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Daylight saving time begins every year on the second Sunday in March, and ends on the first Sunday in November. While the change to most of our clocks now happens automatically, shifting our bedtimes and ensuring we continue getting quality sleep may not be so easy.

Sleep medicine studies have repeatedly shown that getting “good sleep” is a vital part of maintaining health and can add years to your life. The seasonal time change is a great opportunity to establish a healthy bedtime routine and improve your wellbeing.

Your bedtime routine is anything you do in preparation for falling asleep. Healthy and regular sleep is more likely with a consistent bedtime routine– and falling asleep in front of the television doesn’t count.

Here are 7 ways to help form a healthy bedtime routine:

1. Set specific times. Decide on a set bedtime and a set wake time. Try not to vary these times by more than an hour, even on weekends. This will improve sleep efficiency on a long-term basis.

2. Eat dinner earlier. By eating the final meal of the day at least a few hours before bedtime you can prevent feeling too full or too hungry. Eating increases the body’s core temperature, making it harder to fall asleep.

3. Reduce light. Ambient light or light from electronic sources like tv and cell phones can delay the onset of sleep and cause issues with your body’s natural cycles. Start turning off lights as you near your bedtime and try to sleep in a darkened room.

4. Stay cool. Make sure the room is cool at bedtime. Studies have shown that the optimal sleeping temperature is 65 °F.

5. Don’t check the clock. Once in bed, avoid looking at the clock again until your morning alarm goes off. Concern over the time can impact perceptions about the quality of sleep and cause restlessness.

6. Skip the snooze button. Set your alarm as close as possible to the time you need to wake up, and then get up at that time. This will help accumulate as much uninterrupted high-quality sleep as possible.

Listening to your body is an important part of developing healthy sleep habits. “If you begin feeling tired or drowsy, start your bedtime routine immediately,” says Dr. Theophanis Pavlou, a pulmonologist and sleep medicine expert at Holy Name Medical Center. “Sticking to a routine may seem difficult at first, but within a few weeks your sleep will improve and you will feel better than ever.”

For more information or to schedule a consultation with a Holy Name sleep medicine expert, call 201-833-7260.