Can revamping your routine help you sleep more blissfully? You bet it can!
Caution! This blog post can be habit forming – in a good way. Experts have chimed in and provided their best tips to help set you up for sleep success and a blissful night of sleep. A common thread runs through their tips – a need for consistency and sleep hygiene.
If you’ve never heard of sleep hygiene, it’s not about getting clean before bed. The term means addressing all those elements that go into creating an optimized sleep environment for your bedroom. It includes things like temperature (aim for 60 to 67 degrees F) and the importance of darkness and comfort. And they’re worth paying attention to because they may mean the difference between waking up ready to seize the day and feeling drowsy and apathetic.
Whether you’re someone who has trouble sleeping often or once in a while, or you’re a champion sleeper, these tips are essential reading for all.
Best bedtime habits to start tonight
1. Keep electronics out of your bedroom for better sleep quality. This is at the top of the list for good reason – it was a universal rule among our experts. They all agreed that the blue light from tablets, laptops and smart phones interferes with falling asleep because it suppresses melatonin, an essential hormone for sleep.
“On a less scientific note, keeping smart phones and tablets out of your bedroom helps you to fall asleep earlier,” says Leslie Fischer, the Chicago-based founder of SustainableSlumber.com, “because you are not endlessly scrolling or watching ‘just one more episode’ of a great series on Netflix. Devices can be very stimulating and stimulation is the last thing you need when trying to fall asleep at night.”
Chris Brantner, a certified sleep coach at SleepZoo.com suggests turning off your devices at least one hour before bed. Two hours before is better. Put your phone away because the blue light emitted messes with the body’s melatonin production.
While blue light can be managed with awesome applications like f.lux, the EMFs (magnetism coming from the phone) still affect you unless your phone is either on airplane mode or completely off.
2. Use black out blinds in your bedroom to keep unnatural light out. According to Fischer, many people report that sleeping in a totally dark room improves sleep quality and makes it easier to fall asleep at night.
3. Set an alarm for bedtime. Most people set an alarm to help them get up in the morning but consider doing this in the evening too. A bedtime alarm serves as a reminder to make going to bed earlier a priority.
4. Avoid these 3 taboos. Mat Giladi, a certified personal trainer and entrepreneur from New Jersey, says these are 3 bad habits that need to broken: drinking coffee after 2 pm, eating within 3 hours of bedtime and exercising within 3 hours of bedtime. They stimulate the body instead of relaxing it and will cause sleep disturbances.
5. Embrace the 1-hour wind down. Giladi asks, “Can you go from waking up groggy straight to high level math? Absolutely not. So let’s apply that same logic to falling asleep.” Take an hour to prep for bed. In the first 20 minutes, he suggests closing out the day by getting ready for tomorrow. One way to do that is journaling to help silence anxious thoughts from the day that may be swirling around in your head.
Every night, simply fill an entire page with your thoughts. Don’t worry about what to write. Don’t over think it. Use stream of thought to download what’s in your brain, allowing you to fall asleep with a calm mind.
The second 20 minutes is for sleep hygiene. Warm showers are especially good because they calm you and prepare your body for sleep. For the final 20 minutes, just relax. Read a book of fiction or not too taxing non-fiction – an old fashioned paper one, not on an e-reader. Meditate. Listen to soothing music.
6. Sip banana tea. “Bananas have something magical in them called magnesium, which helps you shut off like a light,” says Giladi. But you know what has 3 times more magnesium than the sweet? The peel. Don’t’ worry you chomping down on the bitter taste of peels. Instead, boil a chopped banana (including the peel) in boiling water for 10 minutes. Grab the recipe for banana tea.
7. Make sleep a priority for the entire family. Brittany Sherwood, a psychiatric/mental-health nurse practitioner and founder of Mentalcalm.net, recommends putting sleep at the top of your to-do list for the whole family. Place physical reminders placed around the home on mirrors with bedtime prep messages like the time when kids needs to put on their pajamas and a lights-out time. Create a family bedtime routine you can stick to help reduce stress for both parents and kids.
8. Warm your toes for better sleep. If you tend to have cold feet, try wearing socks to bed or putting a warm water bottle near your feet under the covers, advises Sherwood. Icy toes may delay you falling asleep.
9. Time your workouts carefully. Better Sleep Council suggests you wrap up any vigorous exercise two to three hours prior to bedtime. That’s not to say you can’t do gentle stretches to help relax your mind and body before slipping between the sheets. Health and wellness expert Christa Gurka, an orthopedic physical therapist who specializes in Pilates-based, holistic wellness in South Florida does this soothing routine to help boost her own sleep:
- Lie on your back with your legs elevated on a wall. Try to get your bottom as close to the wall as possible to support your low back. This simple inversion relieves stress and swelling and improves circulation. Breathe deeply and hold this position for 2-3 minutes.
- Lie on your back and pull both knees into your chest. Hug your knees in as tight as you can and rock gently side to side. Then release one leg straight out onto the ground and hold the opposite knee into your chest for 30 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.
- Lie on your back with legs extended. Pull one knee into your chest grabbing behind the thigh. Gently try and straighten that leg towards the ceiling and then bend the knee again releasing the stretch. Perform 10-12 repetitions on each side.
- Lie on your stomach with your hands flat on the floor underneath your shoulders. Gently press up, lifting your head, neck, shoulders and spine off the floor.
Take a deep breath in and return to the starting position. Perform 8-10 slow repetitions.
- Sit in the child’s pose (kneeling on a padded surface, leaning forward, with arms straight out in front of you) for 3-5 minutes while taking slow, steady deep breaths.
10. Ban bed buddies. “This may be hard advice to hear and heed, but pets are not great bed buddies,” says Dr. Russell Rosenberg, founder and CEO of NeuroTrials Research, focusing on sleep-related conditions and other neurological disorders in Atlanta. According to a survey by the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center, 53% of people who sleep with pets say that their animals disturb their sleep. A furry bed buddy is just not conducive to good sleep.
11. Skip the nightcap. “It wasn’t that long ago that physicians recommended “night caps” for insomniacs or others experiencing sleep problems,” says Dr. Rosenburg. “But using alcohol for sleep is a bad idea.” It alters the quality of your sleep. Even if you sleep a full night after drinking, you may not feel rested in the morning. Alcohol lightens sleep and suppresses REM. Booze will also disrupt the total time you are asleep. You may wake up frequently and have problems falling back asleep as the alcohol works through your system. Those with sleep apnea should be aware that alcohol worsens the condition.
12. Embrace meditation. The American Psychological Association notes that meditation and mindfulness has proven to be almost an immediate stress reliever. “When you practice meditation or engage in mindfulness, new perspectives can be gained and negative emotions can be released,” explains Daniel Turissini, founder of Recharj, mediation studios in Washington, DC and Bethesda, Maryland. Here’s a crash course in stress relief that can be practiced at home:
- The first step might seem familiar to you, as it is quintessential mindfulness training. Tune into your breathing, noticing whether or not it is fast or slow, deep or shallow, smooth or jagged. After understanding your breath patterns, begin to observe the affect it has on your body. What are the sensations of the breath coming in and out? What are your muscles doing? Start noticing your breath intermittently throughout the day, particular in times of stress.
- The next step involves breathing deeply and rhythmically. Learn how to take 4-8 breaths a minute for this is the “therapeutic zone” of breath work. Aim for six breaths a minute to begin with, then adjust accordingly. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Take a moment to enjoy a sense of calm stillness before breathing in once more.