How can I create a restful bedtime ritual?
We all know sleep matters!
Perhaps we don’t all know how much?
Not only does a good night’s sleep make us happier, healthier, slimmer, more attractive and cleverer, it can also help us live longer!
Backed up by quality research, these are the claims made by, Matthew Walker in his book Why We Sleep (Penguin Books, 2017).
Walker suggests that ‘the physical and mental impairments caused by one night of bad sleep dwarf those caused by an equivalent absence of food or exercise’. Who knew?
Ready to start having an incredibly restful sleep tonight and to wake up feeling amazing? First, we’ll discuss the importance of sleep and then go step by step through creating the best night time routine for you.
Why Sleep Matters
Without it, our ability to keep functioning is severely limited. This is well known in fields such as the airline industry, where strict rules apply to how much rest a pilot needs to take between long-haul flights.
Side Effects of Poor Sleep
The physical and mental effects of poor sleep, according to Dianne Augelli, a sleep expert at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, include:
- Poor brain function in terms of memory, processing, and learning
- Mood swings, with longer-term impacts such as depression and anxiety
- Irritability and an inability to determine what’s important and what’s not. So the slightest inconvenience sends you either ballistic or tearful
- Impact on your appearance, think the gothic look, pale skin with dark circles under your eyes
- Food cravings and appetite changes. Unhealthy fast food suddenly seems very appealing
- Your metabolism slows down, making diabetes more likely in the long run
- Poor heart health (your heart needs to rest too) and higher blood pressure
- Your immune system is weakened, making you more susceptible to illness
Sleep is important to a number of brain functions. Neuroscience shows that your brain and body stay remarkably active while you sleep. Recent research findings suggest that sleep removes toxins in your brain that builds up while you are awake. So poor sleep may also have an impact on brain diseases like Dementia.
Stages of Sleep and Sleep Cycles
Common advice is that we need between 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep per night. During these hours you will go in and out of the important types of sleep.
There are two main types of sleep:
- Rapid Eye Movement – this type of sleep occurs 90 minutes after falling asleep. As the name suggests, your eyes move rapidly behind your eyelids during this type of sleep. Most dreaming occurs in REM sleep.
- Non-Rapid Eye Movement – which has three main phases. First where you change from wakefulness to sleep, second a period of light sleep before deeper sleep and third deep sleep which is important to feeling refreshed in the morning.
However, up to a quarter of the population report sleeping less than the recommended number of hours. So many of us soldier on, putting up with substandard sleep and feeling all the worse for it, but not changing any of the things that could make a real positive difference.
Most Common Reasons for Poor Sleep
There are a number of reasons why so many of us suffer from poor sleep, these include:
- Indulging in behaviors that are known to either prevent you from getting to sleep, or that interrupt normal sleep patterns and your body’s natural rhythms. These include heavy meals, alcohol, caffeine, looking at screens and exercise late in the evening.
- Environmental factors that are not helpful to good quality sleep. These include too much light in the bedroom, temperature (too hot or too cold), uncomfortable bedding and noise.
- Emotional disturbance and stress. These impact on your ability to relax. If you are lying awake worrying then your brain cannot move into the first phase of sleep.
- External demands, for example, shift working and unsocial hours. Continual changes to your sleep pattern interrupt the body’s natural rhythm.
Now that you know all these reasons for getting a good night’s sleep consistently and common causes for poor sleep quality, let’s sleep better with the steps to creating the best nighttime routines for adults.
What does a Good Night Time Routine Look Like?
A routine is a routine! This means it happens on a regular basis and there should be few exceptions. A ritual is a series of actions carried out in a defined order.
#1. Set Bedtimes and Waking Up Times
A key nighttime routine is to try and stick to going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time in the morning.
If you find it difficult to fall asleep at 11 pm, change your ‘falling asleep’ time to 11.30 pm, but keep your alarm set for your usual waking uptime, and don’t hit snooze! Also, cut out or reduce (to a maximum of 20 minutes) daytime naps as these can interrupt your natural sleep rhythms.
#2. Create Bedtime Rituals and Routines
Once you are ready to go to bed, set up your bedtime rituals. These might include:
- Ensuring that there is appropriate lighting, not too bright and curtains/blackout blinds are closed
- Make sure your room is the right temperature 70 degrees is suggested as ideal, too hot or too cold can cause you to wake in the night
- Make sure you have comfortable sleepwear and good bedding
- Use a diffuser or candle with sleep-inducing oils like Lavender
- Have a hygiene routine, teeth cleaning, face washing etc. that you stick to every night
- Read for a limited period of time, but not on a screen
- Listen to a guided meditation designed for relaxation
- If you need to, wear an eye mask and earplugs
- Consider how you wake up in the morning. Is there natural light? Would an alarm that simulates daylight help you to wake up more naturally?
#3. Know What to Do If You Wake in the Night
When creating your best nighttime routine for your sleeping habits, you need to know how to get back to sleep if you wake up in the night.
Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Do not look at the time, this stimulates your brain to begin calculating how many more hours you have until you need to get up
- Have a pen and paper next to the bed so you know you can write down ideas/thoughts if you need to and you are not grabbing for your phone
- If you wake because you need a pee and have cut down on fluids during the evening (especially if this happens more than once during the night) you should seek advice from your physician
- There are a number of conditions like Restless Leg Syndrome, sleep apnea (where your breathing stops and starts while you are asleep) and overactive thyroid, that all affect your sleep. These should be diagnosed and treated by a physician.
- If waking is a result of nightmares, panic attacks or anxiety, it would be wise to seek counseling or other professional help.
Creating a Night Time Routine Right for You
Step 1: Write Down the Causes of Your Poor Sleep
Start by writing down those factors that contribute to your poor sleep.
Then consider which ones you feel you can change. If you end up with a long list, (that’s great because there is a lot to work on!) prioritize those things you believe have the most impact, in terms of stopping you sleeping well.
Step 2: Create Positive Night Time Routines
Once you have worked through your ‘challenges’ and decided which ones you can tackle, consider what positive night time routines you would like to put in place. These should be things you look forward to so that going to bed is regarded as pleasant or even luxurious!
Step 3: Give Your New Sleep Routine Time to Stick
Once you have designed the right night time routine and rituals for your lifestyle make sure you give your new pattern time to stick. Just doing it for one night isn’t setting up a new routine.
👉🏽 RELATED POST: How to Make a Habit Stick, Based on Science
The Art of Break Bad Sleeping Habits
- Swapping the behavior you want to change for something equally (or more) appealing
- Being clear about what you are changing and why – writing this down helps
- Build in small rewards for success
- Telling people about what you are doing and why
- Being mindful of the changes you are making and of triggers that take you back to the old behaviors
There’s not a great deal of consensus about how long it takes to break a habit or set up a new routine, after all, we are all different.
The Ultimate Bedtime Routine
Ready to take a good night’s sleep seriously? To create the best nighttime routine for you?
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Finding pre-sleep and night time rituals that feel good and importantly help you sleep much better, might take a little while, but it will certainly be worth the effort!
Tired of waking up feeling tired? Wake up feeling great with the best night time routine for adults. Say bye bye to restless, sleepless nights! #Sleep #Insomnia #Wellness #HealthyHabitsClick To Tweet
What’s your night time routine for adults?
More About Guest Contributor
Julie Wells is Director of Fit over Fifty Women. Her website supports women over 50 to be as fit as well as they can be and to live life to the full. As well as providing advice, support and inspiration through the website, Julie runs on-line supported programmes for women over 50 who want to get fitter and healthier. Julie’s Facebook page has over 5000 followers and there’s an active Facebook group too – ‘Getting Fit over Fifty’, new members always welcome.