OK, so you’ve made many or all of the changes we recommended in Part 1 of the Sleep Guide– you’re confident that your environment is perfectly tuned for sleeping. But what can you do before going to bed to set yourself up for sleep success?
Like the environment you sleep in, your pre-bedtime routine can get your brain and body in the right state to fall asleep as quickly and deeply as possible. Try to stick to a similar routine every night (yes, even the weekends!) because it’ll make your pre-bedtime routine more effective. Below, we’ve put together a list of suggestions for perfecting your pre-bedtime routine.
· Go to sleep at the same time every night to allow your body to get used to it. Wake up at the same time every morning as well.
· Either don’t nap at all, or make your naps short and early in the afternoon. There are disagreeing opinions from sleep experts about whether naps are good or bad overall. Still, most experts agree that if you’re going to nap during the day, keep it short. Long naps (more than 25 minutes) can mess with your sleep cycle and make it harder to fall asleep at night. Also, try to nap before 4pm in the day, because a late nap will signal to your body that you’re getting ready to sleep for the night.
· Avoid caffeine – tea, coffee, and soft drinks – in the afternoon. It can make it harder to fall asleep and lower sleep quality, even several hours after it’s been consumed.
· Avoid TV and computers just before bed – their screens emit a blue light that tricks your brain into thinking it’s daytime. Not to mention TVs and computers can (over)stimulate us right when we’re trying to relax. And yes, this does include those addictive little smartphones that own us (err… that we own…). My suggestion: don’t bring your phone into your bedroom when you go to bed. It’s just too tempting. If you need to charge it overnight, move your charger to a different room of your home, so your phone doesn’t keep you up at night. If you are going to use your smartphone at night, there are apps you can download that lower the blue light emitted, like one called F.lux.
· Avoid heavy meals a few hours before going to bed – those heavy late-evening meals can disrupt sleep by affecting digestion and causing acid reflux.
· Avoid alcohol less than a few hours before bed. Because it’s a depressant, alcohol does help some people fall asleep, but it worsens sleep quality, and it also disrupts sleep by causing us to have to use the bathroom more frequently.
· Do a quiet activity like listening to soothing music or reading a relaxing book. But a word of caution: if the book is a page-turner or very exciting, it could actually cut into your sleep, so save those for the beach or the park and find a more relaxing pre-bedtime book.
You may be wondering what you can do once you’re already in bed, and struggling to fall asleep. We’ll cover that in the last part of our Sleep Guide. For now, try the tips we recommend for perfecting your pre-bedtime routine, and see if they make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Do you have pre-bedtime tricks that have worked for you? If so, we’d love to know, please share them in the comments!
Koufman, J. A. (2014, October 25). Opinion | The Dangers of Eating Late at Night. Retrieved July 10, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/26/opinion/sunday/the-dangers-of-eating-late-at-night.html
Swedish Medical Center. Importance of Sleep When Living with Chronic Pain. (n.d.). Retrieved June 28, 2017, from http://www.swedish.org/services/pain-services/pain-management-guide/sleep-and-pain
Spine-health. Practicing Good Sleep Hygiene. Retrieved June 28, 2017, from https://www.spine-health.com/wellness/sleep/practicing-good-sleep-hygiene