One of the most crucial parts of getting a good night's sleep is nailing the before bed routine. If you take the right steps, you can help your mind and body prepare for a restful night and give yourself the best possible chance of sleeping soundly until morning.
In this blog post, we're going to discuss why your bedtime routine is so important and take you through five steps for winding down and quickly drifting off to sleep. Read on to find out more.
Why is a bedtime routine important?
According to the National Sleep Foundation
, our bodies need a regular routine to be able to function properly through the day, and it's this daily rhythm that ensures we're alert in the mornings, hungry at lunchtime, and tired when it gets dark. From birth, we begin to tune our body clock, and it's vital that we do everything possible to keep to a healthy tempo as we get older.
Getting a solid night's sleep serves an important role in our daily lives as it's the time our body can rest and repair itself. In the same way you can train your body to expect food at a certain time, you can use an evening routine as a signal that it's time to get some shut eye. Once you get into a certain pattern before bed, your internal body clock will adapt, and you'll be naturally ready for sleep.
How to wind down and get better sleep
There are, however, a few things you can incorporate into your bedtime routine to give you the best chance of deep, restorative sleep, and we're going to look at them below.
1. Eat and drink well through the day
The food and drink you consume through the day can have a big impact on how you sleep at night, as we discussed in a previous blog post.
For instance, the effects of a caffeinated beverage can remain in your system for a long time, so from lunchtime onwards you may wish to rethink any strong coffees or energy drinks you were planning on having, or you may still be alert come evening.
You should also avoid drinking large quantities of water too close to bedtime as it can force you to go to the toilet and break your sleep cycle. Instead, aim to rehydrate through the day and reduce the amount you're drinking in the evening.
2. Don't bring your work home
When you're trying to relax in the evening, the last thing you want to be thinking about is those figures you need to calculate or organising that stock take — doing so is a one-way ticket to a sleepless night. By maintaining a divide between your job commitments and your home life, you'll be able to leave all the associated stresses at the door of your workplace.
While it can be easy to say you'll keep your job away from home, in our age of telecommuting and smartphones, it's now harder than ever before to stop work following you home. Boost your chances of getting it right by reading these tips
from the Guardian, which will help you manage your workload.
3. Limit your exposure to screens
Though it can be tempting to watch the TV, browse social media, or play video games right up until bedtime, it's more beneficial to switch off with plenty of time to spare. This is because the bright blue light emitted from LED screens on electronic devices is a sleep disruptor that fools your brain into thinking that it's still daytime, so you won't feel sleepy when it’s time to shut your eyes.
Try to make your bedroom a screen-free zone to counteract the disruption posed by blue light. If you use your phone to read before bed, most phones now have an option to filter out the light from your screen to limit its effect on your brain. If your phone doesn't have this feature, there are plenty of apps available that can achieve this.
4. Enjoy a relaxing activity before bed
A good alternative to looking at a screen in the run up to bedtime is to partake in a relaxing activity. This could be reading one of your favourite books, taking a long bath, carrying out a spot of meditation, or even getting in a quick workout — whatever helps you remove the stress from your mind and relax. If you're starting a fresh winding down routine to boost your sleep, you could even use the opportunity to try out a new activity and expand your horizons.
5. Make a list (if need be)
If you're one of those people who finds it difficult to get to sleep because you're always worrying about what tomorrow will bring, a recent study
published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology has found that writing a to-do list can help to destress your mind and encourage sleep. During their research, they found that those who wrote up a list fell asleep an average of nine minutes earlier.
The thinking behind the exercise was that the list helps you to unload your thoughts, helping you to avoid going over them again and again in your head. The list also provides a level of reassurance in that you're less likely to forget your tasks in the morning. So, try making a to-do list and you may find it's the secret to a worriless night's rest.
Hopefully, you find our five steps to winding down on an evening useful and they help to improve the quality of your sleep. Got any questions about the science of sleep? Then be sure to get in touch with our sleep experts. Or, head to our blog and advice centre for more information.