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With busy, modern living, packed diaries and technology that enables us to be 'plugged in' 24/7, it's little wonder we can sometimes struggle to head off to sleep.

But, as sleep expert Dr Karyn O'Keeffe explains, having a regular bedtime routine is a great way to improve your quality of sleep.  A consistent routine tells your brain and body it’s time for sleep, making it easier to drift off when you want to.

Dr O'Keeffe's tips for establishing a good night-time ritual include:


1. Having a regular bedtime

Having a regular bedtime is an important first step in creating a regular bedtime routine.  A consistent bedtime helps you to get off to sleep, ensuring you get enough rest for the following day.  Aim for a bedtime that will allow you to get 7-9 hours’ sleep each night.


2. Relaxation

It's also important to allow yourself time to unwind from the day's activities before sleeping. Studies have shown that when you don't allow this process to occur, it can be harder to fall asleep, sleep can be shorter and we can wake feeling unrefreshed.


3. Having a bath or shower

Some studies have shown that if you have a bath or shower before bed, it can help with the process of getting off to sleep, so long as you allow yourself enough time to cool off afterwards.  Falling asleep requires a drop in core body temperature and cooling down in the evening sends a signal that it's time to sleep.


4. Turning off devices with bright screens

Devices with bright screens interfere with your circadian body clock by telling you it's daytime rather than time for sleep.  When you use these devices in the evening, it can shift the timing of your circadian body clock later, making it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.


5. Influencing your circadian rhythm at the start of the day

Researchers, including Nobel Prize winning scientists Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young, have discovered some of the inner workings of the circadian body clock.  Their work paved the way for other researchers who have found ways in which we can influence the body clock for better sleep. And one of the most effective ways to create a regular routine is to expose yourself to bright light when you wake up in the morning - so be sure to throw the curtains open wide!

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