Ask LH: How Can I Adjust My Sleep Schedule For A Really Early Start?

Dear LH, I have recently received a promotion at my work, hooray! However, my new role comes with adjusted working hours – instead of the usual 9-6, I am now working from 6:30 – 4:30 (occasionally with overtime to 5:30). Given commute times and how long it takes me to get functioning in the morning, I estimate I probably need to get up around 4:45am. How can I adjust my body clock to this new regime and still have the time and energy to see family and friends late at night? Thanks, Sleepless in Stagnation

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Dear SiS,

Human beings need a certain amount of sleep each night to properly function, and unfortunately there’s no way to cheat your body clock to enjoy both those early mornings and late nights. There are plenty of ways to help your body adjust to a new sleep regime, though you may have to save the late nights for Fridays and Saturdays.

Most evidence suggests that people need somewhere between 7 and 9 hours of sleep to function properly, with the safe average falling at 8 hours. This means that, to get the proper amount of sleep before your wake-up time at 4:45am, you’ll have to get to sleep at 8:45pm.

In order to successfully change your sleeping habits, you’ll have to establish a fairly strict routine, at least while you adjust your body to the new hours. There’s some evidence that taking melatonin supplements or eating melatonin rich foods can help to reset your body clock, but the best thing to do is establish a routine before you go to bed.

This could be something like having a warm bath before bed, or sitting down to read (on paper or a non-backlit device) in the hour before you go to sleep. As well as helping to cut down on screen time immediately before you try to sleep, if you establish this as a routine it will eventually become a signal to your body to start shutting down for sleep.

While you’re going to be up for some early nights during the work week, don’t be tempted to go too crazy with late nights every weekend. Changing your schedule around dramatically on weekends can have adverse affects on your health. If you do have a late night on Friday or Saturday, consider still waking up early and catching up on your sleep with an afternoon nap, so that you can still wake up refreshed on Monday morning.

In order to keep up that stellar performance at work (and hopefully get another promotion to a role with easier working hours) then you’ll want to stick to your routine and try and get that 8 hours of sleep as often as you can. Good luck!


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