For centuries, parents, and caregivers have known about the importance of a regular bedtime for children. The importance of consistency in healthy sleep routines for adults is something we’ve become more aware of much more recently. Being constant in our routines has various benefits, just as irregular sleep can contribute to chronic health problems.
Irregular Sleep And Health Problems
According to the National Institutes of Health, a lack of sleep can heighten the risk of anxiety, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, mood disorders, obesity, and other conditions. Studies have found that inadequate sleep also can lead to memory loss.
With that in mind, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study that found 1 in 3 American adults don’t get enough sleep is alarming. According to the CDC, adults need approximately 7 hours of sleep every night.
The Benefits Of Consistency
A study published in a peer-reviewed journal in 2018 confirmed the benefits of regular bedtimes for children. The study found that children with healthy bedtime routines outperformed other participants in tests of attention, cognitive flexibility, inhibition, executive function, and working memory. Furthermore, their dental health was in a better condition, and they exhibited greater readiness for school.
Despite the obvious benefits of consistency in practicing healthy sleep routines, many children ditch the regular earlier bedtime as soon as they’re old enough. Some adults may even have accepted the idea that getting enough sleep regularly is good only for children. However, science says otherwise. Consistent sleep routines are good for adults, too.
About The Study
According to research published in Scientific Reports, consistent sleep routines could be as important as getting the recommended amount of sleep every night. Jessica Lunsford-Avery, PhD, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University School of Medicine, was the lead study author.
In a Healthline interview, Prof. Lunsford-Avery explained that the team used devices to track participants’ sleep schedules accurately. The researchers went beyond the participants’ bedtimes. Instead, they examined their sleep-wake patterns minute-by-minute over 24-hour periods. They evaluated the effects of their preferred sleep timing as well as the duration and regularity of their sleep.
As in other studies on the effects of sleep, the researchers found a link between irregular sleep and chronic health problems. Prof. Lunsford-Avery elaborated that the risk of higher blood sugar levels, hypertension, obesity, and developing heart disease within a decade increased with the irregularity of participants’ sleep patterns. It’s not all bad news, as the assistant professor said the research suggested that consistency in practicing healthy sleep routines could benefit your health.
It’s Not About Perfection
National Center on Sleep Disorders Research director, Michael Twery, PhD, said that the wider public shouldn’t be too alarmed if they have slightly irregular sleep routines or sleep patterns. The serious health conditions associated with lack of sleep may develop after regular, chronic sleep deprivation.
This means you don’t need to feel guilty or worried about the occasional late-night movie, series binge, or night out. The important thing is to try to get to bed around the same time most nights, and to try to get enough sleep. To Twery, this is as important as proper nutrition, exercise, and fresh air.
It’s easy to say that we all should get enough sleep every night. But as we all know, life has a habit of getting in the way of our plans. Our family and work commitments, as well as our social lives and various other factors, can make it difficult to be consistent.
Tips For Healthy Sleep Routines
There are a few tips and tricks that you can try if you struggle to practice healthy sleep routines consistently. Speak to your doctor if none of the following advice helps and you continue to experience sleeplessness.
- Set A Bedtime And Waking Time
Prof. Lunsford-Avery’s top tip arguably is the easiest of all. Set a bedtime for yourself, set a waking time for yourself, and stick to it to the best of your ability. She said that you shouldn’t give into the temptation to sleep in on weekends or days off. Instead, set an alarm to wake up at the same time every day. Aim to get 7 hours of sleep daily.
- Be Aware Of Your Sleep Patterns
Try creating a bedtime ritual. Develop a routine that you can do every night before going to bed. Pay attention to how you feel during and after the routine, and to whether it helps you get to sleep. You might need to change a couple of things around or experiment with your routine in other ways until you find something consistent that works for you.
- Leave Your Bedroom For A Few Minutes
If you’re still awake 20 minutes after you went to bed, get up and go do something relaxing in another room, if possible. Listen to relaxing music or recordings of nature sounds, such as falling rain or lapping waves, or read. Return to bed when you start feeling tired.
- Exercise Every Day
Exercise or do some other physical activity daily, as it can support healthy sleep routines. If possible, perform your preferred physical activities outdoors.
- Reduce Naps During The Day
Avoid napping during the day, if possible. If you do want to have a nap, do it earlier in the day, and don’t do it for longer than 30 minutes. Napping, especially if you take long naps late in the day, can lead to you staying awake for longer.
- Watch Your Diet
Pay attention to what you put into your body. Coffee, chocolate, and even cheese can disrupt your sleep routines. Be mindful of the amount of food and drink you consume, as going to bed when you’re full or hungry can affect your sleep too.
- Create The Right Environment
Make sure your bedroom is conducive to a good night’s rest. Replace your bed if it’s uncomfortable, use blackout blinds to block external light, and use restful and relaxing colors in the room. Avoid using light-emitting screens for extended periods before going to bed.
Sleep To Support Your Health
Your body is like a machine that offers decades of good service when cared for. Listen to it and ensure you get the right amount of sleep—and that it’s quality sleep too.
Creating good sleeping habits is a worthwhile pursuit, and the payoff can change your life for the better.