Want to sleep longer – and healthier? Time for a bedtime reboot!
Sometimes getting a good night’s sleep can feel like a race – racing to get everything done that needs to get done so we can get to bed at a decent hour. But there’s always one more load of laundry or an email marked urgent or – fill in your own blank here – that’s a must-do before light’s out. But the truth is, the path to a good night’s sleep is anything but a race. It’s more of a slowing down, a conscious decision to step off the hamster wheel and let the world carry on without us for a few hours. The trouble is, getting to that path is different for everyone.
When we sacrifice our sleep for those must-do’s we suffer. Without enough time to repair and recharge, our brains and bodies are at risk. Our mind is unable to focus (or relax), which can lead to accidents and, in extreme cases, risk of disease and death. If you’ve been unsuccessfully chasing a good night’s sleep recently, it might be time for a revamp of your pre-bedtime activities.
Better bedtime routines to start tonight
1. Set an alarm for bedtime. Most people set an alarm to help them get up in the morning but consider doing this in the evening too. A bedtime alarm serves as a reminder to make going to bed earlier a priority.
2. Ban electronics from your bedroom. This is a universal rule among sleep experts. They agree that blue light from tablets, laptops and smartphones interferes with falling asleep because it suppresses melatonin, an essential hormone for sleep.
The blue light emitted from screens dramatically decreases melatonin, a major sleep-inducing hormone. Its production is stimulated when we’re exposed to natural light during the day and released when it’s dark. With all the screen time we experience, most of us are chronically melatonin deprived and our sleep suffers as a result.
To improve melatonin levels, decrease screen time especially in the 90 minutes before bed, and, if you must be exposed to screens and artificial lights later in the evening, wear blue light blocking glasses. They have tremendous benefits in terms of improving melatonin levels, decreasing eye fatigue and improving sleep. Come morning, spend 10-15 minutes outside being exposed to natural light. This will kick start your melatonin production.
3. Use blackout blinds. Many people report that sleeping in a totally dark room improves sleep qualityand makes it easier to fall asleep at night. If you sleep with a partner who likes to read (or watch TV) into the wee hours of the night, opt for an eye mask. Designs differ greatly from mask to mask – one size does not fit all. You’ll want one that doesn’t put significant pressure on your eyes. Some are contoured so the mask doesn’t sit directly against the skin. Other sleepers may prefer that, so you’ll have to see what suits you. Some online retailers offer money-back guarantees so you can bed-test a few different types.
4. Avoid the 3 sleep-killer taboos. Drinking coffee after 2 pm, eating within 3 hours of bedtime and exercising within 3 hours of bedtime are sleep thieving activities. They stimulate the body instead of relaxing it and may interfere with falling asleep and staying asleep.
5. Embrace the 1-hour wind down. Can you wake up groggy and jump straight into high-level math? Absolutely not. So let’s apply that same logic to falling asleep. Take an hour to prep for bed. In the first 20 minutes, begin to close out the day by getting ready for tomorrow. One way to do that is journaling to help silence anxious thoughts from the day that may be swirling around in your head.
Every night, simply fill an entire page with your thoughts. Don’t worry about what to write. Don’t overthink it. Use a stream of thought to download what’s in your brain, allowing you to fall asleep with a calm mind.
The second 20 minutes is for sleep hygiene. Warm showers are especially good because they calm you and prepare your body for sleep. For the final 20 minutes, just relax. Read a book of fiction or not too taxing non-fiction – an old fashioned paper one, not on an e-reader. Meditate. Listen to soothing music. Or find your own, unique way to relax. It will pay off!
Rest well & wake up ready to go!
Better sleep gives rise to better mornings, bringing your goals into focus and dreams within reach. Hungry for more sleep info? Dig into these posts: