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  • Writer's pictureJo Soria

Feeling Drained or Dysregulated? Let’s Talk About Sleep Syncing


Most of us know that sleep plays a pivotal role in our overall health and well-being, but we don’t always know when we’re shortchanging our sleep needs or how to fix it when that happens. This week, the #TRN team takes a closer look at sleep syncing, the nighttime health trend that’s been buzzing around SleepTok (yep, there’s an entire TikTok rabbit hole dedicated solely to catching more shuteye—we dig it).

Woman sleep syncing in bed.

What is Sleep Syncing?

Ever go through spells of feeling foggy, emotionally dysregulated, or not quite yourself, but you're not sure why? Or maybe you have difficulty falling asleep or waking up in the mornings, which can put your productivity or relationships at risk. If you’ve ever felt the slow creep of sleep deficiency and its potentially far-reaching consequences for your physical, mental, and emotional health, you might benefit from a crash course in sleep syncing.


The goal of sleep syncing is to align your sleep schedule with your body’s natural circadian rhythms, resulting in consistent windows for daily sleeping and waking up. (Yes, it’s recommended that you stick to this schedule even on the weekends—we don’t make the rules!)


“Sleep syncing trains your brain on when to be awake and when to be asleep,” says Australian sleep researcher Vanessa Hill," which can lead to better quality sleep and greater energy levels the next day.”

Sleep Syncing, Step by Step

The good news about sleep syncing is that you can pick and choose what works for you; this is simply a guide of options and steps that may help along the way. The key is to build healthy habits and routines that you can stick with while also enjoying your own personalized study in rest and self-care. Think of it as a daily investment in your future self!


1. Set Your Sleep Schedule

Review your schedule and choose your ideal window for going to bed and waking up each day. We're aiming for a healthy eight-ish hours of sleep per night, so you may have to do a bit of backward math based on what time you need to get up in the mornings.


Remember that going to bed at 10 p.m. isn't necessarily the same as falling asleep at 10 p.m., so be realistic and build in extra time if you're not as quick to fall asleep at the start of your sleep routine.

Man sleeping next to alarm clock for sleep sync.

Once you've set your new sleep schedule, stick to it as much as possible. Keeping a consistent wake-up and bedtime, even on weekends and off days, will help speed your transition to healthier sleep patterns.


2. Build Your Bedtime Routine

Whether you prefer a new book club read or some light stretching, sticking to a similar series of bedtime activities each night is helpful. This can train your mind and body to fall into the rhythm of anticipating sleep. Depending on how much time you need to unwind, plan to set aside anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours for your nighttime routine.


Other calming bedtime activities for your routine could include:

  • Gentle Yoga

  • Journaling

  • Warm bath or shower

  • Drinking chamomile or other bedtime tea

  • Meditation or box breathing

  • Relaxing music or soundscapes


3. Enhance Your Environment

Invest in yourself (and the activity you spend a third of your life doing) by setting up a nighttime oasis for optimal rest. Ideally, this would involve selecting the best bedding and other amenities for your body and sleeping habits.


But we get it: you can’t always spend the time and money on a new mattress. Suppose the ideal mattress isn’t in the plan right now. In that case, you may be able to look into less expensive upgrades like a cooling mattress pad or some new pillows (Trust us: the lives of the entire #TRN communications team changed when we upgraded from those cheap pillows that flattened out after three uses).


Also, consider those little customized touches that can maximize your shuteye, like white or brown noise, a good eye mask, or a good air purifier or humidifier if you have asthma or allergies.

A pug wrapped in blanket contemplating life.

4. Ditch the Distractions

Okay, we know this one's a little controversial, but we need to talk about some things that might be keeping you up at night. In a perfect world, we'd be able to put all the distractions aside and achieve eight hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. Still, we also know it's hard to kick a precious angel pup out of bed (even a fidgety, snoring, blanket-hogging one).

So keep it realistic, but take time to weigh out the things that may be inhibiting your rest, including:

  • Consuming caffeine too late in the day

  • Napping during the day

  • Alcohol or unbalanced nutrition

  • Device screens and other unnatural light

  • Eating large meals at night

  • Pets sleeping in the bed

  • Allowing phone notifications during the night

  • Unmanaged stress

It's okay to set boundaries and put your health first, especially when it involves something as critical as sleep.


Try Out Some Tools

Better sleep? Of course there's an app for that. Sleep trackers are a popular way to log your sleep patterns and find out whether you're hitting a good REM cycle or experiencing too many disruptions during the night.


And on top of your many options for sleep trackers, there are plenty of apps to offer nighttime meditations, calming breathing techniques, bedtime stories, or anything else you can think of to help you drift off. You can find some of the Sleep Foundation’s favorite sleep apps of 2023 here.


Final Thoughts on Sleep Syncing

You may have read through these sleep syncing steps and thought, “That’s nothing new.” And while some researchers concede the sleep syncing trend is simply a Millennial/Gen Z rebrand of age-old nighttime habit recommendations, they’re generally happy to see the word getting out. “The hardest thing can be starting and then sticking to a new routine,” says Hill. “But now it’s trendy, so hopefully, this can be a tiny push to stick at it.”


As we’ve all grown accustomed to enhanced connectivity and screentime, we might have forgotten how important it is to unplug and recommit to some good old-fashioned sleep hygiene. If you give it a try, we think you’ll like the results.


Ever tried sleep syncing? Tell us how it went in the comments below!


 

Want to be a part of the #TRN Team? We are looking for guest writers to contribute to our blog. Reach out to jo@trustedreferral.org to learn more.

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