30 Days to Better Sleep: Wake Up at the Same Time Every Day

Regular Sleep Patterns Reinforce the Circadian Rhythm, Build Sleep Drive

Sleeping in and failing to wake up at the same time every day may cause insomnia be impacting the circadian rhythm and sleep drive
Sleeping in and failing to wake up at the same time every day may cause insomnia be impacting the circadian rhythm and sleep drive. Getty Images

If you have resolved to sleep better, you may be overwhelmed with where to even begin. When sleep problems creep into your life, it can be difficult to identify the entangled issues and set things right. Chances are that your trouble sleeping didn't fully develop overnight, so allow yourself the time you need to improve your sleep. If you participate in the "How to Sleep Better in 30 Days" series, over the next 30 days you will be introduced to specific changes that you can make to sleep better.

Depending on your individual needs, you may be able to pass by a recommendation without a second thought. However, for the advice that hits closer to home, take the time that you need to resolve the issue. Together let's set out on the path to better sleep!

The first challenge may seem inconsequential, but it typically yields results quickly: Wake up at the same time every day, including weekends or days off. Ideally, you would be able to sleep as much as you need to and wouldn't wake with an alarm clock, but to begin with you can use one. You should select a wake time that you can observe every day, including weekdays and weekends. For most people, this would mean selecting a time that would allow you to get to work or school during the week and then getting up at the same time on Saturday and Sunday.

Once you have selected your wake time, consider whether it is feasible. This isn't about making yourself an early bird if you start out as a night owl.

Though society may pressure you into believing that waking earlier is somehow better—more moral, reflective of a hard-working nature, etc.—what evidence is there for this? Plenty of successful people stay up until 2 A.M. and sleep in until 10 A.M., so don't fall into that trap. Consider your own body and your needs.

Pick a wake-up time that you can maintain and don't let it be too early or inconsistent with your typical, natural pattern.

Why does it matter to wake up at the same time every day? Think of your wake time as the anchor to your day. Our bodies follow a circadian rhythm and this relies on consistency. There are many things that you do at about the same time every day, not the least of which is sleep. Anchoring your wake time in place is a cue (or zeitgeber) to your body about when you should be awake and when you should be asleep.

Waking at the same time every day will actually help you to sleep better at night. A fixed wake time helps to build a strong desire for sleep throughout wakefulness. This sleep drive gradually builds, and shortening it by sleeping in will make it harder to fall asleep the next night. If you sleep in 2 hours on a Sunday morning, it is just like trying to go to bed 2 hours early that night. This may cause Sunday night insomnia. A fixed wake time is especially important for people who have difficult falling or staying asleep, characteristic of insomnia.

It is important that when your alarm goes off at your selected wake time, you get up. You cannot hit the snooze and stay in bed for an hour or even 9 minutes. You want consistency, and this requires ruling yourself with an iron fist. You might put your alarm clock across the room if you are apt to hit the snooze while half asleep. In order to track your success, you can record your bedtime and wake time on a sleep log. This information will be useful as you implement further changes to improve your sleep.

If adhering to a fixed wake time daily proves to be a difficult task for you, allow yourself 1 to 2 weeks of consistency in your wake times before you make further changes to sleep better.

Check out the entire series, "How to Sleep Better in 30 Days."

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