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How to fix your sleep schedule after it’s been thrown off

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A consistent sleep cycle improves sleep quality.

Maintaining a sleep schedule makes waking up easier.

After a fun evening of binge-watching reruns of your favorite sitcom, you look at the clock to see if you can squeeze in another episode and — oh, crap — it’s already three hours past your usual bedtime! 

You know it’s going to hurt to wake up at 6 a.m. tomorrow, so you have to make a decision before hitting the hay: Will you push through and wake up at your usual time, or will you sleep in to “catch up” on missed sleep? 

The first option, though tough, is your best bet if you want to maintain a healthy sleep cycle that supports energy, productivity and good moods. If you do choose to sleep in, you risk pushing your bedtime back further and further until waking up at your usual time (such as for work) feels impossible and you spend the day fighting fatigue. If you find yourself in this situation, you can try to reset your sleep schedule with these tips from sleep experts.

Read more: Insomnia: What causes it and how many of us have it?

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Consistent sleep cycles are linked to healthier daytime choices.

Having a consistent sleep schedule makes it easier to fall into restful sleep, Annie Miller, therapist at DC Metro Sleep and Psychotherapy tells CNET. 

“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.”

When you fall asleep faster and spend less time tossing and turning in bed, your overall sleep duration and quality improve, leaving you more rested and energized for the next day. “Regular, consistent sleep is the first line of defense in combating anxious or depressive thoughts or lack of energy” during the day, Dr. Max Kerr, dental sleep expert at Sleep Better Austin, tells CNET. 

Plus, sleep stages are time-dependent, Dr. Kerr says, so inconsistent sleep schedules can “shortchange” your sleep stages and result in less time spent in the important REM and deep sleep stages.

Miller says keeping your morning wake-up time the same every day — no matter what time you go to sleep — is the key to keeping your body in rhythm (although, ideally, you’d have the same bedtime and wake-up time each day). “Typically, varying your wake times is more detrimental to sleep than going to bed later. If you push your wake time by sleeping late, we create a jet lag type of response,” Miller explains. “If you go to bed later and still get up at the same time, you will get less sleep, but it won’t throw off your sleep cycle.”

Dr. Kerr argues that pushing your bedtime back can throw off your sleep cycle. From a scientific standpoint, research suggests that if your bedtime varies by more than 30 minutes each night, it can lead to less healthy daytime behaviors such as lack of physical activity. Other research points to consistent wake-up times as a predictor of better sleep quality. It’s best to try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day — but only you can know if waking up at 6 a.m. is doable whether you went to sleep at 10 p.m. or 12 a.m.

Other things can throw off your sleep cycle, too. Doing shift work, drinking alcohol, sleeping with a disruptive bed partner (like kids, your spouse or pets), snoring or sleep apnea or temperature changes in your bedroom can all throw off your sleep cycle, Dr. Kerr says. 

Dr. Kerr offers these tips for resetting your sleep schedule: 

Once you successfully reset your sleep cycle, the actual hard work begins: keeping your schedule in check. Miller offers these few tips for creating a bedtime routine

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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This Article was first published on cnet.com

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