Updated: May 16
Before we start, let’s talk about what sleep consistency is and if it’s even important. These days we hear a lot about sleep volume or how much sleep you should get each night. As much as this is an important factor that should be a focus of everyone's sleep health, it’s not the whole picture of the sleep story.
Sleep consistency is essentially going to bed and wake-up at nearly the same time every day. This seems simple and yet most people are not very good at it. It’s normal for consistency in sleep patterns to deteriorate starting around Thursday and not recovering again until Monday. Obviously, the normality of sleep consistency tends to be affected by the weekend, but the big question is does it even really matter?
Sleep consistency has been shown to improve a whole spectrum of things in regards to recovery, and even mental focus. Improved sleep consistency has been shown to be correlated with better REM and SWS sleep patterns. Think of these as the mental and physical restorative components of sleep. It has also been shown to have an impact on heart rate variability and resting heart rate. Think of these as the physical signs your body is rested or not. Finally, when you become more consistent with your sleep, you tend to fall asleep faster and the quality of sleep improves as well. So even if you're not getting the ideal 8 hours of sleep, you can really make an impact on your sleep health by working on your sleep consistency.
So if sleep consistency is so important, what are some ways in which we can improve it?
Night Time Alarm Everyone has an awake alarm (some even have 5 of them), so why not make a bedtime alarm. Setting an alarm to start your night time routine and sticking to it can significantly help with getting to bed more consistently. Try setting your alarm for 30 minutes before you ideally want to go to bed. When it goes off, finish what you’re doing and get ready for bed. This prevents that surprise midnight Netflix binge watching, which will throw off the rest of the week, especially on the weekends.
Weekend Wake-up Sleeping in on the weekends is always nice, but try your best to wake up within an hour or two of your normal weekday routine. Sleeping in on your day’s off can impact your sleep consistency by pushing back your desire for a regular bed time that evening. On the weekends, have an alarm that wakes you up to get the day started. Again, this can be later than your normal work week alarm but needs to be reasonable. Also, gradually improve your sleep consistency on the weekend to increase your likelihood of long term success. If your weekend sleep in is currently 5+ hours later than your work week alarm, start by setting an alarm an hour shorter than your normal weekend routine.
Knowledge is Power
Whenever someone tells you what to do versus telling why you should do it, it is much less likely to be completed. If you know the reason why you're doing what you’re doing, you’re much more likely to succeed with the habit. It’s no different than knowing the real "why" to your health journey. Hopefully, this article has given you some insight into the benefits of simply going to bed and waking up and nearly the same time most days of the week. If I haven’t then maybe one more piece of information may sway you. A recent Harvard study found that students who had better sleep consistency, had a better GPA than other students who got more sleep volume but were less consistent. Allow sleep to be a powerful tool for your health journey.