How to Fix Your Sleep Cycle

by Martin Reed Patient Advocate

If you suffer from insomnia, your body's sleep and wake cycle may be to blame. And if underlying medical conditions are causing this problem, there are things you can do to help regulate your inner body rhythm. These natural remedies may be a big help in getting your body's cycle back on track.

The first thing to understand about the sleep and wake cycle is the hormone melatonin. It is controlled by light exposure and is what helps regulate your sleep and wake cycle. The body naturally secretes more of this hormone in the evening, when it starts to get dark, so your body can relax and sleep. It produces less of this hormone during the day when it is light outside.

Melatonin production is part of the natural design of the body. It keeps you alert when you need to be alert and helps your body shut down when it's time for rest. The problem is that modern life today can disrupt the production of melatonin. Your body may not know when it is night or when it is day.

If you spend a lot of time inside a building, away from windows and natural light, this can make you sleepy during the day. If you spend a lot of time in front of the computer or watching television at night, the bright lights can make you too alert when you want your body to be slowing down.

Here are some things you can do to get your sleep and wake cycle back on track.

During the day

Do whatever you can to increase the amount of sunlight exposure you get each day. This can be as simple as drinking your morning coffee in front of a window or taking off your sunglasses and letting natural light shine onto your face.

If possible, move your work area to a place that is closer to a window. Keep as much light coming into your workspace and home as possible. Keep blinds lifted and curtains pulled back.

No matter what you are doing that keeps you indoors, try to step outside every couple of hours to simply soak in the light. When possible, eat your meals outside on a patio, or at least by a window that lets in light.

At night

Try not to sit in front of your computer or television in the hour leading up to bedtime. In addition, do not sleep with your television on in your bedroom. The light can hinder melatonin production. The noise can also stimulate your mind.

If you like to read in bed, avoid using devices that have a backlight. Use a reader that is not backlit. If possible, rely on a bedside lamp to read. Use low wattage bulbs in your bedroom.

When it is time to go to sleep, make your room as dark as possible. The darker your room, the more melatonin your body will produce. Use heavy window curtains to keep out light, or better yet, use a sleep mask that covers your eyes.

If you wake during the night, avoid turning on the light if you can--use nightlights instead. When you keep lights to a minimum, it will be easier to go back to sleep. If you turn the lights on, it can jolt your body out of rhythm.

Try these tips and see how you get on. Note that it may take a few weeks to get your body back on track. Your body didn't get out of its sleep and wake cycle overnight, and it won't return to its normal rhythm overnight either.

You can learn about insomnia by reading more of my articles right here on Health Central. You can also enroll in my free sleep training course to discover more natural techniques you can use to improve your sleep.

Martin Reed
Meet Our Writer
Martin Reed

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Coach, an eight-week course that combines online sleep education with individual sleep coaching. His course helps clients improve their sleep so they can enjoy a better life with more energy and start each day feeling happy, healthy, rested, and refreshed. Martin also runs a free sleep training course that has helped over 5,000 insomniacs. He holds a master’s degree in health and wellness education and studied clinical sleep health at the University of Delaware.