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Making and maintaining a good sleep cycle

During most of college, I had an awesome sleeping habit. My alarm was set for 7:30 am every day, without exception. And, every day, without exception, I would wake up at 7:28 am, two minutes ahead of the alarm.

It didn’t matter when I went to bad the night before. 10:00 pm, 2:00 am, it didn’t matter; though, if I had stayed up late, I would get sleepy sooner and go to bed earlier next time.

But near the end of college, that magic broke. I started struggling to maintain a decent wake schedule, waking up closer to 10:00 am, even with a normal day-time job.

Although I still don’t have the amazing abilities I had in college, I was able to get myself back to a good wake schedule. Here’s how I do it.

Reinforce your alarm response

On a day that you have some extra time, set your normal alarm for a few minutes from now. Get in bed, close your eyes, and relax. As soon as your alarm goes off, jump out of bed. Yes, really: jump. Don’t just roll out—be active. Repeat this several times.

This is especially useful if you find yourself sleeping through your alarm, and not remembering that it even went off.

Align your eating schedule

Your sleeping rhythm is affected by several inputs, one of those being digestion.

Eat breakfast soon after waking. I usually eat something within 10 minutes of waking, although an hour or so might be just as good. Don’t put off breakfast! It tells your body that this is a time to be awake.

Don’t eat right before sleeping. If you must eat something, keep it small and light. Fat and protein extend your digestion, and will make you sleep in. Avoid simple carbohydrates as well, as they will keep you awake.

Fast to make drastic adjustments

If your sleep schedule is way off of where you want it to be, skip dinner. The lack of digestion lets your body sleep more easily, and you’ll be more likely to eat a larger breakfast in the morning, kicking your digestion into full gear.

If you constantly struggle to keep your sleep schedule set, you might consider fasting (dinner) on a regular basis.

Get plenty of sunshine

Sun shining on your skin creates vitamin D and other chemicals that are essential to effective use of other nutrients, good mood, and even your sleep cycle.

If you work inside most of the day, take regular breaks to go outside. Walk around the building at the least, or find some nearby landscaping that you like and lay down in the sun.

If you really can’t get natural sunlight, many people recommend full-spectrum lamps as fairly good substitutes.

Have something to look forward to

If you go to sleep with nothing but worries, you’re much more likely to want to sleep in. The day has nothing positive, so why not put it off, right?

So, about 30-60 minutes before you go to bed, think of one or two very positive things for the coming day. Then, make sure to visualize those as vividly as possible as you fall asleep. When your alarm goes off in the morning, you’ll wake up excited, even if you’re not consciously thinking about those things.

Don’t try to come up with something positive once you’re already in bed—you’re likely to fall asleep before you do, or to not have enough visualization time for them to sink in well enough. Take the time to prepare for tomorrow!

You might be in genuinely stressful or negative situations right now that are near impossible to avoid thinking about. That’s okay; acknowledge it, but always keep it in terms of some form of improvement, and make something to look forward to. Your life is your own, to make better, or not, as you wish.

Be consistent

Set your alarm, get out of bed on time, eat early, enjoy the sun, and think positive, every single day, even if it’s a weekend, holiday, or vacation. Good, well-chosen habits are a key to success.

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