Are you getting enough sleep every evening? No? Do you go to bed on time? What if you need a new mattress? If the answer is no again, then you have a problem. After all, you can’t get a good night’s sleep if you stay up until 2 a.m. Unfortunately, our careers and jobs often don’t allow us to indulge in such luxuries as sleeping through the night or taking a vacation.

This behavior is not healthy in the long run, but it might be hard to get over it when it becomes a habit. So today we are going to talk about how to get to bed on time and stop losing sleep. Keep on reading to learn how to change your lifestyle.

Why do we sleep?

Let’s start by answering one simple question. Why do we have to sleep every night? Why can’t we function on just two-three hours of rest and then get up and do our business? It might seem strange, but scientists are still looking for a definite answer to this question because the brain is hard to study.

What we do know is that the human body can’t function without sleep for very long. If you don’t sleep for days, you get tired, cranky, and will eventually start to hallucinate if you don’t get some rest. In fact, you can go longer without food than you can go without sleep. Moreover, lack of sleep is related to numerous serious medical conditions. That’s why it’s important to get enough rest every night.

What do you need to get to bed on time?

I’m going to suggest several ways how to change your bedtime habits. To follow my advice, you’re going to need a couple of things:

  • A desire to make changes. Nothing will happen if you’re not 100% committed to overcoming your bad sleeping habits.
  • A sleeping calculator to help you go to bed on time.
  • A dark room with to light distractions.
  • Healthy lifestyle.
  • Basic computer skills.
  • StayFocusd extension for Chrome.
  • Forest for Android & iOS.
  • Habitica.
  • Positive thinking.

Before we dive into how to get to bed on time, we have to understand how sleep works and what prevents us from getting enough sleep.

Understand how sleep work

Have you ever wondered why you get sleepy? Well, let me explain how the sleep-wake cycle works. We all have an internal body clock, often called the biological clock or circadian clock. It regulates activities such as:

  • Sleeping patterns
  • Feeding
  • Hormonal production
  • Core temperature and more

This internal clock is in sync with the day/night cycle and gets affected by environmental factors such as sunlight and temperature. One of the hormones which the circadian clock regulates is melatonin.

Melatonin is the sleep hormone. Its production stops during the day because your biological clock sends signals to the pineal gland to switch it off. However, when night falls, your clock senses the lack of light and tells the pineal gland “Start producing melatonin. It’s time to sleep.”

The build-up of melatonin makes you sleepy. Without enough melatonin, you won’t have a good night’s sleep. That’s why people with sleep problems are often prescribed melatonin to treat their symptoms.

However, as you might have figured out, artificial light from lightbulbs or computer screens interferes with this production of melatonin. Also, studies report that some smartphone and tablet emits more blue light in comparison with other products. You can read more about it in Mark Sisson’s article about sleep.

Here’s your explanation of why you don’t get so tired while you’re staying up all night on your computer. Your brain still thinks it’s day and doesn’t send the proper signals to make you sleepy enough. It makes sense. For thousands of years, light meant daylight for your brain, and it can’t distinguish between sunlight and artificial light.

So, the internal clock keeps you in sync with the natural day/night cycle. But it’s not enough to make you sleep. We also have the homeostatic sleep drive process, which builds up the need to sleep. When you’re awake, sleep-regulating substances like adenosine accumulate. The more you remain awake, the more adenosine builds up, the more tired you feel.

But when you sleep, the levels of adenosine decrease. If you don’t get enough sleep, adenosine remains in your system. That’s why you feel so bad in the morning after a restless night, and that’s how you accumulate a sleep debt.

The adenosine from the homeostasis sleep drive and the melatonin from the circadian system combine and signal the body that it’s time to sleep. And we drift peacefully in the night if we are smart enough to listen to our bodies.

The conclusion is that if we want to get to bed on time, we have to keep distractions at bay and go to bed when we’re tired and sleepy. And now I’m going to show you how to do that.

How to Get to Bed on Time and Stop Losing Sleep

1. Establish your bedtime

I want you to imagine something. You manage to finish your work on time, then you have dinner, watch some TV, and then you go to bed on time. You wake naturally in the morning feeling refreshed and ready for action. You don’t need the popular torture device known as an alarm clock.

How often something like this happens to you? The answer is probably close to zero. As we said, our body has the perfect mechanism to regulate sleep, and we often ignore it or find a way to bypass it. Caffeine, for example, binds to adenosine so that we don’t feel its effect. But adenosine remains in our system that’s why we caffeine crash after some time.

The first step to reclaiming sleep and going to bed on time is to establish a bedtime. It sounds easier than it is because after a long day of work we just want to have some fun. And we stay up late watching movies, listening to Fender Play Review‘s music, or playing games. But your body needs sleep. Do you know how many hours you should be sleeping?

Well, The National Sleep Foundation recommends:

  • 8-10 hours a night for teenagers
  • 7-9 for young adults and adults

Are you sleeping 7-9 hours a night? I highly doubt it, or you wouldn’t be reading this. The question is how to find the right bedtime for you. To do that we have to know about the sleep cycle.

When you go to sleep, your brain goes through different stages. We divide them into:

  • REM sleep
  • Non-REM sleep

Non-REM sleep consists of four stages:

  • Light sleep, when your eyes are close but you can wake up easily. This stage lasts from five to ten minutes.
  • Your body starts to relax. The heart rate slows and your temperature drops. Your body is preparing for deep sleep. It lasts about 30 to 60 minutes.
  • The last two stage is deep sleep, during which is hard to wake somebody up. 

After 90 minutes on average in Non-REM sleep, comes REM. During this stage your eyes flutter, your heartbeat quickens, and your breathing gets irregular. You might get intense dreaming during REM, and your brain paralyzes your body to prevent you from getting accidentally hurt.

The first REM sleep is the shortest. It lasts about 10 minutes, and the ones which follow are longer in duration. Each night you go through 5-6 of these cycles. To feel well in the morning, you have to wake up after a cycle has ended. Not between different stages, that’s the important bit.

What you have to do is plan your bedtime so that you’ll wake up naturally at the end of a sleep cycle and not by the annoying ringing of your alarm clock. You can use sleep calculators like It’s simple. You either:

  • Input when you want to wake up in the morning and you’ll get several suggestions when you should be falling asleep.
  • You click on “Find out when to get up if you go to bed now.”

For example, if you want to get up at 7 o’clock, you must be asleep by 10:00, 11:30, 1:00 a.m., or 2:30 a.m. What you shouldn’t forget is that you must be falling asleep by these times, not getting into bed. An average person needs around 14 minutes to fall asleep, so plan accordingly.

You should also know that the sleep cycle is 90 minutes on average. For you, it might be shorter or longer. Experiment with different times and see which works for you. If you wake up feeling full of energy, you have found the right one for you.

Now comes the hard part. When you have established the right bedtime, you have to stick to it. No excuses, no delays, no emergency situations. If you have to get up at 7 o’clock, start getting ready for bed at 9:30 every night no matter what.

Once you get used to it, you’ll find that you feel much better during the day and that you’re not getting as tired as before.

2. Create a wind-down ritual

Habit is a powerful driving force. Once you get used to working late at night, you find it harder and harder to revert to normal working hours. To overcome your habit of getting to bed later, you have to create a wind-down ritual.

Most of you probably have a morning ritual, which helps them get ready for work. The bedtime ritual is something similar, but it has the opposite effect. The purpose of these rituals is:

  • To stop engaging in activities that stimulate your brain and make it hard to fall asleep
  • To convince your brain that it’s time to rest
  • To calm you down

I’m going to give you some suggestions on how to organize your bedtime ritual, but keep in mind that it’s up to you and what you like. Here are relaxing activities you can do before going to bed:

  • Have a warm, relaxing bath.
  • Brush your teeth.
  • Drink a cup of decaf coffee or a cup of warm milk
  • Power off your computer.
  • Create a do-list for next morning.
  • Read several pages out of a book.
  • Meditate to calm your mind, or you can do a bit of yoga.
  • Go to bed.

You should also consider these tips on fixing your sleep schedule:

  • You shouldn’t exercise vigorously before bed, or you’ll be too wind up to fall asleep.
  • Don’t watch TV in the bedroom.
  • Turn down the thermostat. Falling asleep is easier in colder rooms.
  • Avoid late night breakfast. Eat no more than three hours before getting into bed.
  • Put things in order in the bedroom.
  • Turn your alarm clock to the wall, or don’t leave your smartphone where you can easily reach it.
  • You might think about banning pets from the bedroom if they wake you up often during the night.

One great way to make sure that you’re sticking to your bedtime ritual is setting up an alarm an hour before your desired bedtime. It will remind you that it’s time to start preparing for bed, and you won’t get too engaged in games or TV shows.

To make sure that you’re not lapsing back to old habits, you can use apps like Habitica to keep track of your progress. You can also install extensions like StayFocusd on your browser to prevent you from accessing distracting sites. If you have problems staying away from the phone, try Forest.

These tips are also useful if you need to work, but you keep getting distracted by the Internet.

3. Remember that sleep is good for you

You’ll often hear people saying that they don’t need sleep or that sleep is a waste of time. That’s not true. As Dalai Lama says “Sleep is the best meditation.” In addition to this, getting enough rest has many benefits for your body, such as:

  • Improved memory
  • Better concentration
  • Healthy weight
  • Lower risks of accidents and injury
  • Better mood
  • Strong immune system
  • Stress reduction

Next time when you’re late for bed, think about how you would like to wake up in the morning. Feeling tired or full of energy? You know very well that you can’t accomplish your goals if you’re constantly tired. Moreover, you’re more likely to make a mistake or have an accident if you’re sleep-deprived. So, be smart and build a habit of going to bed on time.

What do you think about these tips on how to get to bed on time and stop losing sleep? Have you tried them? Did they work for you? Share in the comments. 

Annalise O'Conner is a Registered Dietitian and Personalized Nutritionist. She is a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, teaching nutrition in the School of Public Health and APAN (Asian Pacific Islander American Network) Email: [email protected]

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