Experts suggest that adults need at least seven hours of sleep at night, but at least one in every three adults doesn’t get enough sleep. So, if you are having a hard time falling or staying asleep at night, you are certainly not alone. There are several reasons why quality sleep may take a hit in our daily lives. From anxiety and stress to health concerns that can affect your rest, getting some quality sleep can feel like a pipe dream.
However, good sleep is more attainable—and more important—than you may think. Lack of sleep can affect your mental, physical, and social health. Your body needs rest to recover from the stresses of the day, and when you don’t give it that, it can affect your well-being. Poor sleep can have several serious consequences, including an increased risk of developing chronic conditions, like diabetes, heart disease, depression, obesity, and high blood pressure.
If you have a hard time getting enough deep, restorative sleep regularly, establishing a bedtime routine could help. By exploring pre-bedtime habits, you can identify and address possible problem areas to promote better sleep. And best of all, your bedtime routine is entirely personalized so that you can experiment until you find something that works for you. Here are five tips to get started on building a stellar nighttime routine and why creating one can help you get the sleep you need.
1. Stay on Schedule
Like most areas of life, consistency is key to success. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day is essential to setting your circadian rhythm, which is your body’s internal clock. Circadian rhythms play a vital role in your physical and mental health for a few reasons, mainly because they help your body optimize its processes at various points throughout the day.
One of the most common sleep disorders—insomnia, or the inability to sleep—is most often caused by stress from a busy workday and personal life. Creating a bedtime routine can help combat this issue by allowing your mind and body to relax after an exciting day, especially if you do so at the same time every day. Once you establish to your body that it’s time to start relaxing, it will come to expect it and begin destressing even before you start your routine.
2. Journal It Out
Another reason why many people struggle to sleep is that their mind is still considering the things they have been working on all day or will need to continue working on the following day. Journaling is a great way to get everything off your mind. In one study that included 41 college students plagued by bedtime worries, journaling was shown to reduce bedtime worry, increase sleep time, and improve overall sleep quality.
Journaling doesn’t have to be straightforward. Not only can you write about your day and worries, but you can also include to-do lists, a brain dump page, or doodles to release any other pent-up thoughts, feelings, or worries. By taking just 15 minutes to write out your thoughts, you allow them to take up less space in your mind while still validating your feelings. By the time you’ve written everything down, you’ll be in a better frame of mind for drifting off to sleep.
3. Wind Down Early
Sometimes your body needs extra time to relax after your day, especially if you drank a lot of caffeine throughout your day or ate soon before trying to sleep. Not only should you stop drinking coffee at least six hours before your bedtime, but you should also try to eat a light meal before bed and eat healthier foods that help you sleep, like oatmeal or nuts. Foods high in sugar, coffee, and soda can all impact your ability to fall asleep at night.
Similarly, drinking alcohol before bed can delay sleep and cause insomnia. While alcohol is a depressant and can make you sleepy, the effects wear off quickly and disrupt your circadian rhythm. Plus, if you regularly drink before bed, your tolerance can increase, which will cause you to need more alcohol to reach a state of sleepiness each time you do it. To ensure the best night of sleep possible, consider cutting yourself off earlier in the day.
4. Create a Hygiene Ritual
It’s easy to fall into the habit of doing basic bedtime hygiene—like brushing your teeth, showering, and washing your face—on autopilot. However, performing these routines with more mindfulness can help your brain and body wind down after a stressful day.
To make your hygiene routine even more mindful and relaxing, consider incorporating the following things into your habits:
- Take a warm bath: Create a cozy atmosphere with bath salts, candles, and a good book an hour or two before bed to relax your muscles and mind.
- Avoid bright lights: Consider turning your lights off, dimming them, or using candles instead of your bright bathroom lights.
- Practice mindful washing: Gently wash your face or body without thinking of anything else and imagine washing away the stress of a long day.
- Turn off all electronics while getting ready for bed: The blue light produced by electronic devices can confuse your brain, which links light to daytime.
By performing these actions every night, you signal to your brain that it is time to relax and give yourself the time you need to wind down.
5. Address Sleep Issues with Your Doctor
If a new nighttime routine doesn’t seem to affect the quality of your sleep, it could be a sign of an underlying health issue, like a sleep disorder. Some of the most common sleep disorders include the following:
- Sleep apnea: Interrupted breathing during sleep
- Insomnia: Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Restless leg syndrome: Intense, irresistible urges to move the legs, often right before bed
Each of these sleep disorders leads to insufficient sleep, which can affect the quality of your life or contribute to the worsening or development of other chronic conditions. In these cases, developing a medical treatment plan is necessary to improve symptoms. However, in conjunction with a treatment plan, an established bedtime routine could further improve sleep disorder symptoms and help individuals get deeper, longer sleep and improve their everyday well-being. Reach out to your healthcare provider for more information.
A bedtime routine can help give your brain the time it needs to relax and get ready to sleep. Consider implementing these tips while creating your bedtime routine to get better sleep and feel more well-rested the following day. By creating a schedule for yourself, journaling, giving yourself plenty of time to wind down, creating a hygiene ritual, and talking to your doctor about any concerns you may have, you set yourself up for more restful sleep.