We’ve all been there before: lying in bed, eyes open, mind racing, exhausted from the day, yet inexplicably unable to fall asleep. Some of us suffer from insomnia occasionally – for others, it can be a nightly battle.
While severe forms of insomnia require consultation with your doctor, you may find you can achieve better sleep by simply adjusting your bedtime routine. That’s because how we prepare for sleep can play a significant role in how quickly we’re able to drift off.
The first rule for developing a bedtime routine that helps you fall asleep faster? Make it a true routine. That means the same general order of activities each night, within the same general timeframe. Establishing consistency helps train your body to subconsciously power down for sleep. For example, you might pick out your clothes for the next day, drink a hot cup of lemon water, and then brush your teeth before bed each night. If you do these same things in the same order before getting under the covers, pretty soon your brain will associate the start of that routine with sleep. Inconsistent activities before bed – and at different times – confuse the body and make it hard to know when it should wind down.
A major challenge to swift sleep can be overstimulation. Highly engaging activities right before bed light up the mind, and it can take a while for the brain to shift gears from stimulation to passivity. Be sure that your bedtime routine doesn’t include activities that cause you to be highly engaged, like responding to work emails, talking on the phone with friends and family, or taking care of bills, laundry, or other household chores. Your time before bed should be calm, relaxing, and devoid of any potentially stressful triggers.
One easy way to cut out any stress-inducing or distracting stimuli is to just put your phone away. Plug it in, set your alarm, and turn it face down on your nightstand while you focus on your “analog” bedtime routine. But wait, you say – “I love listening to podcasts, or using my meditation app before bed”. Great point. Certain types of audio can be extremely soothing and effective at letting the mind unwind before bed. If you’re someone that loves a listen, just hit play but keep your phone out of your hands. What you’re really trying to avoid is staring (and scrolling) at a screen full of blue light, which research has shown to interfere with your internal body clock.
What about reading? Does it activate the mind, or help it wind down? It depends on the person, but often reading helps calm the mind, setting the body up for an easy transition to sleep. You may want to consider reading before bed in a different room, so that your body only associates your bedroom with sleep.
Let’s round out with a few more quick tips:
- Double check that your bedroom is set at a comfortably chill temperature. Coolness helps the body fall asleep faster. Consider airing out your room or lowering the temperature on your thermostat before bed, and avoid taking a hot bath too close to your bedtime.
- Write down your to-do’s for the next day. Many people are often kept awake at night by jumbled thoughts of all that’s on their plate. Instead of thinking about these tasks over and over without much logic but a lot of worry, it can be helpful to physically write them down on a piece of paper before bed. It allows your mind to process the items and know with assurance that you plan to take care of them tomorrow.
- If you can’t fall asleep after an hour, get up and start your routine over again. Maybe this means you go down to the kitchen for another cup of hot lemon water. Maybe you go to the home office and crack open your book again for more reading. It may be that your body wasn’t quite ready for bed the first time. Re-engaging your bedtime routine reminds your body that it’s time for bed, and can be less frustrating than tossing and turning, which likely will only keep you awake for longer.
For more tips and insights into all things sleep-related, be sure to explore more articles on the Shovlin Mattress blog!