When it comes to sleep, consistency is key. If you're having troubling sleeping at night there is ample scientific evidence that having a reliable sleep schedule - keeping consistent sleep and wake times - is one of the key components of achieving good sleep. It is also often the first step in solving sleep problems.
To create a sleep schedule, you first need to identify your sleep window.
A sleep window is the ideal hours of sleep each night that your body needs. Once you know your sleep window, you can find out whether you are allocating the appropriate amount of time for to sleep each night. To define your sleep window, you'll need to keep a sleep diary for a week or two. We've created a printable sleep diary to help you get started.
After you have filled out the diary you will need to do some simple calculations. If you're terrible with numbers like me, here's a handy time and date calculator. We've shared an example below to help.
If you're up to a challenge then you'll need to first subtract the length of time between your sleep time and wake time. Then subtract any time you spent awake during the night. This number is your sleep window. Once you have this, you can set your ideal wake-up and then work backward to find your bedtime.
We've shared an example below to help.
Consistency is everything
Now you have your new sleep schedule, the tough part is sticking to it! Keeping this regular bedtime every day will shift your internal clock so you will begin feeling tired at the same time each day.
To support your new sleep schedule, here are some simple tips:
- Practice good sleep hygiene by not using screens (laptops, phone, and TV) for a minimum 30 minutes but ideally one hour before bed.
- Avoid daytime naps. If you must, limit them to a maximum of 20-30 minutes. Any longer will throw off your sleep schedule,
- Create a calming and comfortable sleep environment. A tidy bedroom with clear surfaces, a bed with soft, comfortable bedding, and setting the thermostat to a cooler temperature all help support good sleep.
- Avoid bright lights, stimulating activities and late night snacking in the hour before bed. These can send 'wake up' signals to your body and prevent you getting shut eye.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine filled with products and aromas that you look forward to using. These can be helpful cues to tell your brain, 'it's almost time to go to bed'. Try setting an alarm so you begin your bedtime routine at the same time every day.
- Aim to get natural sunlight within two hours of waking up. This helps anchor your circadian rhythm and support your sleep later that night.
Life happens and it’s not always possible to stick to a sleep schedule every day of the week. However, managing even four or five days a week on schedule will help support good sleep habits and improve your sleep overall.
Eventually, with time and consistency, you will begin to readily fall asleep at your new bedtime. No more tossing and turning, good sleep is on your horizon!
What if my sleep window is too short?
If you struggle with sleep problems like insomnia, hot flashes, or restless legs, it's likely that your sleep window may be shorter than you'd like. It's important to remember that calculating your sleep window is only the first step on your journey.
You first need to get your sleep on a schedule so you begin to feel tired or wakeful at the right times. Once you achieve this, you can begin to make small changes to lengthen your sleep and/or improve the quality of the sleep you are getting.
Over the coming weeks and months, we will be covering topics like building a sleep appetite, how to move your bedtime, designing a wind down routine, what to happen if you can't sleep and much more. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay in the loop.