How to create a better bedtime routine
Madeleine Hawkes, Weight Loss Expert
PGCert Obesity & Weight Management
BSc (Hons) Nutrition and Dietetics,
BSc (Hons) Psychology
In our last article, we explored why getting enough sleep is vitally important for our health, wellbeing, and weight maintenance.
Our lives are often a little chaotic just before bed. We may have children to settle, dishwashers to load, a few more emails to send, and a whole load of other worries on our minds – all of which make getting to sleep difficult. In this article, we’re going to share our tips for creating a bedtime routine to support a good night’s sleep.
Setting up a healthy sleep schedule & sticking to it
Life can be hectic, a combination of work and family commitments, social engagements, and life admin can make it hard to establish (and stick to) a healthy sleep schedule. Going to bed and getting up at the same time each day – regardless of whether it is a weekday or a weekend – reinforces our circadian rhythm. It’s important that we don’t run on empty during the week and have a long lie-in on weekends to catch up with sleep.
Reducing screen time
The onset of darkness at night sends a cue to our brains to increase the production of melatonin – the hormone that encourages sleep. Exposure to artificial light (especially blue light) at night can block melatonin production, causing us to feel more awake.
While digital electronic devices emit blue light, the latest research suggests that the light from our phones is not enough to disrupt sleep. Interacting with our devices before going to bed, however, can affect our ability to sleep well afterwards.
Avoiding alcohol at bedtime
Whilst it’s often thought that alcohol helps us sleep, this is only partly true. Alcohol acts as a sedative and therefore can help us to get to sleep, however, it can impact the quality of our sleep. Regularly drinking alcohol before bed can lead to chronic sleep disturbance and poor sleep quality in the long term. We recommend not drinking alcohol before bed too often to improve your sleep quality.
Winding down & reducing stress
After a long day you may have a lot on your mind like unfinished tasks on your to-do list, work worries or relationship issues. Often people find that the only time they speak to their partners or friends is just before bed – having important conversations with them at this time can stimulate the brain and reduce our ability to sleep.
Try to set aside some time to do something relaxing as you near bedtime. This could be meditation, breathing exercises, listening to calming music, practising a nightly skincare routine, reading, or simply taking some time in bed to practise gratitude or journal. Keep a notebook by your bed to note down any worries or things you need to do. Getting them out of your head and onto paper can help your overactive mind let go of recurring thoughts that are causing stress, allowing you to have a more restful night’s sleep.
Another good way to relax before bed is to have a warm bath or shower. This reduces our core body temperature which helps our body enter a state of relaxation by slowing our heart and breathing rates, lowering blood pressure and promoting digestion.
Using a scent which you associate with sleep can also help our brains begin the wind-down process – this could be part of your bathing routine or a pillow mist. You can also use a different scent in the morning to help you wake up.
The space we sleep in needs to be a place of calm, serenity and relaxation – we want to feel safe, untroubled and able to rest at the beginning of our sleep cycle. Take the time to make your bedroom quiet, by shutting doors or using ear plugs. Make your bed as comfy as possible, get a comfy mattress, supportive pillows, and clean, non-irritating bed linen. Keep your room relatively cool (the optimum temperature is around 18 degrees) and ventilated. Try to separate the space you sleep in from other daytime activities – avoid working or eating in bed for example.
Take Action ⚡
Over the next week or so, implement some of these ideas into your bedtime routine and see which ones work best for you. If you can, go to bed at the same time every evening and set your alarm for the same time every morning (even on weekends). Consistency is key to lasting behavioural change so stick to your routine if you want to have a more meaningful impact on your sleep quality in the long run.
In the next article we’ll look at how our daytime habits can also impact our shut eye and what we can do about it.
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