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I'm trying to adjust my sleep cycle to 5 hours earlier than it currently is. I would like to accomplish this within 3 weeks.

I've tried incrementally setting an alarm 15 minutes earlier each day, but I'm finding it harder and harder to wake up with the alarm.

I've also tried not going to bed a full night, but that didn't work out.

Can you recommend lifehacks to significantly adjust one's sleep cycle?

  • This isn't practical, so I won't post it as an answer. It turns out that it is difficult to move your body clock earlier, but easy to move it later. You can easily adjust to going to sleep later by an hour each successive night until you work your way around the clock to the earlier target time. However, the process takes around three weeks, and it helps if you isolate yourself from normal daylight cues. This is a great solution if you are a hermit living in a cave and have no place to be for three weeks. For anybody else, not so much. – fixer1234 Sep 10 '18 at 19:22
  • @fixer1234 What if you're a lizard? ;) – RockPaperLizard Sep 10 '18 at 21:39
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Rather than with an incremental shift I would go for a radical change. Just set your alarm to go off the whole 5 hours earlier. Also take care to not get tricked by the snooze function (see this question).

It will make you feel tired and sick for a few days but soon you will realize that you will also get very tired much earlier than before. You will find yourself in bed sleeping 5 hours earlier than usual very soon. I would expect that the shift will happen within less than a week.

People traveling overseas, or people working in alternating day / night shifts do that all the time, and they will not have the time to adapt in small steps.

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In addition to the fact that you need to wake up at your target time before you have much hope of feeling sleepy at your target bedtime, you should be using light to your advantage. Reduce light a few hours before your target bedtime, and reduce it more (and limit blue light if you can) two hours before bed. (Think sunglasses, or 30 watt incandescent lamp. Bonus points if your sunglasses block more than 90% of blue light.)

It will also help you wake up if you get an alarm that produces bright light. If you can't do that, opening the windows and turning on all the lights would be a more difficult but still effective alternative.

You can also take melatonin to gently convince your body it's time to sleep, but the effective does is 0.3-0.5 mg. You'll need to break a pill you buy into several small pieces, because a large dose has not been shown to be effective (though there might be new science since I checked).

  • Thanks. I also find what you say about melatonin to be true. Any more than 0.5mg seems like too much. – RockPaperLizard Sep 20 '18 at 20:11
  • @RockPaperLizard Note that I just added something to the answer: "Think sunglasses, or 30 watt incandescent lamp. Bonus points if your sunglasses block more than 90% of blue light." – piojo Sep 21 '18 at 2:26
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You can't easiy do this without artificially adjusting the timing of when you're subject to natural daylight. Your body has had many years of having the natural daily cycle of light drive its circadian rhythm and alas, changing when it "feels naturally tired" is more of a battle than just adopting a new set of waking times.

If you're prepping for visiting a time zone that is 5 hours different from where you are now, try doing the calcs/getting a plan from https://www.jetlagrooster.com - it includes preparatory and reparatory steps before/after you arrive.

If you're starting a new job that requires shift work you may well become a slave to the alarm and feel permanently like you're awake at the wrong time- read up on the theory on jetlag rooster and change your environment so you're articifically lighting and darkening your day in order to adjust your circadian rhythm.. kinda got to stick to it though (no weekends off, and it can be hard on other people you live with- separate bedroom available?). Blackout blinds and bright lights were the only way my relatives could cope with shift work

If you're having a child, you might well just have to write off 18 months or so to feeling like a sleep deprived zombie. It gets better, and everything is a phase- tell yourself this when they're driving you mental on a daily basis

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