How to quickly adjust to getting less sleep

Running in the morningQuinn Rooney/Getty ImagesThe solution isn’t guzzling caffeine.

Let’s be clear: You shouldn’t be getting less sleep than your body needs on a regular basis.

That said, there are times when your daily schedule might suddenly change — maybe you’re a new parent, or maybe you’ve accepted a new job with an earlier start time — and you need to gradually adapt.

To help you out on that front, we consulted Michael Breus, a psychologist and sleep specialist and the author of “The Power of When,” about the best ways to adjust to a new routine.

Note: Guzzling caffeine 24 hours a day isn’t among them.

1. If you’re a new parent, sleep in shifts

If you have a co-parent helping you take care of the baby, Breus recommended splitting up the time you need to be awake. Depending on your chronotype — your biological predisposition to be a morning person, evening person, or somewhere in between — you might prefer to stay awake during the day or night.

Another option Breus suggested was splitting up the days of the week, so that one parent is always “on call” and responsible for attending to the baby.

2. Calibrate your light exposure

“The easiest way to keep somebody awake when they want to be asleep is with bright light,” Breus said.

You can install a bright light at home or at work — Breus uses one from Lighting Science.

At the same time, you’ll want to limit your light exposure at night, before bed. Breus personally uses “blue-blockers,” or specialty glasses that shield your eyes from the blue light emitted by laptops and other tech gadgets. (He’s a fan of the Swanwick variety.)

Blue light stops the production of melatonin, which can make it harder for you to fall asleep — so you’ll want to avoid it if you’re trying to hit the hay earlier.

3. Tweak your eating habits

“The gut is sort of your second brain,” Breus said, meaning that what you consume has a big effect on your energy levels throughout the day.

If you’re sleeping less, you’ll need more energy to power through the day. So you’ll want to eat more “good fat” — or unsaturated fat that comes from avocados, olive oil, and most nuts — and protein, especially at breakfast. You’ll also want to eat small meals throughout the day for sustained energy.

If you’re aiming to fall asleep earlier, consider eating dinner earlier as well, so you have ample time to digest.

4. Exercise

While exercise might seem like it would be enervating, Breus says you can use it to give you energy when you need it most. Many people benefit from exercising first thing in the morning, though others might find it more helpful to work out later in the day.

5. Nap right

Breus doesn’t recommend that you use this method on a regular basis — but it’s ok to use it for the first week or so while you’re still getting adjusted to your new routine.

Around 11:00 a.m., get a cup of black drip coffee (which has the highest caffeine content). Put some ice cubes in it and drink it quickly. Then close your eyes and take a 25-minute nap while the caffeine works its magic. You’ll be set for the next four to five hours.

Avoid drinking tons of caffeine as a way to stay awake — Breus noted that you’ll likely experience a crash after the caffeine wears off and sleepiness sets in again.

NOW WATCH: How smartphones are messing up your sleep — and what you can do to make it better

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