Bedtime routine tips
Updated: Oct 7, 2020
It’s getting late, you’ve had a long day, and now you’re ready to sleep. Walking down the hall, you climb into bed expecting to be engulfed in sweet dreams, only to find sleep eludes you once again. You toss and turn thinking it shouldn’t be this hard and wonder if there’s anyway to make it better. Sound familiar? Many of us struggle with sleep, but often fail to look at our routines before bedtime that can lead to our disrupted slumber. This article will cover some tricks and tips that you try to help you nod off peacefully at the end of the day.
1. Put your phone away
Many of us have developed the habit of feeling we need to be constantly glued to our phones – even just before bed. With social media, games, Netflix and work emails to keep us occupied, it is easy to see why we find it hard to put the devices down. But looking at devices such as our phones or computers before bed can be detrimental to our sleep patterns due to the blue light emitted from the screens. Blue light stimulates our brains and supresses melatonin – the hormone that helps to make us sleepy – instead telling us to wake up and keep our brains active. Some experts even recommend ditching the devices three hours before your bedtime to ensure your natural rhythms are kept in check! So, if a good nights sleep is what you’re after, it might be time to trade Candy Crush for a book or scrolling through Instagram to flicking through the pages of a newspaper instead.
2. Keep your bedroom associated with sleep
Similar to the above point, your bed should be used only for sleeping to help strengthen the association of location-action in your brain. Avoid working, watching movies or eating in bed as this encourages your brain to link other actions to where you later want to rest your head for the night. Instead keep these activities to other parts of the house – the kitchen or lounge – heading up to bed only when you are ready for lights out.
3. Avoid eating or drinking too close to bedtime
With our day-to-day so busy, it can be hard to make time to sit down for a good meal. Often we leave it till the end of our day, gulp down dinner and then head off to bed. However eating so close to bedtime, fuels our body with energy, but leaves nowhere for it to go. As we sleep we move into our parasympathetic system, also know as rest and digest – so our metabolism slows right down in response to sleep. This can make it hard for our bodies to process and digest large meals; especially those that are carb based or consist of highly processed food. Food and drink that is high in sugar and/ or caffeine also provide us with a quick energy boost and stimulate our brain – which is not going to help us switch off when our head hits the pillow. If you find yourself a little peckish as you head off to head, try eating foods such as bananas and nuts (high in potassium and magnesium which help aid deep sleep), or even a glass of milk or a few spoons of yoghurt as calcium aids in melatonin production. Cherries are also naturally high in melatonin, so keep a bottle of cherry juice in your fridge for a nice refreshing bedtime drink.
4. Try meditation
If you are still finding it tough to drift off to sleep at night, try a quick meditation or breathing exercise. Meditation can help to centre and calm your mind, slowing your breathing and heart rate down to a resting state. When meditating try to focus on your breath – emphasising each stage of the in and out breath. An effective, simple meditation is to try box breathing. Breathe in for a count of four seconds and then hold for a count of four seconds. Repeat in reverse by breathing out for a count of four seconds and then holding for another count of four seconds before breathing in again. Alternatively, if focusing on breathing isn’t your thing – try counting backwards from 500. Every time you muck up, or forget where you are, go back to the start. You might just find that your eyelids start to get heavier and heavier every number closer to zero that you get.
5. Reassess how much stress is occurring in your day
A good night’s sleep doesn’t just rely on the activities you complete 30 minutes prior to heading to bed. Instead, a restful sleep comes as the result of a number of small actions performed throughout the day to put you in the right headspace for peaceful, uninterrupted dreams. If you are finding sleep harder to come by, ask yourself what stressors you have got in your life right now, and what can you do to minimise them. Mental stress causes an increase in the hormone cortisol, which can negatively affect an individual’s sleeping patterns – whereas in contrast, physical stress can have a positive effect on sleep, releasing those feel good hormones after a bout of exercise. So if a good night’s sleep is what you’re after, make sure you move your body throughout the day, and do what you can to minimise other stressors in your life.