LIFESTYLE
05/01/2018 20:23 SAST | Updated 05/01/2018 20:23 SAST

This Simple Tip Can Help Make Sleep A Priority In Your Life

Never hit that midday slump again.

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This is how most of us feel about sleep:

But in reality, getting to bed can be a struggle, as late nights at the office, chores, kids, and other daily obligations eat up our evenings. As a result, we go to bed later and get less sleep, which means we wake up groggy and never fail to hit that midday slump.

If getting a good night's sleep is an everyday challenge for you, here's one simple tip that can help you make it a priority: establish a bedtime routine.

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"It's hard for adults to go from 100 to zero," Alanna McGinn, the founder of Ontario sleep clinic Good Night Sleep Site, told HuffPost Canada via email. "Practicing calming and consistent bedtime routine activities can help prepare the individual to fall asleep and cue the body that's it's time to go to bed."

So why do bedtime rituals work? For one, they reduce stress.

Stress can put you in a state of hyperarousal, which not only sends your brain into overdrive, but can increase your blood pressure and quicken your breathing. This makes it more difficult to fall asleep and, on top of that, can make it harder for you to break out of your stress cycle, since a lack of sleep can increase stress hormone levels, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

That's why McGinn says engaging in quiet activities, such as reading, meditating, or practicing mindful breathing, are so important to help you relax and unwind before bed.

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Bedtime rituals also help you maintain a consistent sleep schedule and will motivate you to prioritize sleep.

"I always say a good night's sleep starts at bedtime," says McGinn. "Creating a healthy sleep routine is going to make you focus on how you are falling asleep and sleeping throughout the night."

However, the sleep expert notes that while consistency is important, "it's OK to tweak and switch up different activities to find what works best" for your bedtime ritual. So if you're not interested in meditating or reading before bed, other activities such as taking a warm bath or listening to soothing music can also help you wind down.

And finally, "when we include preparing our sleep environment by darkening the room, adding calming and sleep-inducing scents and sounds, we are cueing our body to fall asleep," McGinn notes.

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Adults age 18 to 64 need seven to nine hours of sleep each night, but according to a Statistics Canada report released last year, one-third of Canadians don't get this recommended number.

A lack of sleep can lead to a slew of health problems including high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, weight gain, and difficulty concentrating, Healthline reports.

That's why sleep experts like McGinn stress the importance of practicing "healthy sleep hygiene," in addition to establishing a consistent bedtime routine, to help you get the quality hours you need.

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"Go to bed and wake up at the same time 80 per cent of the time," McGinn advises. "Remove all tech from the bedroom and turn off electronics at least 60 minutes before bedtime. Create a conducive sleep environment that is for sleep and sex only, [and] choose to lead a healthy lifestyle [by] eating right and exercising to help you sleep better."

Dr. Doug Wright, the medical director of Aviva, an insurance provider, agrees that making little changes to your bedtime habits can make a big difference.

In a previous interview with Global News, he said: "Sometimes a few lifestyle changes are all that's needed to boost your sleep levels, such as establishing a routine, eating dinner earlier in the night or avoiding TV and mobile phone screens before bed."

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