Today I have a really simple sleep tip for you, go to bed and get up at consistent times. In my last sleep blog I talked about sunlight helping set your circadian rhythm, but that is not very important if your sleep pattern is all over the place. Consistency is actually a lot more important than the actual times you keep.
You see, your body craves regularity and rhythm since many of your body’s functions are processes rather than actions. Going to sleep is actually several different processes happening over several hours before bed, rather than a single action taken after getting into bed. This means that without a regular bed time your body has no idea when to start getting your body ready for sleep. The result of this is either dosing off while you are meant to be awake, or laying in bed tossing and turning, unable to sleep despite how tired you feel. However, when you have a very regular sleep pattern your body knows exactly when you should fall asleep and wake, allowing you to drift off peacefully each night: eliminating a lot of wasted time and raising your sleep quality too.
One of the great things about being really strict about your sleep pattern is that if you have to break it one night it doesn’t ruin it the next. I remember as a teen if I slept in a few hours it was really difficult for me to get to sleep on time that night, and since my routine was fragile it was thrown off for a while and took a lot of effort to get it back. But now because my family all have a consistent sleep schedule we can break it occasionally, like when we go to see a movie at the drive in; sleep in really late, and yet still go to bed on time the next night. It makes for a really short day, but means we can go have fun without ruining our sleep for the next week.
Now I know a lot of people work varied shifts, and cannot commit to both going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, so if you have to choose just one to concentrate on make it keeping a consistent bed time. I know a lot of people preach about getting up at the same time every day, never having a lie in, no matter what, but I disagree. Although being strict at both ends is obviously better, I have found most of the benefits come from the consistent bed time, since it allows you to get a deeper, higher quality sleep, even if it has to be cut short in the morning. And in my personal experience it is much harder to get to sleep on time than to wake up, we all have alarms on our phones that can wake us at any time we want, but not that put us to sleep (possible, but it takes a lot of training).
One last thing, the consistency does not have to be down to the minute, just within half an hour or so, if you go to bed at 9:30pm one night, 10 the next, 9:45 the next that’s fine, it is when you start having hours between bedtimes on different nights that it becomes a serious problem.
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