Earlier in the week I discussed the importance of a morning ritual and how this can set you up for a healthier, happier life; And as important as a morning routine is, an evening routine is just as important to set you up to feel refreshed and well-rested the following morning. As a parent, I have a fairly strict nighttime routine for my girls; I generally don’t mess with bedtime. And although I am a little more relaxed about bedtime these days, the routine is the same. Like a number of parents out there, I feel like having a consistent routine for bedtime helps the girls sleep better and longer. Yet, somewhere along the way we stop with the bedtime routines, they lose their significance. As we get older and life gets busier and more complicated, our bedtimes get pushed, we pull all-nighters (for work or play!) and we add more and more caffeine to help us get through the day.
So what if you went back to treating your evening routine just as importantly as you do your kids? What if you implemented strategies to help you fall asleep faster, sleep deeper and wake up refreshed? Sleep is critical to physical and mental health; It’s your body’s time to rejuvenate and well, I am certainly no expert, but I do a lot of reading and I have found some common themes and tools to help increase your sleep and help you wake up feeling ready to seize the day!
First, set the mood; And by that I mean the thermostat. I’ve mentioned before the benefits of cold exposure, and its effects on sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends cranking your thermostat down to 60-67 degrees for optimal sleep. Your body’s core temperature has to drop in order to initiate sleep, so lowering the ambient temperature helps you fall asleep faster. There are also countless studies citing increased quality of sleep and increased time in deep sleep, when sleeping in cooler temperatures. Because your body is not working to regulate and cool it’s core temperature, it is able to sleep longer and deeper. The cold also helps produce melatonin, which promotes anti-aging; They don’t call it beauty sleep for nothing!
Go to bed at a reasonable time; I know this seems obvious but how many people plan to go to bed early and get wildly distracted by their phone, Bachelor In Paradise, or really nothing of meaningful value? According to a recent study done by the National Sleep Foundation, the average adult needs between 7-9 hours of sleep. If you know you have to be up at six, then you should also know you need to be in bed by ten, to get 8 hours. The amount of sleep a single person needs varies depending on age and a variety of factors, but we all need to reach deep sleep and REM sleep. In order to get through the four cycles of sleep and into these two most important ones, you have to set yourself up for sleep success and go to bed on time!
Eliminating blue light is another way for your body to start winding down and gearing up for a good night’s sleep. Blue light counteracts the natural release of melatonin, which signals the brain that it’s time for sleep. By cutting down blue light exposure close to bed time, you help your body start to naturally release melatonin. But what is blue light? According to a Harvard Health Study the wavelengths of blue light, found in electronics, are beneficial during the daytime, can boost attention, mood and reaction times; However, these light emissions are detrimental in the evenings, as they decrease melatonin, disrupting circadian rhythms, contributing to insomnia. How then can you block blue light when we are constantly surrounded by electronics? First, your phone probably has a nighttime setting, which adjusts the light on your screen within certain hours, and lowers the blue light exposure. There are also blue-blocker glasses, which block these wavelengths, and also make my husband look like Clark Kent, which is never bad. And also try to create an electronic free zone in your bedroom, in doing so you won’t be tempted to scroll through Instagram one more time and you will limit your blue light exposure.
Although, I take supplements for a variety of health benefits, I have always been apprehensive of taking sleep aids. Perhaps its because many are habit-forming and prohibit the production of natural sleep chemicals, and also because they are often taken irresponsibly, IE with alcohol. However, I have become a huge fan of the Onnit Company, and their products. My husband has terrible sleep and after a great deal of research on sleep hygiene I found a melatonin sleep spray, which he has found helps him fall asleep more quickly. In the case of taking any kind of supplement I recommend doing your own research and finding what works best for your body, and any possible reactions it may have with any current supplements and medications you may currently be taking.
Sleep is crucial to being a functioning adult, and creating a routine helps your body maintain a consistent sleep schedule, leading to healthier sleep habits. Engage in activities prior to bedtime that trigger your body to start to get into sleep mode. Have a routine; Meditate, take a warm bath, read a book, drink warm (decaffeinated) tea, or whatever works for you. If good sleep is hard to come by, try some of the tips above, find what works for you and your body, and let me know what helps! Good night, sleep tight!