5 Ways To Get Better Sleep — Even With An Irregular Schedule — From A Sleep Expert
In a perfect world, we'd all be able to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, in order to keep our circadian rhythms regulated. But it is not a perfect world, and whether you have an irregular work schedule, a new baby, or any other sort of scheduling conflicts, sometimes keeping a consistent sleep schedule just isn't possible.
Nevertheless, getting quality rest is still important, so we asked an expert for her top sleep tips with an irregular schedule. Here's what she had to say:
Learn how to nap effectively.
Naps can become your best friend if you're dealing with an irregular sleep schedule, according to licensed clinical psychologist and sleep expert Jennifer Kanady, Ph.D. Say you're a shift worker who's gearing up for a night shift, for example. "Take a nap before work to reduce sleepiness at work," she says, adding that a 10- to 15-minute power nap mid-shift can also be helpful for increasing alertness. If you have an infant, try to nap while the baby naps, as well.
"Missing out on sleep can negatively impact your mental and physical health, so don't discount taking naps or small periods of sleep when you can," Kanady tells mbg.
Try a sleep supplement.
No matter what time of day you have to lie down to get your (roughly) eight hours of sleep, a sleep supplement, such as mbg's sleep support+, can help.* This formula combines magnesium with relaxing jujube seed extract, as well as PharmaGABA®, a natural form of an amino acid neurotransmitter. These nonhormonal ingredients are research-backed to help people fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, so you can get more restorative sleep no matter what time you're snoozing.*
Establish a solid wind-down routine.
Kanady also emphasizes the importance of giving yourself plenty of time to wind down before bed, especially if your irregular schedule makes it difficult to doze off when you want to.
For one thing, she suggests, follow the same bedtime routine. "This will condition your brain that it is time for sleep," she explains, adding to incorporate things that are relaxing and enjoyable, such as a warm bath or a relaxation exercise. "Don't watch television, use your laptop or phone, or read in bed," she says.
During this wind-down period, Kanady adds that you'll want to keep the lights low to signal to your brain that it's time to start getting sleepy. She even suggests covering your phone or alarm clock with something to avoid incessantly checking the time, as that can stress you out even more.
Lean on light's influence.
Speaking of light, it has a huge influence on our circadian rhythm, and leaning on that influence can help you modulate your energy levels. Before and during the early part of a night shift, for example, Kanady says you should seek out bright light to help stimulate you. And when you want to go to bed, darkness is key.
"Expose yourself to bright light when you want to be awake and dark conditions when you want to be asleep. Use blackout curtains, shades, and/or an eye mask to make your sleep environment as sleep-promoting as possible," she adds.
Put your mind at ease before bed.
Kanady notes that spending a few minutes at the end of the day typing up any loose ends can help you put your mind at ease. She suggests making a list of everything you need to do tomorrow, which is actually research-backed1 to help people fall asleep faster.
When factors out of your control are getting in the way of a consistent sleep schedule, it's still important to prioritize quality rest whenever you can. While inconsistency is not ideal, with these tips, you can ensure you're still getting the best sleep possible—so you can feel your best during the day, too.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.