Picture this: You fly from New York to Los Angeles on Friday night and start adjusting to Pacific time. On Sunday night, you catch a red eye and abruptly fly back to the east coast: where waking up at 7 a.m. for a Monday morning meeting feels like 4 a.m. to your body. Sounds miserable, doesn’t it?
Well, if you’re like a lot of people, this is exactly what your body is being put through every time you stay up late on the weekends and then try to adjust to a 9-to-5 schedule on Monday. This concept is called “social jetlag” because it’s often a result of socializing on the weekends, and the impacts of chronic fatigue and drowsiness very closely resemble jetlag.
Our bodies crave consistency, and so they’ll try to establish a solid pattern sometimes even when we ourselves can’t stick to one. This is why it’s rough getting up early on Mondays (and probably not much easier Tuesdays and Wednesdays)—because your body got used to sleeping in till ten or eleven a.m. over the weekend after a night spent up until midnight or one a.m.
The time that you go to bed is one of the few things solidly within your control when it comes to the factors of getting good sleep, and, as it turns out, it’s also one of the most powerful ways to improve your sleep hygiene. If you’re tired of being tired, here are a few tips to help bring some consistency to your sleep:
1. Set a bedtime alarm.
You already set an alarm to help you wake up, but you could probably use a good reminder of when to hit the hay, too. A good step toward stellar sleep hygiene is setting aside time in your schedule for sleep. The idea is to set a cutoff point between the busyness of your day and the time you take to unwind before sleep. Use a bedtime alarm set for an hour before bed to help you start this habit.
2. Find a sleep schedule that works for weekdays and weekends.
Ideally, you’ll wake up within a half hour range whether it’s Monday morning or Saturday morning. This may take some getting used to at first, as you’re probably used to gorging on sleep come the weekend, but it is definitely worth it, if only because it will make your Monday mornings go so much smoother.
3. Wanting to get to bed earlier? Do so slowly.
It takes more time to pull our circadian rhythm back earlier in the day than later at night. This is why it’s easier flying West than flying East across time zones. Laying down to sleep much earlier than your body is used to and just trying to force it on the first day is about as effective as someone telling you to relax. Your body will need some time to get used to it.
Just as it is with a good friend, your dependability is treasured by your body. Regardless of whether or not you look like a buffoon while dancing, your body loves consistency and rhythm. The more you stick to a consistent schedule, the less time you’ll spend tossing and turning at night, and the easier you’ll find your mornings.
Are you getting into bed at a consistent time every night, but still struggling to fall asleep once you're there? Check out our post answering the question that's kept many of us up at night: how long does it take to fall asleep?