How to fix your sleep schedule in five simple steps

Follow these quick tips for the best sleep routine

Your sleep schedule is all about your pattern of sleeping and waking. Keeping a consistent routine can help your brain understand when it’s time to be awake and alert, or when it’s time to wind down and sleep – and it’s an important factor for ensuring you get the recommended seven to nine hours a night. 

However, a busy daily life can make it challenging to stick to a routine. Sometimes you might not be able to get to bed at 10pm because you’re out socialising (or binge-watching a new series on Netflix), and some mornings you might have to be up and out of the house early.

But if you fix your schedule – by going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day – it could be beneficial to your health.

Senior woman waking up refreshed as she has a good sleep scheduleCredit: Shutterstock/Fizkes
Having a good sleep schedule can help you wake up refreshed

Impaired sleep could lead to cognitive decline as you get older, but by sticking to a sleep/wake routine as often as possible, you can help your body get the rest it needs to repair and rebuild – for optimal health.


How much sleep do you need?

The NHS recommends adults should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep a night – although, as you get older, it’s common to experience changes in sleep and you might find you get less than that. If you wake up feeling rested and ready for the day, it’s not usually a cause for concern.

How to fix your sleep schedule

Five ways to better sleep

“Establishing healthy sleep habits is crucial for maintaining long-term well-being,” says Nuffield Health psychologist, Luke Cousins.

“Implementing a sleep routine doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive – small steps can contribute to better sleep.”

To fix your sleep schedule, Cousins suggests the following:

1. Set up a healthy sleep environment

  • Ensure your bedroom is comfortable and conducive to relaxation.
  • Keep the noise level low, the room dark, and maintain a cool temperature.
  • If necessary use white noise from a fan or listen to soothing music to mask any disruptive sounds.

2. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule

  • Stick to the same bedtime on weekdays and weekends to regulate your body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm).
  • Set a specific time for when you turn the lights off, to signal to your body that it’s time to sleep.
  • If having an afternoon nap makes it difficult for you to fall asleep at night, try to avoid them.

3. Establish an electronic curfew

  • Blue light emitted by screens – TV, tablets, smartphones and laptops – can disrupt the release of melatonin, a hormone that aids sleep, so it’s good practice to limit using these before bed.
  • Set a time in the evening when all electronic devices should be turned off, ideally one to two hours before bedtime.
  • If you enjoy reading before bed, opt for printed materials instead of electronic devices, unless it is one that has blue shade that uses specialised filters to limit exposure to blue light.

4. Reduce consumption of stimulating substances

  • Be mindful that caffeine, alcohol, over-the-counter medication, and heavy meals close to bedtime can interfere with your ability to fall asleep.
  • Limit or avoid beverages and foods that contain caffeine, like coffee, tea,  chocolate and drinks that are fizzy or energy-boosting.
  • Refrain from consuming large meals two to three hours before bed. If you’re hungry, opt for a light snack that includes protein and complex carbohydrates.
  • While alcohol may make you drowsy initially, it can disrupt your sleep and cause you to wake up in the early hours.

5. Avoid physical activity right before bed

  • Be aware that engaging in vigorous physical activity close to bedtime can stimulate your body and brain and raise your core temperature. This makes it harder to fall asleep.
  • Plan your exercise routine earlier in the day to achieve your physical activity goals while still promoting better sleep.
  • Engage in soothing and relaxing activities before bed to promote a sense of calmness – read a book, do some gentle yoga or meditate.

What outside factors affect your sleep schedule?

Avoid light, caffeine and certain medications

Sleep is sensitive to a lot of things, including external factors. Cousins tells Saga the most common ones to look out for and what we can do to limit the effects on sleep.


The impact of light, whether natural or artificial, plays a crucial role in influencing our circadian rhythm –  which is our internal clock – regulating feelings of alertness and tiredness.

However, exposure to light at inappropriate times can disrupt sleep quality by suppressing melatonin production, making it more difficult to fall asleep.

When waking up we want to expose ourselves to natural light during the day, then limit light in the evenings –especially artificial light – before bed.


While medications serve to treat specific conditions, some can have adverse effects on sleep quality. Medications such as alpha-blockers, beta-blockers and antidepressants may disrupt sleep. 

For example, alpha-blockers have been associated with reduced REM sleep, the final stage of a sleep cycle, when dreaming occurs. 

Speak with your doctor for advice if you think your medication is affecting your sleep.

Sleep environment

A poorly optimised sleep environment can disrupt sleep by preventing deep and uninterrupted rest. Ideal conditions include a cool, dark and quiet room.

Darkness facilitates the production of melatonin, while a temperature between 60- and 67-degrees Fahrenheit (15-19 degrees Celsius) promotes comfort. Disruptive noises can disturb sleep, but wearing earplugs can be beneficial.

Additional measures such as blackout blinds and an eye mask can block out unwanted light, improving the overall sleep environment. Investing in a cooling mattress or using a fan can help to regulate room temperature, promoting better sleep.

Nicotine and caffeine

Nicotine can delay the onset of sleep, making it more difficult to fall asleep. It has also been shown to reduce the amount of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is crucial for restorative and dream sleep.

Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, promoting wakefulness and reducing feelings of fatigue. However, consuming caffeine too close to bedtime can delay the onset of sleep and shorten the total duration of sleep, leading to less sleep time overall. In fact, caffeine has a half-life of roughly six hours, so anything consumed after midday can impact your sleep.

It’s important to note that the sensitivity to nicotine and caffeine can vary among individuals. Some people may be more tolerant to the effects of these substances, while others may be more susceptible to sleep disruptions even with smaller doses.

To optimise sleep quality, it is advisable to limit or avoid nicotine and caffeine intake, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime.

Will having a nap during the day disrupt your sleep schedule?

Recent research showed that napping can improve brain health, but you may disrupt your sleep schedule if you’re taking advantage of it too much, says Cousins.

“For most individuals, short naps typically do not negatively impact the quality of night-time sleep. However, if you struggle with insomnia or poor sleep at night, napping may exacerbate these issues.

“It’s advisable to limit naps to just 10 to 20 minutes and ideally not after 2pm. Although this duration may seem short or even insignificant, research suggests that brief naps can enhance alertness without leaving you feeling groggy afterwards.”

Should we prioritise sleep over everything else?

Fixating on sleep can be bad for you

Cousins tells Saga that our fascination with sleep has reached such extremes that a new medical term has emerged – orthosomnia. 

“This phenomenon refers to an unhealthy fixation on achieving perfect sleep, which ironically can disrupt our ability to fall asleep.

One study examined several individuals who relied on wearable sleep trackers to monitor their sleep patterns.

“Paradoxically, their excessive focus on attaining flawless sleep led them to self-diagnose with insomnia and seek treatment accordingly. These individuals took the data from their sleep trackers too seriously, allowing concerns about achieving ideal sleep to consume their thoughts and hinder their ability to naturally drift off at night.”

A consistent sleep schedule will help with sleep, says Cousins, but he adds: “It’s important to strike a balance and avoid becoming overly preoccupied with sleep-related concerns.”

Rebecca Frew

Written by Rebecca Frew she/her


Becky Frew has written various articles for newspapers and magazines focusing on fitness, is a qualified run leader, and a certified sleep talker trainer who loves to help advise people how they can nod off easier.

When she is not writing or reading about fitness, she is at hot pod yoga, bounce class, training for an ultra-marathon or booking anything with a medal and free food at the end.

Outside of work Becky is practicing her Finnish (Hei!) for her dream holiday to Finland next year, and writing her 3rd book while cuddling her cats Giggles and Rebel- the latter of which really lives up to her name!

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