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Developing a Healthy Sleep Pattern – Information and Tips

* Get outside in natural light
A study found that people who are exposed to natural light during morning hours sleep better at night than those who don't get much morning light.

* Exercise, early
Getting outside and moving your body seems to help night-time sleep. Regular morning exercise sets us up, not only for the day but also, for the night by helping us produce the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin earlier in the evening. Exercising intensely in the evening, however, can be counter-productive in aiding sleep as this may elevate adrenaline for hours afterwards, driving sleep away.

* Cut out screen time in the evening
Too much screen/blue light around bedtime impedes melatonin production, giving the body the impression that it's not yet time to sleep. Screen light can make the brain feel it is still daytime and encourage alertness. Fostering a habit of switching off mobiles, tablets and TVs an hour before bedtime helps the brain to wind down in preparation for sleep.

* Don't lie in on the weekend
Sleep needs to be regular and habitual. Going to bed and getting up at the same time helps regulate sleep patterns.

* Cut out/reduce alcohol
Alcohol may get people off to sleep, but it tends to compromise sleep quality and can make people wake up later in the night. Avoid alcohol in the evenings where possible.

* Limit caffeine and other stimulants such as sugar
Cut out/reduce caffeine after 6pm – coffee, tea, fizzy drinks and avoid high energy drinks as they will stimulate the nervous system.

* Ensure your bedroom is dark enough
Keep the lighting level low – the darker the better.

* Wind down
Check your wind-down routine. Cease screen time an hour before bed. A warm bath can help warm up the extremities relative to the body core, which aids sleep onset. Ensure your feet are warm.

* Create the conditions to invite sleep
Such as cool temperature in the bedroom; turn off all electronic devices and screens; practice 7/11 breathing; do a body scan to include tensing and releasing muscles from toes up to head.

* Develop the ‘observing self’
Watch and observe your thoughts as you invite sleep but never demand sleep to come to you. If you are wide awake/have busy thoughts, try some of the following - getting up/going to the loo/having a warm drink/resting a little/breathing exercises – and then go back to bed.

*Visualise some unstimulating activity
Visualising some unstimulating and repetitive activity can calmly lead you to sleep e.g. counting sheep . . .

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