Sleep is vital to our wellbeing. But it can be easy to let other activities take over precious sleep‑time so we don’t get the rest we need. If you’re not waking up feeling refreshed, consider starting some of these pre‑slumber habits to transition you into sleep mode.
Get your bedroom ship-shape
Your bedroom, bed and bedding play a big part in how you feel about turning in for the night. You can improve your bedtime experience by making sure that your bedroom is tidy and clutter-free, it’s not too warm, and there is some fresh air circulating.
It’s also a good idea to only use your bedroom for sleeping and sex. This helps your brain associate the bedroom with just those two things. The only concession should be if you find it relaxing to read a book in bed before you go to sleep.
Go to bed at the same time every night
One of the best things you can do is pick a time to go to bed and stick to that time. By doing this regularly you train your body and mind to get ready for bed. Sometimes we do have good reasons to stay up late, but if you’re struggling with sleep issues try to keep to a constant sleep pattern.
A great way to increase your chances of following through on this is to create an intention, for example: “To feel my best tomorrow, I need to sleep for eight hours. I want to get up at 7, so I need to go to bed by 10.30.” (Give yourself a margin of 20 to 30 minutes before you fall asleep.)
Steer clear of screens
Many people love their electronic devices, but it’s a good idea not to use them during the hour before going to bed. This is because they can affect us in ways that make it harder to settle down to sleep. Here’s why you should switch off your TVs, tablets, smartphones, laptops, or other devices an hour before bedtime:
- They can stimulate your brain. Watching an exciting program on TV or playing a competitive game can excite the mind at a time when you should be getting sleepy.
- Checking social media, emails, and the news can cause worry and stress.
- The light from the screens can affect your body clock, suppressing the release of the sleep‑inducing hormone melatonin. If you don’t want to switch off your device, use a blue light filter (click here to access f.lux, a free software download that blocks blue light wavelengths and can dim screens).
Avoid caffeine after lunch
Caffeine is in coffee, tea, chocolate, and some soft drinks. It’s a stimulant that people all over the world consume to give them a boost in energy, especially first thing in the morning. It works by blocking sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain and increasing adrenaline production.
Because you may still feel the effects of caffeine for four to six hours after consumption, it’s best to avoid it in the hours leading up to your bedtime. Try one of these calming herbal teas instead:
- Slippery elm bark
- Lemon balm
Take a note of any worries and reminders
Do you sometimes lie in bed thinking about things you have to do the next day? If your to-do lists and other worries keep you from nodding off, try writing them down. That way you give your brain permission to stop thinking about them and you can relax.
It’s also not uncommon to worry about getting to sleep in itself! If you find that this happens to you, it can help to do some relaxation or breathing exercises to distract yourself. Or, you could try listening to a guided meditation. If you use this time to let go and relax, your inability to sleep doesn’t turn a major issue.