We have all heard the old saying, “Early to bed early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” But there is more to a healthy bedtime than just tucking in early. Good “sleep hygiene” (bedtime habits and routine) involves the things you do hours before bed, and even while you’re sleeping.
A getting a good night sleep might be more important than you think. A study by the National Sleep Foundation suggests that 52% of women and 45% of men have difficulty getting a good night’s rest, and that stress is a main contributor to that difficulty.
So it’s a good idea to incorporate a relaxing bedtime routine to ease stress and help your mind and body wind down from the day.
Create a habit of going to bed at the same time each night. Your body will gradually come to expect sleep at that time, and you’ll feel yourself getting tired.
Apps for your phone like Sleepytime: The Bedtime Calculator can help. People sleep in cycles that last about 90 minutes, and it’s important to wake up between cycles, not during them. Tell Sleepytime when you are going to bed, and it will set an alarm to wake you when you’ll feel most rested.
Put the food and drinks down
Make a rule of drinking no caffeine within six hours of bedtime. Dinner and drinks (the adult kind) should be finished three hours before bedtime. Being wired, uncomfortable, or nauseous will keep you from getting to sleep peacefully. And each will have a different effect on the way you feel when you wake up in the morning. A glass of milk or some water may aid with sleep, but don’t bring any full meals to bed.
Don’t work out right before bed
It takes time for your body to relax and cool down after a tough workout (or hot bath). Try not to get your heart rate up too high in the last couple of hours before bedtime.
If you climb into bed overheated you will probably be too sweaty to drift off peacefully. Exercise during the day is definitely helpful in getting to sleep at night, however. Some sweat and sun will make your body crave rest.
Turn off electronics
A lot of us watch Netflix or surf the web before bed or even while we’re in bed. But bright lights and loud sounds are extremely stimulating and keep your brain buzzing even after they’re turned off. Give yourself at least an hour of time between turning off electronics and settling down on the pillows. Reading a book is one excellent way to unwind your mind.
One electronic that can actually help is soft music. Light classical, jazz or nature sounds can calm the mind.
Turn down the heat
We already pointed out that being too hot can keep you from resting comfortably. Try turning down your thermostat before you climb into bed. Lower temperatures signal to the body that the sun is down and it is time for sleep. And the feeling of a warm blanket is always comforting as well.
Don’t go too crazy. Try to keep the temperature somewhere between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
Write down your thoughts
Journaling and writing before bed is a good way to take inventory of your daily thoughts and concerns, and release them before trying to sleep.
Thoughts come and go without any control, and the ones that consume us are those we attach meaning to. The practice of determining when to let go and when to explore is crucial to improving mental and emotional well being. Jotting down all the overwhelming thoughts before bed on the notepad next to you and re-exploring them in the morning will help you prioritize the importance of each thought.
It may also help prevent any late night emotional disasters. Many arguments with our significant others occur at night while in bed or before bed because we neglect to take into account that not all thoughts carry weight. So a thought pops in and we blurt it out, accuse, or blame without any more thought. By writing down your thoughts and giving yourself time to come back to it later, most of the time you may find that they didn’t mean much to begin with or is normally something solvable.
Let go of worry
As we said in our previous post about morning routines, being present is a great way to clear your mind. Close your eyes and focus on the silence in your room or the sound of your breathing.
Let go of all other thoughts about the past and future. If you’re having trouble letting go of your thoughts, go back to your journal and write them down. They will be there to deal with in the morning.
Making a habit of these practices can help guarantee you sleep soundly and wake up feeling rested and energized. But if you feel like you’ve tried everything and still can’t quite get the sleep you need, it may help to meet with a professional. The stresses of life sometimes weigh on us in ways that are hard to recognize.
If you are looking for more advice on how to distress before bed, you can schedule an appointment to talk with one of our Loving Life counselors. We have a trained staff equipped to help you unlock the key to more sound, restorative sleep.