Life can move fast. It can be overwhelming, with stressors, distractions, and deadlines. There is one thing everyone can agree on: managing your sleep schedule is fundamental when it comes to physical and mental health alike. Check out seven tips to create a bedtime routine below.
Creating a Bedtime Routine
We’ve all been there. Tossing and turning, the crinkle of sheets deafeningly loud — sleep being the elusive creature it is. It doesn’t need to be this way. By following simple steps and creating a routine, you can master sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go the next day.
1. Have a Strict Sleep Schedule
The circadian rhythm, or internal clock of our bodies, dictates when we feel sleepy and when we rise. Many things can go awry with this system. One surefire way to get your rhythm in check is to set a proper bedtime and wake time. You can change it and experiment to see what works for you.
The reason this is so important is that our brains have a mind of their own. They like to follow a routine, strengthened by habits. Without these routines and habits, our brains tend to do whatever they want. By following a set sleeping schedule, your brain will know when it’s time to settle down for the day.
2. Stay Away From Screens
The prevalence of screen use is growing, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Most electronic devices, like televisions, computer monitors, and smartphones, emit blue light. This light can wreak havoc on our sleep.
This high-intensity light can keep your mind in an active state. By being in an active state, you may experience restlessness and declining sleep quality. Even though blue light may not affect how fast you fall asleep, it can affect the quality of your sleep cycle.
Exercise has countless health benefits, sleep being one of them. Not everybody has time to go to the gym every day, but home workouts are just as beneficial. Making a point of working out for 30 to 60 minutes per day can have drastic effects on your sleep quality.
One thing to note: try not to work out within two hours of bedtime. When you exercise, your body produces epinephrine (aka adrenaline). Epinephrine increases heart rate and alertness, which can interrupt sleep. It is best to avoid working out within two hours of bedtime, this will give your body adequate time to expel excess epinephrine from your system.
Meditation can be a great way to relax and manage your stress. By sitting, usually in a stationary upright position, and focusing on your breath, you can find a quietness of mind that is essential when laying down for the night. Meditation is not only a positive addition to your bedtime routine but your morning routine as well.
5. Avoid Caffeine
Coffee shops speckle the corners of every major city, serving up liquid energy — propelling us throughout our work days. Caffeine is a wonderful tool for many endeavors, but it can have severe consequences on your sleep cycle. By ceasing caffeine consumption three to six hours pre-sleep time, you can help your body properly shut down and relax.
6. Use Your Bed As Intended
As stated in the first tip, our brains can seemingly have a mind of their own. By using routines and habits, we can help our brains understand when it’s time to sleep and rise — and also where we sleep. Avoid using your bed for relaxing (when not sleeping), watching TV, browsing the internet, etc. By doing these things, we train our brains into thinking that the bed is for awake time — so use your bed for sleep and intimacy only.
7. Taking A Shower or Bath
We all know the joys of taking a warm shower after a long day of work. The hot water washes over you, relaxing you as your neck loosens and your shoulders drop. This soothing warmth can aid in putting our minds at ease and our day behind us.
A warm bath or shower can aid your body in its sleeping temperature regulation. While you sleep, your internal temperature lowers, while your external temperature rise — a warm shower can jump-start this process. Outside scientific reasons, a shower can be another habit in your routine, signaling to your brain that it’s time to sleep.
Sleep is one of the most important aspects of our well-being. Without proper sleep, conditions such as depression, anxiety, irritability, and lethargy can rear their ugly heads. In a world that is work-oriented, it can be easy to forget about sleep and take our bodies and our minds for granted. Don’t forget to take some personal time before bed, self-care if you will, and treat your sleep as important, if not more important, than your work life.
By developing bedtime routines, you can train your mind and body for increased sleep quality. So, set your alarm clock, set a dedicated sleep schedule, and treat yourself to a peaceful night’s sleep.
- American Sleep Association. “Sleep Hygiene Tips – Research & Treatments | American Sleep Assoc.” American Sleep Association, 9 Sept. 2019, sleepassociation.org/about-sleep/sleep-hygiene-tips/.
- “Working out before Bed: Is It Good or Bad for Sleep?” Healthline, 9 July 2020, healthline.com/health/working-out-before-bed#research-findings.
- Schmerler, Jessica. “Q&A: Why Is Blue Light before Bedtime Bad for Sleep?” Scientific American, Sept. 2015, scientificamerican.com/article/q-a-why-is-blue-light-before-bedtime-bad-for-sleep/.
None of those tips and tricks, except for nothing but sleep or sex in the sleep environment (stimulus regulation), will help a person who already has chronic insomnia. In fact, most tips and tricks will make chronic insomnia worse. That’s because they won’t work, and thus increase anxiety in the sleep environment while promoting fears that there may be un-diagnosed health issues (“it isn’t working for me! I might be dying my doctor didn’t find!”).
When we tell patients to use the bed for sleep or sex only, for stimulus regulation in the sleep environment, that includes lying in bed awake. Being awake in the bed trains the brain that the person *wants* to be awake in bed, and just like learning to play a chord on the guitar, the brain can repeat that. So if a person is having trouble sleeping, it’s important to get out of bed if they feel like it’s been 15-20 minutes since going to bed and they’re still awake. Important to avoid looking at clocks past bedtime, too.
Caffeine? Not really a factor for most people, and everyone knows whether or not they can drink caffeine, and when, already.
Exercise? It’s a good thing to exercise ending 45-60 minutes prior to bedtime, in a light-to-moderate range, so that when people go to bed their core cools quickly so they can get into deep sleep more quickly.
Devices? Not a factor for the majority of people, and phones and computers have blue-light shield “night time” settings.
Most of these tips and tricks are not useful for people who don’t have a predisposition to insomnia. They know what they can and can’t do, and they get good sleep. Most of the tips and tricks are not useful – could be harmful – for people with chronic insomnia.
Suggestion: If people are having trouble with getting to sleep (it takes longer than 30 minutes or so), frequent wakening, or waking too early and not getting back to sleep, they need to find a Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) provider, in person or online. CBT-I is the first line of treatment for insomnia – not sleeping pills, and not tips and tricks.