We all know that good health rests, so to speak, upon good sleep. Those precious p.m. hours allow our brains to fully reset while providing our bodies with the time required to facilitate core processes. Without high-quality sleep, we wouldn’t be able to perform the simplest daily tasks like breathing, eating breakfast or driving to work. In the long-term, poor sleep habits bring more dangerous implications, from a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer to weight gain and diabetes. So what we’re saying is, productive rest is not something you want to, well… sleep on.
But despite the fact that getting deep, productive sleep is crucial to overall health and wellness, millions of people struggle with insomnia and other sleep issues each and every night. But researchers have found that a nighttime routine — that is: everything you do in the hour or so before bed — can have a major effect on sleep quality. Getting into a consistent, healthy routine is vital to success in this realm. Here’s how to build a better bedtime routine so your body knows what to expect and is able to sink into a deep state of rest.
Set Your Bedtime —One of the most important parts of a well-devised nighttime routine is sticking to a set bedtime. In fact, one study showed that students who followed an irregular bedtime schedule regularly experienced daytime sleepiness and fatigue. But how do you set one and actually stick to it? Follow these steps.
- Set your bedtime on your phone. This will help you get to bed on time because it will automatically put your phone into do not disturb mode to help minimize distractions. Some phones have additional features, such as automatic dark mode and limited access, to help you wind down.
- Avoid any mental or physical stimulants that might delay sleep. We’re talking about the obvious things like caffeine and alcohol as well as any stress- or anxiety-inducing media that might keep you awake with a racing mind. You should also attempt to avoid screens for at least an hour before you plan to fall asleep. Creating a bedtime “no-no list,” such as the one below, can help.
- Stimulants, such as caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and sugar
- Scary or anxiety-inducing media, including articles and podcasts
- Stress-inducing conversations or work-related tasks
- Blue light, including that emitted from your smartphone screen
- Social media or online shopping that might increase heart rate
- Loud music, TV or conversations with others
- Exercise or physically rigorous tasks
- Set a reminder on your smart home speaker. Got a smart home speaker to help you with day-to-day tasks? Let it help you get ready for bed by setting a bedtime. Some devices will help you get to sleep by reminding you when it’s time to wind down. They may even play you some relaxing music.
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Create a Relaxing Environment — An easy way to trick the mind into wanting to go to bed on time is to create a sleep sanctuary that rivals the most calming hotel or spa. Transforming your sleep space into a haven of happiness and serenity will also help encourage you to feel relaxed and de-stressed when it matters the most.
- Invest in a weighted blanket. Have you tried sleeping with a weighted blanket? These cozy bed toppers are designed to wrap you in gentle pressure and are proven to help support better sleep and encourage calm.
- Create a luxury bed from pillow to sheets. Whether it’s a set of comfy sheets or a plush pillow that conforms to your specific preferences, your bedding makes a big difference in your comfort and ability to relax.
- Set your temperature. Temperature is a huge deal for all sleepers, and being too hot or too cold will prohibit you from being able to fully settle in for a productive night of rest. You can control your temperature with temperature-regulating bedding and pajamas made with materials that help keep you cool when it’s warm out and warm when it’s cool out.
- Block out light and noise. Environmental stimulation, such as loud noise or harsh light, will only prevent you from settling down on time for bed. Make sure to use blackout curtains, a sleep mask, ear plugs or a white noise machine to create a quiet, calm environment.
Practice Pre-Bed Self-Care
In addition to setting (and keeping) a regular bedtime and creating a cozy environment that makes you want to chill out, you might want to consider trying some of these bedtime self-care hacks to help ward off racing thoughts and energy that might prevent you from settling into a state of deep sleep.
- Take a bath or soak in a hot tub. This will help get the blood flowing to your muscles, which will help you physically relax and feel more comfortable when you go to lie down. Consider including a bath bomb or bath salts with lavender, chamomile, CBD and other ingredients that help you relax.
- Listen to relaxing music. Listening to calming music can help you sink into a state of serenity by quieting your racing thoughts and putting you into a more relaxed headspace. Make sure to stick to quiet, relaxing instrumentals.
- Do a whole-body scan. Starting with your eyebrows and moving downward, slowly relax each and every body part, making a conscious effort to unclench and eliminate tension in the places you didn’t even realize you were carrying it. Pay special attention to the mouth, jaw, neck and shoulders.
- Go easy on yourself. Being stressed about getting enough sleep is counter to the cause and will only toss you into a cycle of worry. Be patient with yourself and don’t get too stressed out if you don’t immediately fall asleep.
Now Stick to It!
Once you’ve developed a realistic regimen that ticks all of the most important boxes to help you unwind and prepare for sleep, it’s time for the most important task — committing to following it! A good bedtime routine is only as impactful as your ability to follow it, so make sure it’s attainable and easy to stick with.