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How to Develop a Sleep Routine
Why getting your head down may be the best thing you can do for your health and wellbeing.
We all know how valuable a good night’s sleep is… or rather, how bad we feel when we don’t get one!
The value of rest is recognisable in the fact we spend a third of our lives in bed. And sure enough, most of us can reel off a good number of the benefits of sleep – sharpness, mood enhancement, lowering of blood pressure, better immunisation, improved memory, stress reduction and even maintaining of body weight.
So it’s not as if we don’t know sleep is good for us; yet it’s something we’re still happy to neglect so readily, even when poor sleep has a direct link to depression, anxiety and low moods.
Of course, getting a good night’s sleep is about more than science – it takes real investment from you.
That doesn’t just mean going to bed earlier, either – you’ll need to consider what’s around you. Numerous studies have shown that smartphones and device usage is on the increase and it’s the ‘blue light’ emissions from these that can delay the release of sleep-inducing melatonin, as well as resetting the body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm).
Moving away from screens earlier – scientists recommend at least an hour before you plan on going to sleep – will limit the bouts of LCD exposure which excite brain stimulators, therefore helping you maximise sleep efficiency.
Remember as well the need to moderate room temperature, as well dimming lighting and removing excess noise within or around your bedroom.
And while the act of sleeping is more important than anything you may consume in the lead-up to it. It goes without saying there are certain food and drink items that will hamper effective rest.
We all know the effect alcohol has on shut-eye – you may be able to drop off quicker, but it is known to be disruptive to your sleep in the second half of the night, not least if you are in a state of dehydration.
Consider as well the impact sugar, carbonated drinks and caffeine might have on the body at a time when it is trying to wind down. An old favourite such as Horlicks, with a soothing malt content, has been scientifically proven to aid rest.
The routine… and a plan
Scientific studies have shown that regularity and repetition is most important where sleep is concerned. Your body feeds off continuity and structure in its waking hours, so why should things be any different when it comes to sleep?
It may sound boring but set bedtimes are said to lead to a clarity of mind and a consistency of alertness and energy during the day – essentially, you’ll feel brighter and happier.
For those looking to regulate an uneven sleep pattern, some doctors have begun recommending a trial week of ‘regular as clockwork’ bedtimes, with long rests and the adoption of healthy habits.
They then invite people to see if they feel improved in all those physical and psychological aspects.
In many cases, the results have gone to show why getting your head down may be the best thing you can do not just for your health and wellbeing, but your sanity too.
Challenges and alternatives
Of course, if you work irregular hours or have young children, your chances of this type of structured sleeping may feel hampered.
In this instance, you should do as much as you can to put a set sleep schedule in place, building other positive physical and mental wellbeing habits into your day.
This means that while you may struggle to maximise core sleep, you are at least taking restorative action in other areas.