You feel tired all day, you struggle to concentrate at work, your whole evening is spent looking forward to bedtime, and then you get under the covers, and …nothing. Despite your mind concentrating on sleep ALL DAY, you finally get in bed and can’t switch off.
As children, our parents set up a bedtime routine. Yet, we somehow lost this as adults. Regardless of age, a bedtime routine has great value in helping us to relax and get ready for sleep. With this in mind, we’re going to help you create a great routine today!
Importance of a Bedtime Routine
Firstly, the value of a bedtime routine comes in winding down the brain for sleep. Life is hectic, right? We’re working long hours, trying to socialize with friends, worrying about bills, making sure children get to after-school clubs, and more. Unfortunately, there’s no ‘sleep’ switch that instantly makes us drift off.
Take a look at what you’re doing in the hour or so before bedtime. If you’re staring at a phone or even doing housework, you might have struggle sleeping. For children, they find it difficult to sleep after playing video games or rushing to get homework done during this time.
Rather than moving from an activity that has the brain and/or body engaged to sleep, you need to introduce a transition period. Here, you’ll calm the mind and relax the body.
Introducing a Bedtime Routine (Adults)
Later, we’ve got some tips for bedtime routines in children, but first we want to talk about adults. In this key 30 minutes or hour before sleep, here are some things you can do to calm the mind and prepare for a good sleep.
Listen to Music - Have you ever just listened to music with your eyes closed? If you haven’t, you’re missing out and you might just see another side to your favorite artists. Additionally, we know that 70% of our bodies is water and the vibrations from music impacts us physiologically. Thanks to the research of Dr Masaru Emoto on frozen water molecules, we know that soothing music helps us to feel relaxed.
Now, we aren’t going to suggest specific music here because we don’t want you to listen to something you won’t enjoy. Think about your favorite genre, try different artists, and test new music over time.
Read a Book - This is actually a tricky one because you don’t want something that will engage the brain too much, otherwise you’ll be in the same position as if you we’re playing video games or staring at your phone. Instead, we recommend something light and easy to read. Perhaps a good biography or something around one of your hobbies or interests?
Wear Your Pajamas - This might sound obvious but putting on your pajamas an hour before bed tells the mind and body to relax and get ready for sleep. In addition to this, we recommend keeping your bed for sleep only (don’t climb into bed wearing work or casual clothes because you’ll only confuse the mind!).
Plan for Tomorrow - Often, we can’t get to sleep because we’re thinking about tomorrow’s mountainous to-do list. Therefore, we recommend listing the three most important tasks; write them down. If you can remove the decision-making process, there’s less stress on the day itself.
There’s actually a scientific theory called ‘ego depletion’ where our willpower reduces over the course of the day as we make decisions. As a result, the chance of us actually doing the activities fall. If we make decisions in advance, there’s less that can go wrong, so write down some tasks and goals for tomorrow.
Keep a Journal - While on the topic of writing, journals are often mistaken for children’s diaries. Yet, they actually have brilliant value. Rather than writing about school and crushes, fill your journal with reflections, feelings, and impressions of the day. It might feel a little awkward at first, but you’ll eventually get used to seeing your life on a page (and you’ll clear the mind for sleep!).
Lay Out Tomorrow’s Clothes - Back to the idea of ego depletion, why not remove another of tomorrow’s decisions by laying out clothes ready for the morning? Again, this is another concern gone and you won’t have to worry about a mad rush after waking.
In the small window before work, we often find ourselves worrying about that presentation, what to wear, making lunch, checking the oil in the car, and lots more. The more you can prepare in advance, the easier you’ll find it to sleep because your mind isn’t filled with all these tasks.
Switch Off the WiFi - What started as a luxury has now turned into a necessity, but you can regain control. Why struggle to resist temptation when you can eliminate the temptation completely? Being connected with friends and family is great, but there’s a time and place. If your WiFi is off, you can’t watch random YouTube videos and your emails can wait until morning.
Think about the things you do during this hour before sleep, we reckon the majority can be done in the morning. If there happens to an emergency, they’ll find a way to get to you.
Treat Yourself - After a long day of emails, stressful colleagues, and answering calls, allow yourself to a treat in the evening. Maybe not in the hour before bed but watching some TV or a good film allows you to take your mind off work and get yourself into ‘home’ mode. Work’s over, no need to think about it until the next morning.
Practice Mindfulness - For some reason, mindfulness has a reputation for just meditation, but there is so much more to it. With mindfulness, the idea is to be present in the moment and aware of the thoughts and feelings that drift into view. By gently pushing them away and focusing only on the moment, it’s possible to remove any concerns about the past or future.
If you’re someone who struggles to clear the mind, this is perfect for you. Suddenly, your head will hit the pillow without your mind jumping from one regret to the other.
Evaluate Your Today - Returning to the idea of reflection, look back over the day and evaluate. Did you accomplish the three tasks from the previous night? What went well? What went poorly? If we can learn a lesson from something that didn’t go to plan, we can progress and forget the failure.
Write Down Three Events - You might hear advice to write down things for which you’re grateful, but we’re also big believers in writing down three events in general. What happened today? Imagine your grandchildren will sit down and read this in 20, 30, 40 years. While writing them down, there’s no need to make a judgement on them.
Whether good or bad, a few months down the line you can look back and have a history book to your life. Depending on how much you’re enjoying it, you could even summarize each month and year. While some events you write will be insignificant, others may just change the course of your life (and the life of your grandchildren!).
Another benefit of doing this is that you become more self-aware of the things happening around you on a daily basis.
Drink Water - Did you know that dehydration can cause sleep problems? Also, the fact that you feel ‘thirsty’ means that you’re already dehydrated. As well as staying hydrated throughout the day, we recommend introducing a new rule; have one glass of water before bed and one first thing in the morning.
Create the Right Environment - To sleep effectively, our bodies need the right conditions and environment. As well as silence and darkness, we also need it to be cool. We recommend looking into cooling pillows, mattresses and sheets so that you aren’t sweating away your nights. Furthermore, consider sleeping masks and pillows; during summer, you might even want a fan.
Only Eat Light Foods - If we’ve learned anything from those who eat heavy meals after 9pm, it’s that they don’t have a good sleep schedule. Just like drinking and walking the line, it’s something we think we can do…until the moment comes and we’re wide awake staring at the ceiling.
When you eat too late in the day, the stomach is still working overnight, and the body doesn’t get the rest it needs while we sleep. Suddenly, sleep quality falls and we wake up feeling just as tired as we did the night before. If you do one thing this evening, eat dinner earlier and watch how differently you feel in the morning.
Exercise Earlier - Along with food, we also shouldn’t exercise too late because the body will remain alert even as we lie in bed. Try to introduce a new schedule with exercise in the morning or afternoon and relaxation before bed.
Introduce a Specific Bedtime - Remember when you would go to bed after the same TV show every single night as a child? Our parents knew what they were doing. By sticking to a routine, your body clock stabilizes, and it will know when you do and don’t need energy. Rather than always feeling a little tired, you can use maximum effort for work and exercise and then reserve your tiredness for when you don’t need energy.
According to many studies, most of us stick between 50% and 60% active energy; we’ve got enough energy to get through the day, but we can never really reach our potential. If the mind and body are trained to shut down after 10:30pm, for example, you will have more energy throughout the day. The BEST way to get started is by using the same bedtime.
Focus on Sleep Cycles - Finally, we all go through sleep cycles when we sleep, and each tends to last around 90 minutes. After 90 minutes, a new cycle begins. If you want to wake up without feeling tired, it’s best to do so at the end of a given cycle.
To start, we recommend setting your alarm after 7.5 or 9 hours since this is likely to be at the end of a cycle. These days, there are some fantastic apps that will calculate your sleeping pattern and wake you at the right time each morning. If you set a window (so you aren’t late for work!), it will wake you at the best opportunity during this window.
Work on Your Hobby - Hobbies are wonderful because they’re the manifestation of what we want to spend our time on while on this beautiful planet. We’re forced to work; we aren’t forced into hobbies. Before sleep, work on something you love; this is sometimes called a ‘passion project’. Even if it’s just 20 minutes per evening, you’ll get a sense of accomplishment and go to bed feeling great.
Meet Up with Loved Ones - Although we all take on life alone, there are people who make each day easier. If you can spend time with those you love after a hard day, all your worries will disappear, and you’ll find it easier to sleep. Depending on who you see, you might even have an opportunity to rant and share all your problems (a problem shared is a problem halved, remember!).
Introducing a Bedtime Routine (Children)
For many parents, getting children into a bedtime routine and asleep is one of the biggest challenges of early parenthood. We know that children need plenty of sleep, but they don’t understand this and would normally rather do anything but sleep. We recommend finding a balance between structure and relaxation.
Just like adults, there needs to be a routine, but you also need to allow them time to relax so they aren’t going from running around to their bed. Also, simplicity is important because, from start to finish, the routine should be short.
- Brush teeth
- Read a book
- Go to bed
On some nights, this will include a bath and we also recommend putting on pajamas some time before bed so that they know it’s coming. Of course, there’s no magic formula either so you might sing a song rather than read a book. As long as you’re consistent from one night to the next, this is absolutely fine.
Considering sleep is so important in life, it’s sad that so many Americans struggle and don’t receive enough on a nightly basis. While some are lucky enough to fall asleep as soon as their head reaches the pillow, others spend hours tossing and turning just trying to get some rest.
We aren’t promising a resolution to all your problems, but a consistent bedtime routine is a great start. To get enough sleep, and wake up feeling energized in the morning, it’s worth the change in lifestyle because it won’t cause any harm even if it takes some time to work.
Try to introduce one or two tips from the list tonight and see how you get on!