Eeeek! This is a bone of contention among us sleep experts.
You see the thing is, whilst it’s really important we have a decent and consistent sleep opportunity available to us if we need it, actually forcing ourselves to go to bed at a certain time is slightly different.
In fact, forcing yourself to go to bed at a specific time because of your fears and expectation over what will happen if you don’t, is a very fast track route down to insomnia land.
The even more interesting thing is, our wake times are different.
They could really do with being the same time each day no matter what has just happened with our sleep.
This is because your body functions based on the timing of things. And having a consistent ‘re-set’ button in the morning really helps your brain to do the right things at the right times.
It’s actually quite magical if you think about it – just by doing one behaviour we can help so many processes fall into line.
Our moods, our appetite regulation, our temperature and of course, our sleep-wake cycles.
Isn’t it funny how we as a society, have started enforcing strict bedtimes and then lying in?
This comes from false beliefs that strict bedtimes lead to good sleep, and lying in helps us recover.
In fact, the opposite is true.
Strict bedtimes when we are not sleepy help us gain anxieties over not being able to do something we are all supposed to do, and lying in actually perpetuates that feeling of grogginess and lethargy.
How to switch up your bedtime routine
Here is what you can do to switch things around:
Get ready for bed a touch earlier than you usually would
Give yourself time to do some good old fashion brain processing too (such as writing down some thoughts from the day, what you need to do tomorrow or talking to someone).
Once you have brushed your teeth, put your pyjamas on, processed your day and maybe done all the things that these processes reminded you of (often the act of going to bed makes us more awake and thinking about things we had previously forgotten!).
Now you have time in your day where all you need to do is enjoy yourself and relax.
Once you are truly feeling sleepy-tired (you can feel the nodding off!) all you now have to do is take yourself off to bed and sleep with no other interruptions!
I know this may be later than usual for a while…but remember that resting and enjoying yourself/relaxing outside the bedroom might just be better for you than lying in a dark room straining to sleep (which will never work but may even create anxiety!).
Start waking up and getting up at exactly the same time each day
I know this come seem counterintuitive to start if you haven’t slept well (but trust me, that extra sleepiness you incur will really help boost the quality of your sleep later!)
Soon you will start to notice especially if you reinforce this step with bright light exposure in the morning, you actually start to feel more awake.
That’s right, you might even become a morning person! Even if you had a bad night’s sleep…after a while your body will see the ‘re-set’ you created and work accordingly, no matter how you slept.
Isn’t that amazing?
Obviously to start with it's not going to be easy. But who knew two simple steps could lead to such sleep success? Turn what you know on your head - go on, you deserve to feel good!
The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
Last updated: 24 November 2021