Many people use sleep as sort of a buffer zone. Kind of like a "slush" fund in your budget that you can either use or not use depending on how the rest of your money is spent. In other words, it's not a priority.
I've said before on this website that sleep is incredibly important. Think about it -- you can go with eating for weeks. You can go without exercising for a lifetime (a short lifetime but a lifetime nonetheless). But try going just one day and see how you function as a human being without sleep. Then try extending that day to two -- then three. Yeah, before long you're a zombie and can't remember whether you left your newborn baby in the car or on the mall bathroom changing table.
Sleep needs to be a priority in order for you to realize your most healthy you. Going to bed every night at the same time and waking at the same time is CRUCIAL for tuning in to your circadian rhythms. And studies have shown that every second of sleep you get before midnight is hugely beneficial, too.
Here's a recent study on why getting small amounts of sleep then sleeping in on the weekend is not ideal.
In a nutshell, folks on a restricted sleep schedule for five days were then allowed to get lots of sleep for two days. Some things came back to normal after the "sleeping in" like reduced sleepiness (duh) but some other stuff DIDN'T recover -- mainly performance and attentiveness. Two pretty important things.
Getting optimal sleep every night is not going to happen. Babies, parties, storms, serial killers and many other things can interrupt your sleep. But despite the interruptions, there are things you can do to get the best sleep you can within the given circumstances.
Natural light after the sun goes down is one good way to get your body in that "shut down" mode. We've been using these at night with the girls and they love them (that's the key -- finding good, healthy stuff for your kids that they LOVE).
These are little, quarter-sized lights that you can put in the bathtub and carry around. The amber light doesn't tell send the "time to wake up and be alert" signals to your brain.
We also use candles and an amber night light in the hall.
Chris Kresser, MD wrote a great article about how artificial light is wrecking your sleep. And he gives some practical things you can do about it.
I put these glasses on every night after the sun goes down. You get used to them and they work.
This is also something I wear every night when I sleep. It's pure gold in my book.
The Mindfold. It's only $19.95 including shipping. I will buy these things until I'm dead or they stop making them, whichever comes first.
So remember -- it's never a good time to change your schedule and get into a regular sleep pattern. You just have to do it if you want the benefits. And if you get bad sleep, you WILL feel bad and not function at your highest capacity.