Inadequate sleep is actually a health concern currently facing our society. The CDC estimates that over a third of adults don’t get as much sleep as they need, and are therefore subject to a variety of health issues. To mend this, a well crafted nighttime routine is very important to a good night’s sleep. We’ll give you a run down of the do’s and don’ts to help you maintain good health through good sleep.
What to do
First, it’s better for the body to have a routine with a set bedtime and wake up alarm in order to use your circadian rhythm, the body’s internal clock, to your advantage. It can be hard to get into this schedule, but many people that have a difficult time falling asleep use melatonin in supplement form. This naturally produced hormone regulates a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
Exercise in all its forms is the best way to tire yourself out and experience a great endorphin rush to later fall into a deep sleep. Studies show that 20 to 30 minutes of cardio a day makes people more relaxed. It’s just important that the activity is not too close to bedtime, at least 3 hours before, so the energy boost after exercise wears off before bed. To soothe those tired muscles, you can take a nice warm bath, even better if paired with an additive like epsom salt or lavender.
After tending to the body, on the way to falling asleep you want a relaxed mind. Taking a walk is a great way to clear the head, fresh air and nature is always relaxing, and can distract the mind from stressors. Walking is good for blood pressure and provides other health benefits. Meditation and breathing exercises are also a surefire way to wind down and be at peace. Other mind calming hobbies include puzzles, sudoku, coloring, painting, reading, journaling, and more. These quiet and low key activities distract the mind from anxiety and worries, providing focus on an enjoyable task. They can help keep the mind sharp, a vehicle for problem solving instead of worrying about solving your problems.
Finally, crafting the optimal environment is essential to a good sleep. Playing relaxing music can soothe the mind before bed, and it’s also super easy to find calming white noise or soundscapes on the internet or on a multitude of apps, such as rain sounds, ocean, animals, and other aspects of nature. A comfortable temperature is important, and cozy blankets, pillows and a good mattress are a necessary investment that will pay off - your wellbeing is priceless.
What to avoid
Stimulants should be off-limits before bedtime as they can prevent restful sleep, ideally no caffeine and nicotine for at least 6 hours before bed. Electronics are also a no-go, blue light from your TV, phone, computer or laptop screens have been shown to be detrimental to falling asleep. Light in general messes with the body’s natural signals that tell it when to rest and when to get up, so it’s good to keep lights dim. Light stimulates the biological clock and makes the body think it should be awake, it follows that you should let natural light in to help wake up in the morning.
When you’re craving a late night snack, try not to go for sweet and spicy foods, or too heavy of a meal for dinner. These require the digestive system to work harder, making it more difficult for the body to be at rest. It’s also important not to have too much liquid, to avoid sleep disrupted by bathroom breaks.
As for sleeping habits, napping too long or after 5 will disrupt bedtime, and while it’s tempting to sleep in for a few extra hours on the weekends, this can actually be detrimental to your sleep in the long run. It will make it harder to fall asleep that night and disrupt the optimal schedule. Even if you’re not a morning person, sticking to the same wakeup and bedtime as much as possible will actually have you feeling more rested than oversleeping. Even though sticking to a bedtime is important, trying to sleep when you’re simply not ready can stress the mind, don’t force it and just stick with relaxing activities until you’re actually tired.Whatever steps you find work best for you in a nightly routine, it's also important to try to stick to this routine. A consistent series of rituals to prepare for sleep creates habits that can train your mind and body to prepare to shut down for the day. As you progress, you’ll find falling asleep easier and easier - your sleep more restful and days more wakeful.