A bedtime routine may be something you haven’t thought about since you were in elementary school. Back then taking a bath, unwinding, and reading a few books were likely an important part of your evening. Bedtime routines tend to take a back seat as we get older, but with the number of patients I see in my office every week with sleeping problems, it may be time to bring them back.
Why are bedtime routines a good idea for adults? For starters, our body likes routine. You may find that your body works the best when you go to bed and wake up at the same time, eat at the same time the list goes on and on. Our bodies like predictability. A bedtime routine can serve as a great trigger for the body that it is time to start unwinding. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, and can be flexible, but integrating some steps to help you “wind down” before bed can be better than the best sleeping pill.
We cannot expect our bodies to be go go go and then suddenly fall into a deep sleep. We need some time to unwind. Still not a believer? Try implementing a bedtime routine for the next week and see what a difference it can make for the quality of your sleep.
How To Create A Bedtime Routine
- Turn off The TV/Get off Your Phone- At least a ½ hour before bed, ideally 1 hour, do not be on your phone or watching TV. Exposure to the light from the screen makes your body think that it is daytime. This is a great time to do some reading, talk with your partner, or do some gentle stretching. I recommend putting your phone on nightshift mode, as it reduces the brightness of the screen after dark.
- Have a Snack- Do you wake up during the night? One of the reasons this happens is due to your blood sugar crashing. Having a handful of pumpkin seeds before bed can help you get a good night’s sleep. Pumpkin seeds are high in magnesium, nature’s muscle relaxant, are a good source of protein and provide healthy fats.
- Have a Shower/Bath- Did you know that your body temperature dropping makes it easier to fall asleep. Having a shower or bath 1-2 hours before bed increases body temperature and then lowers it by 1-2 degrees, preparing you to cool down to sleep.
- Keep Your Room Cool- Being too hot makes your body not go into as deep of a sleep. Keep your room cool (around 18-19°C).
- Sleep in a Dark Room- Similarly to how watching TV tricks your body into staying awake, so does sleeping in a room that isn’t dark. Your room needs to be very dark (can’t see your hand in front of your face) to facilitate proper melatonin production.
- Lavender- If you have trouble sleeping, new research as shown that inhaling the scent of lavender can help. You could have a diffuser in your room and use lavender essential oil, or add a few drops of lavender to your bath or shower.
- Deep Belly Breathing- Taking 10 deep breaths when you get into bed, the kind where your stomach goes out and your chest stays in, helps to lower the stress hormone cortisol. If cortisol is high at night, it can make it more difficult to fall asleep.
Try to implement these suggestions into your routine this week and see for yourself the huge benefit they can have for sleep!
Do you have a bedtime routine? Please post it in the comments below
Dr Alexis practices in Kanata and is accepting new patients. To schedule your appointment, click here.