How To Create A Better Sleep Routine
Some of us find it easy to wind down for bed at the right time and get a decent quality sleep - but for others it's not so simple.
Sleep is so important and at the same time, so underrated as a health tool. It really underpins everything to do with health and wellness as a basic human need. If we don't get enough sleep we can crave different foods to boost our energy, we may struggle with motivation to exercise, and it can cause difficulties with focus and concentration as we go about our day.
Each night we should be getting around 7-8 hours of sleep. But it's not just the quantity of sleep we want. We also need quality sleep - so that we wake up feeling well-rested and re-energised for the next day ahead.
Here are some ideas to help you create a better sleep routine for yourself.
Assign 'wind down' time
Plan your bed time and be strict with it consistently. At least 30 minutes beforehand, begin your wind down process; have a plan in place so you will feel adequately relaxed by the time your head hits your pillow.
When babies are born, we spend so much time thinking about their sleeping behaviour and patterns, creating routines to help them drift off to sweet dreams - but we don't go to the same effort for ourselves! If you don't already have a routine and you're struggling with your sleep, it's time to get it sorted!
Create your comfy bedroom
Environment can contribute a lot to your sleep duration and quality. Are you comfortable? Is your bed mattress too soft? Too firm? Is your pillow right for you? Do you get too cold in the middle of the night? Is your duvet the right weight for the current season? Is the lighting kept low at night? Have a bedroom that helps facilitate great sleep.
An additional note about the pillows - there are actually ideal pillows to use based on whether you sleep on your front, side or back. Look into which option is the best for you.
Turn off the screens and turn down the lights
Televisions, cellphones, computers, laptops, tablets... it's all visual and auditory input that's going into your brain. And then there's the blue light that most of these objects emit. Blue light can mess with your body's Circadian rhythm (the natural 'timekeeper' that lets your body know when to sleep and when to wake up). Some phones and tablets now have the option to turn on a blue light filter - consider using this if you're on your device close to bed time. Harvard Medical School actually recommends avoiding bright screens 2-3 hours before bed time.
Note that books and magazines are different and can be quite helpful as part of your bedtime routine. Try to read from actual pages, rather than from a screen.
If you have a tendency to get up in the middle of the night and struggle to get back to sleep again, make sure you keep the lighting low and try to resist the urge to take a glimpse at your phone.
Lavender is known for it's calming effect, which makes it the perfect accompaniment to sleep time. You could dab a little essential oil on your wrists and cover your eyes with your hands, then take some deep even inhales and exhales through the nose. You could use a lavender-scented bathwash or bubble bath. You could use a diffuser before bed time. Or you could use a lavender-filled pillow.
Use white noise
There are white noise phone apps and physical white noise machines that can play a range of sounds to help you go to sleep and stay asleep. They can be very useful if you frequently find yourself woken up by noises such as neighbours or animals during the night as white noise can help mask them. Shushing, hushing, rain, ocean waves, air conditioning units, hair dryers... there are so many different options you'll likely find one that may help.
Meditate and breathe
If meditation is your jam, we highly recommend Yoga Nidra - a special guided yoga meditation - as a great way of winding down before bed.
If you prefer something a little more tangible, you can simply focus on your breathing. Start by lying on your back, arms at your sides with palms facing up. Begin to take even, easy breaths in and out through your nose. It can help to apply a count to your breath - for example, inhaling for a count of three then exhaling for a count of three. Then four. Then five. After this, extend your exhale breath (as this helps to activate your parasympathetic nervous system) by breathing in for a count of five and exhaling for a count of seven. Do this for several rounds.
These things may help you to get a better quality and quantity of sleep, however, there could be other contributing factors affecting your sleep. These could include hormonal fluctuations or imbalances, medications, foods eaten, stress levels, or bedding setup.
If you give the methods in this post a go for several weeks and find they still aren't helping, consider keeping a sleep diary to track what could be affecting your sleep. There are also professional sleep consultants who may be able to assist.
Blue light has a dark side - https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side
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