Bedtime routines aren’t just for children. Whether consciously or not, the most successful sleepers follow a routine when preparing to hit the hay, and there are lessons to be taken from these sorts of simple habits. “One of the most effective ways to improve your sleep quality is by establishing a bedtime routine,” says Guy Meadows, MD, co-founder and clinic lead at Sleep School. “It’s a valuable tool for adults seeking better sleep–you can customize yours based on your lifestyle and preferences, but consistency is key.”
Why a bedtime routine matters
A consistent bedtime routine is key for a few reasons. The first is to do with your internal body clock: “Our bodies operate on a circadian rhythm, which regulates the sleep-wake cycle,” explains Meadows. “A consistent bedtime routine helps sync your body clock, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up at the same time each day.” Additionally, it is a good way to alleviate any accumulated daily stress and anxiety and signal to the body that it’s time to unwind. And, of course, it allows for more restful sleep too. There are bedtime apps to track sleep, or try an Oura ring.
How to create the perfect bedtime routine
While all of the below tweaks to your routine can contribute to a better night’s sleep, Meadows suggests prioritizing consistency over intensity when it comes to implementing them. “You’re far better off doing just one or two new sleep habits constantly for the next year, rather than lots of new habits for just a short period of time,” he points out.
Set a consistent sleep schedule
That weekend lie-in isn’t as good for you as you might think. “Determine the time you need to wake up at and count backwards to establish your bedtime [allowing for seven to eight hours of sleep],” recommends Meadows. “Stick to this schedule, even on weekends.”
Limit screen time
Deep down you probably already know it, but that late-night scrolling isn’t doing you any favors. “Reduce exposure to blue light from screens (including phones, tablets, and TVs) at least an hour before bed,” says Meadows, who explains that blue light can disrupt the body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin.
Engage in relaxing activities
“Dedicate 15 to 30 minutes to calming activities like reading, journaling, or practicing deep breathing exercises,” suggests Meadows. These activities are all great for clearing the mind and reducing stress. You can also try doing slow, restorative yoga or taking a bath.
Create a comfortable sleep environment
“Ensure your bedroom is conducive to sleep and keep it cool, dark and quiet,” says Meadows. As well as investing in a comfortable mattress and pillows, make sure your lighting is optimal – you should dim the lights or use lamps during this time – and that your surroundings feel peaceful and uncluttered.
Practice gentle stretching
If you’re feeling physically tense, incorporate light stretching or yoga into your routine to release it–you might not realize how fraught you’re feeling, nor its knock-on effect on the quality of your sleep. “Stretching can relax your muscles and prepare your body for rest,” says Meadows.
Limit late-night snacking
“Finish eating at least two hours before bed to avoid indigestion and potential disruptions to your sleep,” says Meadows.
Coffee addict? It may well be interfering with your sleep. “Cut down on caffeine and nicotine consumption, particularly in the evening, as they can disrupt your sleep,” says Meadows.
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