We are constantly being told how important sleep is for our overall health and wellbeing, but many people don't (or can't) get enough sleep.
We may be what we eat, but we are also how we sleep!
The amount, and most importantly, the quality of your sleep affects all aspects of your life - your health, wellbeing, how you look, how you feel, your mood, mental agility, energy and productivity levels. Lack of quality and restful sleep affects your memory, causes irritability, depresses the immune system and may even contribute to weight gain.
I believe that a good day starts the night before with a good nights sleep, and a good nights sleep starts with a good bedtime routine.
Whilst there may be other underlying problems affecting your sleep that you need to work on, there are simple habits that you can include in your bedtime routine to promote more peaceful rest.
Here are some tips and habits for your bedtime routine...
Even if you've never really thought about it before, you probably have some kind of morning routine.
It may be that you need a cup of coffee to get you going, before you wash, get dressed to prepare you for the day ahead. A bedtime routine is the same - preparing you for sleep.
The best bedtime routines help you to reflect on your day, relax so that you can sleep more and bring you back round to your morning routine refreshed ready to take on the day.
Starting a bedtime routine is all about convincing your mind and body that the day is coming to an end and your'e ready to wind down. Ideally, you should start to do this about an hour before you hit the pillow.
As much as possible, try go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time each day.
Establishing a regular sleep pattern is your aim and far better for you, experts say, 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.
When our days are already so busy and overbooked, it seems too much to have to book sleep in as well, but it helps to keep you focused and on track with whats important for your health and wellbeing, and It soon becomes a habit when you feel the benefits.
Setting a pattern of going to bed at the same time each night and rising at the same time each morning is the key to sleeping well. 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, you should 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 nightcap too close to bedtime is often too much for your body to process during the night.
Establish a tea ritual
Try not to drink caffeine after 2.00pm, and switch to decaf or herbal tea. 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.
Get rid of gadgets
Trying to keep 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.
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 its not work related).
Schedule time to do a last check and switch off devices at least an hour before bedtime to keep your brain time to calm down and prevent wasted time scrolling through social media.Recharge them away from your bed (even better keep them completely out of the bedroom), and you should see an improvement in the quality of your sleep.
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 in 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 causes sleep loss and journaling before bed has been shown to improve sleep quality.
Making a gratitude list is part of my bedtime routine.
I find that it focuses my mind on the blessings in my life, rather than going over and over on all things that I have to do, to worry about when I'm trying to get to sleep. You can write it down in a journal or notebook, by your bed, spoken out load or silently to yourself.
Do some light stretching, deep breathing, yoga or meditation to help your body and mind transition to sleep.
Essential oils are amazing for many different reasons. They smell gorgeous and also have tremendous healing qualities.
Put 2 or 3 drops on the underside of your pillow to help to calm and relax you.
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. Others include sweet marjoram, sandalwood, sweet orange, valerian and chamomile.
Bathe your cares away
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 bedtime habits and rituals?