You have an inner scheduler, hardwired into you. Called the circadian clock, it helps you fall asleep each night and wake up the next morning.
But sometimes, your sleep cycle can get thrown off its normal rhythm. Ever worked a late shift, traveled between time zones, or stayed up all night with a fussy baby? Then you know how groggy and out-of-sorts you feel the next day.
Once you get out of step, it can be harder to fall asleep or wake up at the right times again.
Use these 10 tips to help get your ZZZs back on track.
1. Stick to a Routine
"Go to bed at the same time and do the same activities every night before bed," says Heidi Connolly, MD, chief of pediatric sleep medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center. "Your body is getting a cue that it's time to fall asleep."
To prep your body for bed, do something to relax. Take a warm bath or listen to calm music.
2. Make Mornings Bright
Light tells your body's clock when it's time to wake up. You can help this process. In the morning, turn on bright lights, open the shades, or take a walk in the sunshine.
"That's a very healthy way to reset your clock," says Christopher Colwell, PhD, a neuroscientist and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at UCLA Medical School.
3. Keep Nights Dark
At night, dim the lights to cue your body that it's time for sleep. Also switch off your screens. E-readers, cellphones, and other devices give off blue light, which makes your brain too alert for sleep.
4. Work Out
Exercise builds muscle and trims fat, and it could improve sleep, too. People who exercise at least 150 minutes a week sleep better at night and feel more alert during the day.
The timing of your exercise can make a difference. A high-intensity cardio workout late in the day can disrupt sleep, Colwell says. Save your runs and step classes for the morning or afternoon if you find out that an intense workout interferes with your sleep.
Do something calming instead. "Stretching before bed is great," Colwell says.