Tell me if this sounds familiar: You’re in bed, curled up with a good book by 10:15 one night. The following night, you’re up past midnight playing board games with the family or watching “just one more” episode of your favorite Netflix drama. The next night, you start dozing on the couch at 8:30 but don’t actually crawl into bed until 11:30. Whoops.
If your sleep schedule is a bit of a mess these days, it’s time to get things back on track. Consistent and plentiful sleep is fundamental to your wellbeing, and it may be easier to achieve than you think.
How a Regular Bedtime Can Improve Your Health
Going to bed and waking up at roughly the same times each day is vital to your cardiovascular health. In fact, if your bedtime varies significantly from one night to the next, you may be doubling your risk of heart disease. That’s what a recent study from Harvard found when researchers observed the sleep schedules of over 2,000 men and women for six years.
Inconsistent sleep — both in terms of when you go to bed and how many hours of good sleep you get — can also increase your chance of suffering a heart attack and increase your odds of developing metabolic syndrome, an unsavory pack of health problems that boost your body’s likelihood of cardiovascular disease.
Maintaining a regular sleep schedule decreases your chance of developing some of aging’s other heavy hitters as well, including:
High blood pressure
How To Clean Up Your Sleep Schedule
When you’re ready to commit to better sleep, the good news is that there are plenty of ways to do so.
A cooler bedroom is conducive to quality snoozing. The lower your body temperature, the faster you’ll reach REM sleep, which is the restorative slumber that helps your body recover from a long day. Studies show that the ideal overnight temperature for your bedroom is between 60- and 67-degrees Fahrenheit.
If you can squeeze a warm bath in before bed, too, go for it. While it seems counterintuitive, the warm water actually lowers your body temperature by increasing your circulation.
Banish Blue Light From the Bedroom
If you’re scrolling through your phone or tablet right before bed, you’re not doing your shuteye any favors. For starters, reading the news or work emails will do little to quiet your mind before rest. What’s more, these devices emit blue light that negatively affects sleep quality.
To cement your commitment to excellent sleep, refrain from using screens in the hour leading up to lights out. If you want to read, opt for an e-reader that doesn’t give off blue light or cozy up to a good old-fashioned book.
Contrary to what your friends claim, a glass of wine or two before bed is not a sleep aid. Beer, wine and spirits before bed may make you drowsy, but they also disrupt your circadian rhythm and diminish melatonin production, both of which lead to sub-par sack time. In fact, drinking in general isn’t great for your sleep.
That doesn’t mean you have to swear off Chardonnay forever, but you should imbibe intelligently. Drinking two or three times a week is fine for most, and the earlier in the evening that you can switch to water or tea, the better. In addition to more restorative sleep, you can also look forward to feeling more energetic and mentally sharp the following day.
Setting yourself up for a successful night of sleep takes discipline, but the health benefits you’ll reap are enormous. Don’t think of sticking to your sleep schedule as an obligation; think of it as a way to pamper yourself. Before you know it, you’ll be looking forward to retreating to your cozy sanctuary, even on the weekends.