“You’ll feel much better after you get a good night’s sleep.”
That’s what you tell your best friend after she shares news about her recent breakup. (Right after you say: “You’re better off without him.”)
But it’s also true.
Benefits of Restorative Sleep
That’s because the restorative benefit of a good night’s sleep does indeed make you feel better. In fact, it helps you:
✅ Make better food choices
✅ Have more physical and mental energy for exercise, work, and play
✅ More effectively manage your stress and emotions
And in turn, each of those factors can contribute to better sleep. So instead of a vicious cycle that makes life harder, enough sleep sparks a virtuous cycle that makes life better.
A Big Problem
Many folks struggle with sleep. They say they’re always tired, no matter what they do. Plus, they’ve tried everything—a new mattress, sleep apps, ear plugs, eye masks, soothing music, blue light blockers—and nothing helps. (“NOTHING!”) There’s no single fix for everyone, but one place to start is with your sleep schedule.
Creating Your Optimal Sleep Schedule
The first step is to figure out how many hours of sleep you actually need to get to wake up without an alarm clock and feel well-rested. If it’s been years since you’ve been able to go through a week without using an alarm clock, start with 7-8 hours.
Now figure out what time you want to wake up. Count the hours backward to get your bedtime. And if you know you have difficulty getting to sleep, you might want to add half an hour for winding-down time.
Stick to this schedule every day, including on the weekends. This consistency helps you reset your Circadian rhythm. After a solid night’s sleep, most people need to be awake for about 16 hours before they start to get sleepy. Sleeping in on weekends (more than 45-60 minutes) can actually create more problems during the week. If you get up later than usual, you’re going to struggle to go to bed at your scheduled time.
Be Aware of Tradeoffs
This may come with tradeoffs you don’t like—such as going to bed earlier (Whaaat? No late-night TV?) and not sleeping in on your days off. But it’s been known to work wonders for people.
Of course, if it’s a monumental change to what you’re currently doing, it may feel impossible to make it work. So instead of going straight to perfection, or “best practices,” start with what feels doable.
Perhaps aim for hitting your sleep schedule five nights during the week, then put it to this test: On a scale of 0 (never!) to 10 (so easy it’s laughable), rank your confidence you’ll follow through (are you ready to make a change? Are you willing to give it an honest try? Are you physically, mentally and emotionally ABLE to do this right now?) —and only proceed when you can assign yourself a 9 or 10.
Try it for two straight weeks to see how it goes. If you have success, try to improve on it over time. And if you don’t, scale back and try again. Consider this a “work in progress” and do not expect perfection right off the bat. You’re looking for increased awareness and honest effort to change. Celebrate any good night’s sleep as a step in the right direction!