Enhance Your Quality of Sleep With a Sleep Routine
If you haven’t thought about creating a bedtime routine – even a simple one – and you’re frustrated with the quality of your sleep, it’s time to consider it. I know people who sometimes sleep 6 hours a night and other times, 12 hours. And, you know what? They are always tired. They lack energy, and they ask me: “If I sleep 12 hours, how can I be tired??” The answer is their sleep routine – or lack of one – is inconsistent and their body is confused.
Those people are not giving their bodies and minds the cues they need to wind down from the day and ease into luxurious sleep.
The best possible sleep – and its inherent health and vitality benefits – results when you have a bedtime routine. Establishing a sleep routine is foundational to good sleep at any age. A sleep routine can be as simple as bathing, brushing your teeth and reading a few pages in a book. A good sleep routine also includes going to sleep and rising around the same times each day.
Why You Need Consistent, Quality Sleep
The health benefits achieved by consistent, quality sleep are vast. They include:
- Reduced risk of disorders like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and obesity.
- Reduced anxiety and irritability.
- Optimal brain function.
- Removal of toxins from the body.
- A strong metabolism and immune system.
- Regulated hormones.
- Muscle recovery and repair.
Let’s face it – life can be busy and hectic. From family and work demands to exercising, cooking, cleaning and fighting traffic to get where we want to go, our days can be nonstop. Then, to wind down, we may decide to watch a TV program. Unfortunately, this exposes us to blue light, which suppresses the production of melatonin – the hormone that’s released at night and controls the sleep-wake cycle. The resulting effect is exactly the opposite of what we want and will keep us awake.
Without time to transition the body and mind into relaxation before you lie down to go to sleep, you’ll lie awake until your body and mind can relax – it will be difficult to close your eyes and calm your mind.
I’m not ruling out television. Watching a favorite comedy show can be a good thing. Studies have shown that laughter in the evening can actually stimulate the production of melatonin. However, be sure to wear blue light blocking glasses when you watch TV close to bedtime. This will ensure the production of melatonin isn’t inhibited.
Other things that can help you get the rest you need include:
- Timely exposure to light
- Preparing your sleep environment
- A consistent bedtime
- Putting your home “to bed”
- Brain dumping
Walk Mornings and Evenings
Exposure to light has a big impact on how well we sleep. A 15-minute walk in the morning and another at sunset will improve quality of sleep and help you stay asleep longer. The brighter morning sun will help wake up your body while the dimmer light of a sunset will slow the body down, preparing you for rest. Dim light also signals the brain to produce melatonin, so dim the lights in your home an hour or two before you plan to retire.
Being in nature is grounding. Walking barefoot in a park or at a beach connects you with nature and natural ways of being and sleeping.
Prepare Your Sleep Environment
The ideal temperature for sleep is 68 to 72 degrees. Modify the room temperature as needed to ensure your sleep environment meets this criterion. I suggest moisture wicking pajamas for climate control so you don’t overheat and sweat, which will definitely keep you awake.
Take a moment and “evaluate” your bedroom to see how it makes you feel. Are there paintings, photographs and mementos that make you happy? What you see before you close your eyes as well as when you wake up in the morning sets the tone for both how well you sleep and how you feel during the day. Surround yourself with things that bring you joy. When you do, you’ll be “called” to sleep and eager to start your bedtime routine.
Comfy bedding – whatever that means to you personally – is critical. Choose bedding that supports your body. Airy, buoyant, breathable pillows that are made of natural materials, such as the Talalay method of processing latex pillows, are crucial. These pillows promote temperature regulation, as well as maintain consistent density and recovery. I also like a weighted blanket. It recreates the womb setting against the skin, leaving one feeling swaddled and loved.
One other thing I consider part of a bedtime routine is making the bed each morning. It brings closure to the night’s sleep, and when we return to bed the next night, we start fresh. Unmade beds make the sleep-wake cycle continuous rather than a new beginning.
Go to Sleep and Rise Around the Same Time Each Day
An important part of a sleep routine is a consistent bedtime. If you think you’ll feel better sleeping in on a Saturday morning rather than getting up at your usual time, keep it to no more than a half hour difference. Anything more will have the opposite effect and leave you groggy.
Put Your Home to Bed
There’s more to a sleep routine than bedding, clothing and wind-down time. A sleep routine should include your home and any pets you have. Putting your home to bed before you retire can help you feel peaceful at night as well as bring you joy in the morning.
Make sure your pets are walked, fed, have gone to the bathroom and have a consistent sleep spot. All that signals to them they are down for the night. Pets that need attention at 3 a.m. wreak havoc with our quality of sleep.
I also put my kitchen to “sleep.” I make sure things are organized so there is an easy flow in the morning. You want to start your day unencumbered.
Studies show that clutter can give you anxiety so waking up to a messy kitchen can throw off your entire day. It’s unsettling. If there is clutter at night, that clutter will be there in the morning.
Knowing you are waking up to a mess may cause you to linger in bed and you may not realize it. When you have that, “I don’t want to get up” feeling, ask yourself why. What are you trying to avoid getting up to? Then you can create the peaceful, new start you desire each morning.
Brain dumping before bed is a great way to clear your mind and promote healthy sleep. Get a journal or pad of paper, and jot down anything that’s on your mind. Is something worrying you? Upsetting you? Is there a problem you’re trying to solve? Jot it down. It doesn’t need to be a long, drawn out essay. Just the essence. This puts some distance between you and the problem so you can work on it at an appropriate time. Not only that, the act of writing it down starts the process of solving the issue. This is a healthy expression of emotions and a positive communication outlet. Remember – good sleep supports problem solving; bad sleep leads to confusion.
Take Cues From Nature
Every living thing needs rest. Plants are a beautiful example. They actually go to sleep and wake up based on the rising of the sun and the moon. Just like people, plants go through physiological changes during the day. They use their internal “clock” to monitor day length and prepare for seasonal changes. During the day, plants soak up sunlight during photosynthesis. When the sun sets, other physiological processes take over, including energy metabolism and growth.
Establishing your personal sleep routine is simple and a positive step toward a great night’s sleep. The little time it takes to set up a sleep routine that works for you is worth the extraordinary benefits you’ll feel when your body and mind are recharged and you’re eager to begin each day.
Authored by Ingrid Prueher, Holistic Sleep Coach