Sleep is one of the most essential aspects to our overall health. Unfortunately, it is often the first thing to go as it is so easily affected by changes in stress levels and day to day routines. Making these simple changes to your daily rituals can allow for a more nourishing, restorative night’s sleep.
1. Power down hour.
Dr. Michael Breus, Ph.D. coined one of my favourite ways to approach creating a bedtime routine, the “power down hour.” In this ritual, the hour before you go to bed is split up into three segments. The first 20 minutes set aside to finish what you need to in order to prepare for the next day – pack your lunch, do the dishes, put the kids to bed. The next 20 minutes is for personal hygiene – ideally, in a dimly lit bathroom. Finally, the last 20 minutes is strictly for relaxation purposes, however you define it – this could be meditation, yoga, journalling, etc. This routine sends a signal to your body that it is time to unwind.
2. Consistency is key.
One of the best ways to train your body to sleep well is to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends and days off. This will help set your body’s internal clock to expect sleep at the same time every day. The easiest way to set a bed time is by setting your wake time and working backward. Wake up early enough to give yourself enough time to get ready for the day without rushing. From there, work back 7-8 hours and that is your bed time. Keep in mind, this is the time that you should be in bed, not the time you should start getting ready for bed.
3. Bath time.
Taking a hot shower or bath before bed not only helps relax your muscles, but also allows for a chemical change in your body that signals that it’s time for sleep. When your core body temperature increases while you bathe and then dips back to normal afterward, this signals your body to release melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate sleep and wake cycles.
4. Sleep in a cool room.
That melatonin releasing dip in body temperature can be achieved by keeping your room slightly cooler. As a general rule, keep your room around 19-22 degrees Celsius. Obviously, comfortable temperature ranges vary, but for most people, heat disrupts sleep more than cold.
5. Sleep in a dark room.
Light inhibits the secretion of melatonin, so it’s important to keep your room as dark as possible. Invest in some black-out curtains or even an eye mask, if needed.
6. Cut back on coffee.
Before I tell you to completely eliminate your precious cups of coffee, try changing when you drink it. Caffeine (in coffee, tea, pop, and chocolate) has a half life of 8-10 hours, therefore, for example, stop any intake after 2pm to fall asleep around 10pm.
7. Skip the nightcap.
Ever notice that you have a rough sleep after a night on the town? That’s because alcohol keeps you from reaching a deep sleep. Many people believe that alcohol has a relaxing effect and helps them get a great sleep, but it actually interrupts the quality of your sleep.
8. No more naps.
It’s best to avoid napping during the day to ensure that you are tired at bed time. If you can’t make it through the day without a nap, make sure that it lasts less than an hour and is before 3pm.
Studies suggest that blue light from cellphones, tablets, and laptops is a major sleep disturber. Ideally, we would all power down an hour or so before bed, but understandably, this can be tough. That’s why f.lux is one of my favourite apps – it automatically changes the display of your computer at night to reduce the amount of blue light it emits. Plus, if you're an iPhone user, check out Night Shift, which does the same thing for your phone or iPad.
10. Address sleep-related issues.
It is possible that you can’t sleep due to a health condition like sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome. Although restless leg syndrome is fairly easy to identify, sleep apnea can be a bit more elusive. If you have daytime sleepiness, wake frequently during the night gasping for air, or have a partner that is being driven crazy by your snoring, see a doctor as you may be suffering from sleep apnea. This is especially true if you are overweight, have diabetes, or high blood pressure.