Establish a healthy bedtime routine.
You’re lying in bed. You’re ready for sleep. But your mind seems to have a mind of its own. You just can’t seem to quiet your racing thoughts! Sound familiar?
Learning how to establish a healthy bedtime routine will allow you to naturally wind down so when you finally get in bed, your eyes will be heavy and your brain will be quieter, allowing you to get the deeper more restorative sleep you want and need.
Healthy habits don’t happen overnight. Increase your odds of success by focusing on one new habit a week instead of trying to master all 5 habits at once.
5 Bedtime Habits That Will Help You Sleep Better
1. Set And Stick To A Regular Bedtime Routine
We’re used to setting the morning alarm, but do you have a bedtime alarm? Most smartphones allow you to set a bedtime and they’ll even give you a reminder when it’s time to get ready for bed.
The more consistent your bedtime is, the more your body gets used to it and the more easily you’ll fall asleep. Most adults need a minimum of 7 hours of sleep every night. If you’re waking up at 6am, you should start winding down around 9pm.
Make your bedtime something to look forward to, not just something that happens. Think of it as an enjoyable self-care ritual. Dim the lights, light a lavender-scented candle or essential oils, and get into your coziest PJs.
2. Ditch The Screens Before Bed
If you’re the kind of person who likes scrolling on their phone or laptop before bed, this could be negatively impacting your sleep quality.
The blue light emitted from your devices – phones, tablets, laptops, TV – fools your brain into thinking it’s still daytime. This stimulates cortisol production and delays production of sleep-inducing melatonin (source).
If you really enjoy winding down with a favourite show, try wearing “blue-blocker glasses” for two hours before sleep. These are non-prescription glasses with orange-tinted lenses that help block the harmful blue light.
Think of it this way – way back in the day, our sleep schedules aligned with the rise and fall of the sun. The sunrise and sunset produced beautiful warm tangerine hues, gently transitioning us into and out of our waking hours.
After sunset, we’d use candles and fires to illuminate the hours leading up to sleep. The soft orange glow is more conducive to sleep. The blue light emitted from screens produce light waves more similar to the blue daytime sky, fooling your brain into thinking it’s still daytime (source).
Blue light aside, even just being “connected” to friends, work, or media before bed can keep your mind in an awakened state. You need to give your brain time to disconnect, unwind, and relax.
Not fully convinced? Try shutting your devices down at least an hour before bed for a week. You’ll likely notice a difference.
3. Start Journaling
Journaling is one of the best ways to quiet a busy mind. Take a minute to get those cluttering thoughts out of your mind and onto paper. Plan the next day. Here are some journaling thought starters, but the format is totally up to you.
- Make Tomorrow’s To-Do List. Label tasks hot, warm, or cool:
- Hot – Immediate tasks that need to get done. Keep this to no more than 3.
- Warm – Tasks that aren’t immediately pressing, but would be nice to get done.
- Cool – Tasks that are on your mind, but don’t need to get done tomorrow.
- Express Gratitude
- Write down at least one thing that happened during the day that you’re grateful for. If you do this every day, you can literally re-wire your brain to see more positive in your day than negative, which can have a profound impact on decreasing the amount of stress you take to bed with you.
4. Read for Fun
Feed your mind a good book. Educate yourself on a topic of personal interest, or escape reality in a novel. Personal development isn’t limited to non-fiction books, either. A study by the University of Toronto found that adults who regularly read fiction develop greater creativity and less rigid thinking (source).
5. Quiet Your Mind With Meditation
A busy mind can be sleep’s greatest enemy. We’re perpetually wired to a 24/7/365 world; it can be hard to separate ourselves for the peace and quiet we need to recharge. Practicing mindfulness through meditation is a proven way to improve sleep and holistic wellbeing.
A Harvard study compared sleep improvements between two groups over 6 weeks. One group was given basic sleep education, and the other group was given sleep and mindfulness coaching. The group that received mindfulness coaching had less insomnia, fatigue, and depression at the end of the 6 weeks (source).
Add mindfulness to your bedtime routine to help clear your mind for sleep. This is something you can do in bed before drifting off.
Approaches to Mindfulness:
- Find focus. Focus on a soothing sound or thought. Repeat a positive affirmation, short prayer or mantra (“inhale the good; exhale the bad”), or a positive word (“peaceful”). Focus on the sound of your breathing or an “om” sound. Take deep, purposeful breaths.
- Let go. Don’t be too hard on yourself if your mind wanders. That’s completely normal. Gently guide it back. Seek progress, not perfection.
- Be present. Scan your body starting with your toes and moving upward to your head. Move from one body part to another. Focus on what you feel on that part – the pressure of the mattress, the temperature, a breeze. Feel your body slowly getting heavier. Feel the life flowing within.
- Have a guide. There are many wonderful meditation guides available for free online. To keep devices out of your room, look for one you can download onto an iPod or MP3 player.