Often in childhood, we follow strict night-time routines, where television before bed is limited, baths are taken at the same time each evening and lights are out the same time each night. In our teenage and adult years we have the freedom to break from the strict bedtime routines of the past and sleep when and where we want. But maybe we shouldn’t; maybe we should try harder to sleep like a baby.
Sleep has a huge impact on our health so a strict bedtime routine is one great way to ensure we get the recommended 7-9 hours per night. Let’s take a closer look at how you should be trying to sleep like a baby.
Watch the clock
Setting yourself a specific bedtime is the first step in maintaining better sleep. You should also turn off your digital devices half an hour to an hour before you decide to call it a day. Exposure to the screens can reset the body’s circadian (sleep-wake) rhythm, making it harder for you to fall asleep. Easier said than done these days but there’s nothing worse than wanting to be asleep and not being able to.
It might be a good idea to set an alarm to trigger the start of your bedtime rituals like bathing, brushing your teeth, and settling down to read a good book. It is important to discipline your body to naturally anticipate periods of sleep and wakefulness. Unfortunately that means trying to cut out that weekend lie-in too – a regular rhythm will help you to resist those four o’clock siestas and keep you alert throughout the day. Taking yourself to bed and waking up routinely every day is fundamental to a good healthy lifestyle.
Apps that record how much sleep you are getting each night is a great way to keep your sleep in check. Comparing nights could help you get to grips with how much sleep you think you need and perhaps influence your bedtime.
Avoiding sneaky late night snacks is important to a good night’s sleep. By eating sugary foods or drinks close to bedtime, you can cause a spike in blood sugar and an imbalance in the natural release of hormones. Stimulants like chocolate and coffee can leave you tossing and turning all night as the natural rhythm of the body is disrupted.
Studies have shown that exercising around 4 hours before bedtime can help you drift off. Not only does exercise leave you feeling fatigued and in need of rest time, the natural drop off in endorphins is a perfect time to indulge in some sleep. Light exercise – like yoga or 20 minutes of gentle stretching – immediately before bed has also been found to enhance relaxation and encourage the onset of sleep, some studies have shown.
It has even been found that sleeping after exercise can support weight loss and avoid overeating.
It’s in the design
Lastly, creating the perfect bedtime ambience can make all the difference. Incorporating biophilic design – objects or images connected to nature – into your bedroom is thought to be an aid to sleep. This may be in the form of plants, photography of the natural world or even the sound of bird song played through speakers.
Pay close attention to the lighting, too. Interestingly, red lights are most conducive to sleep, so try to install some around your bedroom or as a reading light. Dimming the lights in your home in the hour leading up to bedtime has also been found to play an important role in preparing the body and mind for rest.
When you actually decide to hit the hay, total darkness is best as this allows the production of melatonin, a hormone promoting sleep. A good set of blackout blinds will do the trick.
There is no substitute for a good night’s sleep. By following a routine, knowing what to avoid and when, can help your body synchronise to your needs, allowing you to relax seamlessly into a better routine. Let your body do the work and feel the effects of how good, restorative sleep can impact your waking hours.
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