How to Regulate Your Sleep Cycle

6 steps for better, regulated sleep

Healthy sleep patterns are essential to our health and well-being. Without enough sleep, we cannot optimally function. Loss of concentration, forgetfulness, confusion and irritability are just a few things that can occur when we don't get enough sleep. According to The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library (MMOML), approximately half of the population has sleep difficulties some of the time.

If you have a sleep problem or just are not sleeping as well as you would like, you made need to reset your internal time clock and regulate your sleep patterns. The MMOML recommends the following steps to getting your body back on track and regulating your sleep cycle.

Step 1: Establish a set waking time and avoid daytime napping

When you go to sleep is very important, and having a set bedtime is helpful. Even more important, though,  is getting up each day at the same time. If you have trouble sleeping one night, but still get up at your regular time, your chances of sleeping well the next night improve more than if you were to allow yourself to sleep in or nap. It is critical to your sleep regulation that you keep your set wake time even on days when you don't have to be at work.

Step 2: Unwind with a relaxing routine before bed

Find a relaxing activity to help you unwind before bed, and make it a routine. The Mayo Clinic recommends gentle yoga stretches, meditation, listening to soothing music or bathing in warm water. Reading a book and doing other basic hygienic activities such as washing your face and brushing your teeth can also be a part of a relaxing bedtime routine that can help regulate your sleep cycle.

Step 3: Set your sleep environment

Eliminating as much noise as you can will help you regulate your sleep cycle. If you live in a city with traffic, try using a white noise machine, listening to nature sounds or wearing earplugs. Keep your bedroom at a temperature you find comfortable — not to cool or too hot. Turn off the lights, and block outside noise and light with heavy curtains. If it's comfortable for you, use pillows between your knees or under your waist to help maintain spinal alignment and reduce back discomfort.

Step 4: Exercise regularly

Regular exercise is essential to your overall health, including your sleep. Both the Mayo Clinic and the MMOML recommend daily exercise as an essential part of regulating your sleep cycle. However , exercising within five hours of bedtime is not advised.

Step 5: Avoid nicotine and avoid caffeine, alcohol and large meals before bedtime

Using nicotine anytime during the day can cause sleep disturbances. Caffeine consumed after lunch can make it difficult for some people to sleep at night. Don't let the initial feelings of relaxation and sleepiness fool you, restless sleep and waking too early are known to result from alcohol consumption. Eating more than a small snack before bedtime can also cause less than restful sleep.

Step 6: If you have trouble sleeping, get out of bed

If you wake up in the middle of the night and can't seem to fall back to sleep within 15 to 20 minutes, get up, go into another room and engage in a relaxing activity. You may want to read a book, stretch or meditate. When you feel sleepy again, go back to bed.

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