Not everybody has an interesting bedtime routine. In fact, not everybody even has a bedtime routine. A lot of us simply flop into bed when we’re tired enough to do so. This isn’t inherently wrong, but you’re missing out on some serious potential if you don’t have a bedtime routine.
The human mind uses repetition as one of its main sources of committing things to memory. Knowing this, it’s easy to understand why a good bedtime routine is good for helping you get to sleep – your brain associates sleep with the activities, so by the time you’ve done them, you’re already tired.
However, a boring bedtime routine is nothing to look forward to. It’s good to have a routine that lets you know that you’ll spend a bit of time before you fall asleep relaxing and enjoying quiet things.
First, make sure you prepare yourself for your routine!
A few simple things can greatly improve your ability to fall asleep at night. These should be included as a prerequisite for starting your bedtime routine.
- Dim the lights. It’s much harder to fall asleep when you’re bathed in light – your body produces less melatonin, which is the hormone that helps your body fall asleep.
- Turn down the electronics! Stay off your phone, turn off the computer and TV, and go read a book by candlelight or something. Electronics produce light, too, which impedes melatonin production.
- Don’t eat for at least a couple of hours before bed. If you do, it can give you an energy spike that’ll make it hard to sleep.
Stay on schedule. This is more of a 24/7 tip that you should always remember. To really cement a bedtime routine, you need to make sure that you follow it precisely. This also means that you have to get up at the same time every day to get your body accustomed to sleeping the same amount each night.
- Keep your bed associated with two things – sleep and sex. Don’t spend a lot of time hanging out in your bed using your computer or playing video games – this reduces the association with sleep and can make it more difficult for your brain to get comfortable at night.
- Hide the clock, at least at night. If you’re the type of person who periodically glances at the clock when they’re trying to fall asleep, this can have a hugely negative impact on your ability to sleep. Counting the minutes will just make you stressed and anxious, so don’t bother!
If you think you can do all of those things – or most of them, at least – you can start making a serious routine. Consider adding some of the following activities to your nightly schedule and you’ll find it much easier to get to bed and sleep soundly.
1. Try mindfulness and breathing techniques
Mindfulness and meditation have way more benefits than just helping you get to sleep – this just happens to be one of them. Mindfulness and breathing help you focus your awareness and get rid of unnecessary thoughts. Most people don’t realize that they’re constantly being plagued by a whirlwind of thoughts about what happened that day or how they feel. Mindfulness helps you quieten this train of thought, and with a clear mind, you’re much less likely to end up lying awake at night.
2. Read a book
A lot of people’s nightly ritual is to read a few chapters of a book in bed before they fall asleep. Reading is another great way to relax your mind and get rid of unnecessary thoughts and worries.
Reading also stimulates your imagination and influences your dreams. Some people find it much easier to fall asleep if they can do so envisioning scenes from a book that they just read. It’s actually suggested that nighttime readers switch their nonfiction for fiction, because fictional books work harder to provoke the imagination.
3. Listen to some tunes
Listening to music – away from the light of your computer screen or the TV – is another great way to relax before bed.
Of course, if you’re a headbanger, it doesn’t always help to blast metal before bed (though I have managed to fall asleep to cranked-up metal a couple of times). You should consider checking out some atmospheric instrumental music – there’s plenty on YouTube, and there are dozens of playlists and videos dedicated to music that will help you fall asleep faster.
Just remember to turn the screen off after you find them!
4. Start a journal with a focus on planning & releasing
The intention of this is pretty similar to the intention behind practising mindfulness. Your aim is to clear your mind of distracting thoughts and worries.
Planning for the next day and writing it down frees your mind of unconscious worries about what you might need to do tomorrow. Or you might think of something and lie awake because you’re so concerned that you’ll forget it. Either way, it’s good to get your thoughts out onto paper.
Likewise, it’s good to release any thoughts or feelings you had about the day, even if it’s something mild, like your coworker bumping into you and not saying sorry. Just write down anything and everything you can think of before you lie down in bed, because anything that you don’t write down will float around in your head and keep you awake.
It’s best to spend a while on this – at least half an hour. Just write, nonstop. Don’t think about what you’re writing. Just try to keep it in line with releasing feelings or worries.
5. Turn the heat down – or up
This is important because your body responds to temperature in a similar way that it responds to light. When it becomes darker out, your body primes itself for sleep by producing melatonin; your body also primes itself for sleeping when it detects a lowering temperature.
It’s been shown that the ideal temperature for sleeping is between 18 and 22 degrees (65 to 72 Fahrenheit), which makes sense because that’s pretty much the best temperature for existing in, period.