For the most part, our circadian rhythm “type” is hardwired with each individual falling somewhere along a spectrum from extreme morning person to extreme evening type (most of us are in-between). Upon awakening, we experience what’s called “sleep inertia,” which is that groggy feeling associated with the brain shifting out of sleep mode. For morning types, this can last a few seconds to minutes, then they’re off to start their day. And for evening types, sleep inertia can persist for an hour to three hours.

That said, with the right dose of environmental, behavioral, and motivational cues, most of us have the ability to shift this—with exceptions for those on the extreme end of the spectrum who may require the assistance of a sleep specialist. Here's how:

One of the biggest sleep myths out there is that everyone, regardless of age, needs eight hours of sleep per night. While this may be true for some, it’s far too simplistic to apply a one-size-fits-all statement like this to something as complex and individual as sleep.

Here’s how the amount of sleep you need changes with age:

  • 0-3 months: 14-17 hours
  • 4 - 11 months: 12-15 hours
  • 3-5 years: 10-13 hours
  • 6-13 years: 9-11 hours
  • 14-18 years: 8-10 hours
  • 25-45 years: 7-9 hours
  • 46-65 years: 7-9 hours
  • 70-90 years: 7-9 hours

READ MORE: How Much Sleep You Really Need + How To Know If You’re Getting Enough Sleep

When most people try to get better sleep, they immediately try to increase the number of hours. And it makes sense! We’re told time and time again that eight hours is the sweet spot, and that the more sleep you can get, the better. But here’s the thing: quantity of sleep alone doesn’t paint a full picture of your sleep health. Quality matters just as much, if not more.

READ MORE: Sleep Quality vs Quantity: Which Is More Important?

We hear a whole lot about morning routines that help facilitate a more productive day—whether it be exercising, drinking a full glass of water, meditating, or having a healthy breakfast. But in order to set yourself up for a good start to the day, you have to invest in the end of the day, too.

Excitement or stress prior to bedtime causes an increase in the body’s sympathetic nervous system activation. When this occurs, the autonomic nervous system (ANS) releases stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol that circulate blood to vital organs and muscles.

Your heart rate increases, your breath quickens, your muscles tense, and beads of sweat form as your “fight or flight” response, which evolved as a survival mechanism to enable people to quickly react to life-threatening situations.

When this occurs before bedtime, it can run interference with sleep onset (the ability to fall asleep) and sleep maintenance (the ability to stay asleep) by interfering with melatonin and disrupting our sleep-wake cycle. That’s why a wind-down nighttime routine with less stimulating activities is so important for quality, restful sleep that leaves you feeling refreshed the next day.

READ MORE: 6 Activities To Incorporate In Your Evening Routine

The half-life of caffeine is 5-6 hours (or longer depending on how fast you metabolize it). Sensitivities vary, but because it’s a stimulant, it may cause difficulties in the onset of sleep if it’s still in the body’s system come bedtime.

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One study examining the effects of 400 mg of caffeine 30 minutes before bedtime found that it reduced sleep efficiency 5%, prolonged sleep latency (the amount of time it takes to fall asleep) by 12-16 minutes, and reduced total sleep time by 25 - 30 minutes compared to the placebo group. (1)

But caffeinated drinks don't have to be consumed so close to bedtime for them to affect sleep. Even at six hours, caffeine consumption has been shown to possibly reduce sleep time by more than one hour. (2)

As a rule of thumb, we recommend limiting caffeine intake to before 2pm; however, if you are sensitive to the effects of caffeine and/or typically go to bed around 10pm, you wouldn’t want to consume a cup of coffee after 12-1pm in the afternoon.

READ MORE: How Caffeine Affects Sleep

By “hygiene,” we mean the behavioral actions occurring during the day, specifically in the hours leading up to bedtime, that could negatively impact quality of sleep.

Actionable tips for better sleep habits + overall wellness:

  • Turn the alarm clock around before you go to sleep and avoid the temptation to look at the time should you wake up in the middle of the night.
  • Dim bright light exposure 1-2 hours prior to bedtime. This way, the bright light won’t confuse the brain signal that regulates our internal clocks, or circadian rhythm. The same goes for blue light.
  • Use the bed for sleep and sex only, not as a hangout area. If this is impossible due to limited space or mobility, have a daytime look for the bed that you swap out at night (e.g., different pillows, sitting up rather than laying down, etc).

Try your best to go to bed and get up at or around the same time every day—even on weekends. This avoids confusing the body and throwing off physiological processes that thrive off the routine of a 24-hour day, which can lead to feelings of “social jet lag.”

Natural light exposure is the most potent factor in regulating our 24-hour cycles. Opening the blinds is a great start, but because you’d need to sit close to the window to get the amount of sunlight needed to cue the brain that it’s time to wake up, we recommend going outside for 15 minutes (early morning light is best) in order to reinforce this circadian cue. Whether it’s coffee/tea on the porch or just a walk around the block, this is an easy and surprisingly effective hack.

READ MORE: The Proper Guide To Circadian Rhythms

Sleep disorder

It’s normal to have trouble waking up early every now and then, but how do you know if occasional nights spent tossing and turning are symptoms of a sleep disorder? When does “poor sleep” cross the line into insomnia? What about sleep apnea?

In this guide, Michael T. Smith, PhD, CBSM, DBSM shares six signs and symptoms of sleep disorders to better understand the potential causes of fatigue (i.e. low energy levels) and Excessive Daytime Sleepiness, or EDS (i.e. fighting to stay awake)—all of which are signs that it’s time to consult a sleep specialist.

Vitamin/mineral deficiency

Even if you're getting enough sleep, energy levels may be low due to a lack of iron and/or vitamin D—both of which can be assessed via a standard blood test.

  • Iron is a mineral that helps transport oxygen to cells, tissues, and organs. Significant iron deficiency may result in anemia (also spelled anaemia), a condition in which blood lacks an adequate supply of red blood cells.
  • Low levels of vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) may also cause feelings of daytime sleepiness since this vitamin supports the powerhouse of the cell, known as the mitochondria.

Studies on the impact of exercise on sleep are promising. They have shown (3) that it reduces sleep latency (amount of time it takes to fall asleep) and increases the quantity of slow-wave sleep (SWS), also known as deep sleep, which takes place during stage 3 (during which time it’s difficult to wake up).

Despite the consensus that exercise = good sleep, especially for those with insomnia (4) and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) (5), there are still lingering questions around what time of day is best to exercise. Although research shows (6) that moderate-intensity aerobic or resistance exercise does not compromise sleep as long as it stops at least 90 minutes prior to bedtime (so your core body temperature has time to return to pre-exercise levels), there are a multitude of factors that can dictate YOUR optimal time to exercise for the best sleep:

  • Type of exercise
  • Chronotype: natural patterns of when you prefer to sleep and when you have the most energy (night owl or early riser)
  • Age
  • Underlying health conditions

READ MORE: What’s The Best Time To Exercise For Quality Sleep?

Proper supplements were developed in partnership with leading doctors in integrative sleep medicine, clinical psychology, and nutritional biochemistry. They are specially designed to respond differently depending on what stage of sleep you’re in, whether it’s REM (active sleep) or non-REM (quiet sleep), for support throughout the entire night. The result? Not just more sleep, but better quality, deeper sleep that will leave you feeling refreshed and well-rested, not groggy. Browse our full selection of supplements, which goes beyond melatonin to address specific health and sleep needs.

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