making it harder to fall asleep and reduce total sleep time. Instead, if you want to exercise before sleep, pick something lower-intensity, such as yoga. This can also be a useful relaxation technique.
6. Set an alarm
If you want to reset your body clock, you need to stick to a regular sleep schedule, which usually means setting alarms. Try to avoid hitting the snooze button! After 2-3 weeks, your body should naturally start to wake up at the desired time.
7. Try relaxing before bed
Switch off the electronics and opt for different relaxation techniques instead. This could be reading a book, meditating or journaling, for example. These can help you wind your body down, reset your body clock to the right time, while giving you more energy in the day.
8. Know when to get up
Instead of stressing about sleep, and lying there tossing and turning, know when to get up and do something else. It can take time to get your body clock back to normal, so be patient. Reading a book or listening to calming music can help you unwind.
9. Stay consistent
Slow, gradual changes are usually the best for having a long-term impact. So, don’t try and do everything at once. Take small steps, but remain consistent and don’t give up.
For example, if your body clock is two hours behind, set your bedtime and wake time 15 minutes earlier each week. After four weeks, you should have a more regular sleep schedule. Be patient – these things take time.
10. Cut back on alcohol
You might think that alcohol puts you into a deep sleep, but in fact, it decreases overall sleep quality9. So, while sleep onset might be quicker, it will likely be shorter in length and more disrupted. In short: alcohol and sleep don’t mix, therefore cut back on the booze if you’re trying to regulate sleep.
Remember, it’s not all about how quickly it takes to fall asleep, but also the quality. After a poor quality sleep, it’s likely you won’t wake up feeling refreshed and energised, even if you fell asleep quickly. Avoid disruptions by not drinking alcohol at least 4 hours before bed.
11. Spend more time outdoors
If you want to restore natural sleep cycles, spending more time outside can be a good idea. This is because natural light cycles aid the body’s circadian rhythm. So, whether you like walking, cycling, or camping – enjoying the great outdoors during the day can help you sleep at night.
Set a routine
Building healthy habits and establishing a routine takes time, it won’t happen overnight. Be patient with yourself and remember consistency is key. Getting your body clock back on track requires you to follow consistent sleep patterns, but it’s important you take the necessary steps. Sleep is vital to your health – as important as good nutrition – so it’s time to make it a priority.
- Circadian Rhythm – Sleep Foundation
- Reset Your Broken Internal Sleep Clock & Fix Sleep Schedule – Ameri Sleep
- The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Your Body – Healthline
- How to get to sleep – NHS
- Napping: Do’s and don’ts for healthy adults – Mayo Clinic
- How To Reset Your Body Clock – Dreams
- The Best Temperature for Sleep – Sleep Foundation
- Exercise and Sleep – Sleep Foundation
- Alcohol and Sleep – Sleep Foundation