Most of us have a morning routine. A set of activities designed to get us ready for the day and maximise that precious time between our alarm sounding and us leaving the door. But how many of us have an evening routine? Those regular actions that gets our bodies and minds settled and ready for sleep? My guess is that it’s nowhere near as many.
We now know just how important a good night’s sleep is, both for our physical and mental health. But conversely, as a society we have never slept worse. If you sleep like a baby every night, lucky you. But, if like me you don’t, a pre-bedtime routine could be just the solution to your nighttime woes. Don’t know where to start? Well, don’t worry – first of all, see what the experts recommend for getting a good sleep. Next, get yourself an evening routine by following these three easy steps. You’ll be elected Mayor of Sleepytown before you know it.
I know we all dream of living a Mediterranean lifestyle, eating late and staying up chatting until the early hours over a carafe or two of wine. However, in reality most of us have a busy morning full of meetings to face. And one sure-fire way of messing up your sleep is eating a heavy meal too close to la-la land. Fatty foods and large meals especially give the digestive system a lot of work to do. And with all that activity going on below, it can be hard for your body to get itself into a relaxed state.
So, skip the supersized suppers and try to give yourself at the very least two hours between any large meals and the time you lay your head down. If you do get peckish before bed try and tame your cravings with some low impact ‘sleep promoters’ like a banana, some nuts or a little wholemeal toast.
Now, as an adult it’s unlikely you’ve ever actually wet the bed, but I’m sure you’ve woken up the middle of night dying for the loo and trying to fight it. We all have. But all that getting up to go to the bathroom, switching on lights etc, completely disrupts our sleep cycle and in effect we have to start the whole process of trying to get to sleep all over again. What a nightmare! So give yourself and your bladder a break – wind down your liquid intake in the hour or so before you head to bed.
Hydration is of course key to a healthy lifestyle; but try to drink more during the day and as you get closer to bed, move from downing whole glasses of water to having a sophisticated sip or two. And while we are it: this definitely means avoiding anything caffeinated like coffee and tea. It also means skipping that glass of beer or wine. While you may have been conditioned by TV to think that a nice glass of red on the couch helps you to relax, alcohol should never be treated as a sleep aid. It may help you to nod off initially but it won’t lead to a deep and fulfilling sleep.
Tune out the modern world
I’ve saved the best and hardest addition to your new pre-sleep routine until last. Screens. Ban them. They are the devil when it comes to sleep – whether they’re attached to your TV, laptop or mobile. It’s a hard addiction to break but staying plugged in until the moment you go to bed is bad for you, not just for your sleep but also for your mental health. Your bedroom should be treated as a zen palace of sleep, not as an office or cinema. Checking work emails, frantically refreshing your newsfeed or even watching ‘just one more episode’ of the newest ‘unmissable’ binge-fest show, are all keeping your brain hyperactive at the very time you want it to be least active.
What’s more, the blue light emitted by most devices has been designed to mimic daylight, and for thousands of years of human evolution daylight meant one thing – time to wake up and start hunting and gathering. So it’s no wonder your monkey mind is confused. Some devices now come equipped with ‘night’ modes, which change the light the screen emits to colours that are a little more conducive to sleep. If your phone or laptop has this, definitely use it – but better yet, simply turn off your device an hour before bed. After all, checking social media one more time before bed won’t change your life. But a good night’s sleep could. So ditch that newsfeed and start a new book instead!
That’s all, folks – three simple changes to your bedtime routine that could mean the difference between a nightmare sleep or a great night’s sleep. What do you to do unwind in the evenings? Please share your advice in the comments below.