With the start of a new year comes new resolutions and goals. After a year like 2020, which included many stressful days contributing to restless nights for most, we could all use a year full of peaceful slumbers. So why not make now the time to build a solid nighttime routine?
The importance of sleep is ingrained in us from a very young age; while some get the recommended eight hours of sleep, it’s not always the best quality. A recent study found that 55 percent of people who feel sleepy throughout the day often do not sleep well throughout the night. This can cause higher rates of irritability, headaches and lack of wellness overall. A solution to sleepless nights could be something as simple as a new pillow or lowering the temperature in your room but, oftentimes, an entire nighttime routine revamp is necessary.
Here are a few tips to get your nighttime routine on track.
Stay on a Consistent Sleep Schedule
We’ve all stayed up to watch a movie way past our weekly bedtime on a Friday night, or slept until noon on a Sunday—but doing this affects your sleep-wake schedule. Your sleep-wake cycle (also known as your circadian rhythm) is responsible for telling your body when it’s time to sleep and wake up each day. This is achieved through the rise and fall of certain chemicals and hormones in your body. These chemicals and hormones create a cycle that includes a seven- to nine-hour window for sleep for most people. Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, it’s important to stick to a consistent schedule—even on the weekends—ensuring your body’s sleep-wake cycle is not disrupted.
Turn Off Electronics
We’ve all been guilty of jumping into bed and grabbing our phone or the TV remote to help us “unwind” from the day. In reality, though, this causes more sleep-deprived nights than not. Melatonin production is hindered due to the blue light emitted from your screen and, because this is the hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycle, falling asleep and waking up the next day become challenging. Seeing stressful news on our televisions or receiving an unwarranted text message minutes before getting some shut-eye can also be the cause of a restless night’s sleep. It is recommended you stop using your phone 30 minutes before heading to bed, and putting it on “do not disturb” so that your sleep isn’t interrupted by alerts and notifications.
Just lying in bed, listening to the tick of the clock, or staring at the ceiling can leave you wide open for stressors, allowing incomplete tasks from the day to flood your mind. These unwelcome thoughts can fester, making it nearly impossible to fall asleep peacefully. Journaling has been proven to help stress and get a better night’s sleep, enabling you to focus on positive thoughts. Some avid nighttime journalists find it helpful to reflect on the positives that happened that day, or set goals and intentions for the next day. Getting your thoughts onto paper helps clear your mind and drift off to a land of nod with far less worry.
Meditation and Yoga
Besides journaling, there are numerous ways to clear your head before falling asleep that can be added to your nighttime routine, such as meditation and yoga. Meditation is a practice commonly used to help bring peace to one’s mind, body and spirit. If meditation is new to you, start with deep breaths or short affirmations that you repeat in your head. Over time, you’ll be able to fall into a meditative state quicker and for longer spans of time. Yoga can help improve sleep by lowering your heart rate. Certain poses help release muscle tension and bring your energy levels down.
Take a bath or hot shower
Enjoying a warm bath or shower before bedtime helps you relax and improves sleep quality. A study found that all it takes is a 10-minute bath at 104 degrees Fahrenheit before heading to bed to get a longer and more restful sleep. If a bath isn’t for you, taking a warm shower has shown similar results. Warm showers and baths aid the thermoregulation process by warming your body’s core temperature during the shower, then cooling it down, which signals your brain that it’s time to sleep.
check your bedding
Some of the easiest solutions to our sleeping problems lie within our bedding choices. A large variety of mattresses and pillows exist on the market solely because we all have different sleeping styles—these profiles require individualized sleep solutions. It’s essential that your body is supported by the proper mattress and pillow to avoid aches and pains. For allergy sufferers, it’s also important to be mindful of the materials used in the construction of your mattress. Look for a bed that uses hypoallergenic materials, like wool, cotton and natural latex.
Sheets, blankets, and comforters also play a large role in our sleep quality because they help us maintain a comfortable temperature throughout the night. While we tend to decorate our beds with stylish pillows, comforters and sheets, it’s imperative to keep comfort (and temperature moderation) in mind.
create a relaxing environment
Creating a zen-like bedroom environment can immensely improve your sleep and can be achieved in various ways. Nothing is more frustrating than waking up at all hours of the night because you’re too hot or too cold. Research suggests that most people sleep best when the ambient room temperature is cooler, around 65 degrees. If you’re looking to cool your room, switch on a fan as it additionally produces white noise, which can help block out outside sounds that may disrupt your sleep. Aromatherapy with essential oils such as lavender, jasmine, rose, and vanilla has been used for centuries to help people suffering from sleep deprivation. To incorporate aromatherapy into your nighttime routine, add a few drops of essential oils in your bath, spray some on your pillows or use a diffuser.
Finally (not to sound like your mom), clean your room! It’s hard to create a relaxing environment in a room full of clutter, dirty clothes and dust on all your surrounding surfaces. Decluttering your room and putting your laundry in the hamper will prevent your mind from having one more thing to worry about as you drift to sleep. Taking some time to vacuum and dust will also rid the air of particles and other allergens, improving the air quality within your bedroom. Neglecting the cleanliness of your sheets and other bedding can result in subpar sleep, so try putting those through the laundry at least once a week.
Just like our sleep styles, the best nighttime routines can look different for each individual. Whether you revamp your routine this year with just one, or all of these tips, it’s important to figure out what works best for you.