The Sleep Edit
Updated: Apr 6
We are continually being told how important sleep is for our overall health and wellbeing, but many people don't (or can't) get enough sleep.
The amount, and most importantly, the quality of your sleep affects all aspects of your life - your health and wellbeing, how you look, how you feel, your mood, mental agility, energy and productivity levels.
Lack of good quality and restful sleep affects your memory, causes irritability, depresses the immune system and may even contribute to weight gain. We may be what we eat, but we are also how we sleep!
create an evening Routine
For me, a good day starts the night before with a good nights sleep, and a good nights sleep begins with a good bedtime routine.
A bedtime routine helps to calm you down at the end of the day, and triggers your mind and body to get ready for sleep.
While there may be other underlying problems affecting your sleep that you need to look into, there are some simple habits that you can include in your bedtime routine to promote more peaceful rest.
You don't have to go all-in and do a full hour routine, to begin with. Choose one habit or ritual and then add others over time. It's much better to make small lasting changes.
Create a Sleep Sanctuary
Your mind and body know to prepare for sleep when you create the right environment for winding down. Don't use your bed for work and eliminate clutter in your room.
Blackout your bedroom and eliminate all light. Your skin can also sense light, so covering your eyes may not be enough.
Try lowering the temperature in your room. The ideal temperature is 60 to 72 degrees (Fahrenheit). You could use a fan, open the window, or use a cooling mattress pad.
Ideally, it's best to start your routine an hour before you hit the pillow.
Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Setting a pattern of going to bed at the same time each night and waking at the same time each morning (even at weekends) helps regulate your body's internal clock. This helps you to fall asleep and stay asleep regularly.
Establishing a regular sleep pattern is far better for you than attempting to compensate for irregularity with lie-ins. Going to bed at different times with no routine and structure means that your body isn't prepared for sleep.
When our days are already so busy and overbooked, it can often feel that booking sleep is an unnecessary luxury that we just don't have the time for. But it's essential for your health and wellbeing, and shouldn't be just an afterthought.
I use a technique called Time Blocking and create calendar events in my iCal for everything! You can add an alert to remind you until it becomes a habit and a natural flow for your day.
Plan your last meal of the day
According to dieticians, eating too close to bedtime increases both your blood sugar and insulin levels, which means you'll have a harder time getting to sleep. Ideally, aim for a light dinner that you finish around 3 hours before you got to bed. If you feel hungry before bedtime, a banana is an excellent source of both magnesium and B6, a vitamin that helps the body in creating sleep-promoting serotonin.
Knock the nightcap. According to a 2015 study from The University of Melbourne, alcohol does indeed act as a sedative. But later in the night, it changes and acts as a sleep spoiler. The quality of the sleep you get is significantly altered and disrupted, as it can cause you to wake up again. We all respond differently to alcohol, but having a drink too close to bedtime is often too much for your body to process during the night.
Implement a caffeine curfew
Try not to drink caffeine after 2.00 pm - switch to decaf or herbal tea instead. Caffeine stays in your system for nearly six hours and can seriously disrupt your sleep cycle.
Adding a mug of herbal tea to your bedtime routine will help ease you into sleep mode. Chamomile, valerian, lavender and lemon balm are deeply relaxing with sedative properties. The warmth of the tea will help relax your nerves and muscles.
Get rid of gadgets
The blue light emitted from gadgets stimulates the brain and inhibits melatonin production - the hormone that you need to sleep.
If you like to read in bed, make it a real book or an e-reader that does not emit blue light (and make sure that the subject is not work-related).
Schedule time for a last check and switch off devices at least an hour before bedtime to give your brain time to calm down and prevent wasted time scrolling through social media. Recharge them away from your bed (even better - keep them out of the bedroom entirely), and you should see an improvement in the quality of your sleep.
Keeping your mobile or tablet out of the bedroom can be surprisingly hard, but it really pays to be strong here. I am at times guilty of the phone next to the bed sin, but I certainly drift off faster and sleep better with some tech-free time before bed.
Declutter your Mind
Try to plan in time to reflect before going to bed.
'Never go to bed angry' is age-old advice. Studies have shown that if you're feeling stressed or unsettled, it is harder to suppress these feeling in the long-term if you sleep on them. During sleep, the brain reorganises the way negative memories are stored, making them difficult to overcome.
Give your thoughts and stresses somewhere to live. One of the most stressful things about going to bed can be feeling like you have so much to do the next morning - even though there's nothing that you can do about it at that moment.
Use a journal or notebook to write down anything that is on your mind, that you must get done tomorrow, anything that is causing you to stress or worry. Stress and worry cause sleep loss and journaling before bed has been shown to improve sleep quality.
Use your free Daily Planner Page from the resources page to write down what's on your mind.
As well, as writing down any to-do's or stresses, balance it out by writing down a few things that you are grateful for. I find that it focuses my mind on the blessings in my life, rather than on the things that I have to do or worry about when I'm trying to get to sleep. You can write it down, or say out loud or silently to yourself.
Add elements and rituals to calm and soothe you
By including include soothing things that help you to relax (like lighting a non-toxic candle (don't forget to blow it out before you get too sleepy! listening to relaxing music or meditating). Your evening routine will soon become a natural habit that you will look forward to.
Try some bedtime yoga or meditation. It doesn't have to be anything long or complicated - some light stretching or focusing on your breathing to help your body and mind transition to sleep.
Add some essential oils. Essential oils are amazing for many different reasons. They smell gorgeous and also have great healing qualities.
My favourites are lavender (for its sleep-inducing properties), cedarwood and neroli. They are especially relaxing and always help me to wind down after a long day. Other good ones for bedtime are sweet marjoram, sandalwood, sweet orange, valerian and chamomile.
Put 2 or 3 drops on the underside of your pillow to help to calm and relax you.
Having a warm relaxing soak before bed is a great way to unwind both your mind and body. You can also add 3-4 drops of your favourite relaxing essential oils or Epsom salts.
Put on your favourite pair of pyjamas, nightdress or even a special T-Shirt that you wear just for bed. (If you also wear it to the gym - don't wear it to bed as you don't want to send mixed messages to the body).
What are your favourite bedtime rituals?
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Things to Declutter from your Bedroom