Demands of modern life and increased work stress is leading to a rise in sleep deprivation across the globe. In Hong Kong alone, 57% of the adult population gets insufficient sleep. If you fall into this statistic, creating a good bedtime routine is one of the simplest and most effective ways of helping you drift off into a great night’s sleep.
Bedtime routines are a set of activities that you can perform every night to help you transition into dreamland. You can tailor these activities to fit your schedule and personal preferences, but every activity should be designed to help you unwind and relax, and you should perform them in the same order each night for the best results.
Why is a bedtime routine important?
A bedtime routine is important for a couple of reasons:
1. Repeating the same set of behaviours every night establishes a ‘sleep habit’ which tells your brain that it’s time to sleep.
2. You need to be in a relaxed state to help you enter sleep mode. Sleep initiation insomnia, which is the scientific name to describe the difficulty in falling asleep, is extremely common.
One of the main factors for this is stress and anxiety from a busy day. Following a bedtime routine, alleviates an overactive mind and encourages you to relax instead, which in turn helps you to fall asleep.
What should I include in my bedtime routine?
Good bedtime routines come in many different shapes and sizes so you’ll have to figure out what works best for you because practice makes perfect, but to get you started we’ve listed a few ideas and tips for inspiration:
Choose a bedtime and stick to it!
Following a consistent schedule, which means going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, is crucial for high quality sleep. This is because your body knows exactly what time it is, as well as when you should be awake and when you should be asleep.
Disrupting your sleeping patterns actually works against your internal body clock, which in turn makes it difficult for your body to know when to sleep. The first step in designing your routine should be to figure out a bedtime and start the first steps of your routine around 30 or 60 minutes before this time.
Turn off all gadgets
It’s estimated that more that 90% of us check a technological device in the hour before bed. TV is the most popular, but those under the age of 30 are more likely to check their phones. This makes it extremely difficult to drift off as the light emitted from these devices blocks melatonin production, which is the hormone responsible for the onset of sleep.
Checking emails and messages also has the added detriment of inducing stress, not the ideal state to be in before sleeping. Try avoiding all electronic devices at least an hour before you sleep. You should also dim the lights.
Drop the Temperature
Core body temperature naturally dips in the evening, which helps to initiate melatonin production. If you’re too hot in the evening, you interfere with this natural process by causing reduced melatonin levels, which then makes it difficult to sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends setting your thermostat between 16-19 degrees for optimal sleep.
Also, steer clear of activities that will raise your core body temperature. Exercise is a great stress-buster but try avoiding going for a run or lifting weights before you sleep. If you do want to some exercise to calm down in the evening, practice yoga or light stretching. One study conducted by the Harvard Medical School Study found that regular yoga practice increases total sleep time, improves sleep efficiency and reduces insomnia.
Writing / Reading
Putting pen to paper in the evening is one of the best ways to eliminate racing thoughts. Journaling can help you organise your thoughts and feelings before sleep, and writing a to-do list of tasks that need completing the next day can help to reduce stress.
Reading is also a common aspect of a bedtime routine and helps with the sleep process, but it’s probably best steer clear of thrillers and suspense novels!
Drink Something warm
While you don’t want to drink too much in the evening and wake up in the night to go to bathroom, a cup of tea or glass of tart cherry juice is a great way to stay hydrated and prepare for sleep. Tart cherry juice is abundant in melatonin and recent studies have examined its effectiveness in treating insomnia.
Chamomile tea, which is rich in the antioxidant apigenin, has also been used for centuries to treat sleep disorders.
Soak in the Tub
Pouring yourself a hot bath at the end of the day is not only a great way to relax, it also lowers your core body temperature. This may seem counterintuitive but a warm bath or shower stimulates the thermoregulatory system, causing blood to rush from your core to the surface of your skin. This removes body heat and drives your body temperature down.
Pro tip: combine your bath with aromatherapy or magnesium bath salts to relieve all tension in your muscles. Magnesium has been shown to relive anxiety and depression, and promote sleep.
Let us know if you have any tips for a great bedtime routine!