Establishing healthy bedtime habits can be the key to drifting off with ease.
This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation
Your odds of achieving a good night’s sleep were set long before your head ever hit the pillow. Stress and anxiety are the cause for many sleepless nights. Seven in ten adults experience daily tension, which is a source of the nighttime sleep problems. By following a relaxing bedtime routine that lowers your stress and anxiety levels, you can sleep easier. Nightly rituals such as meditation, deep breathing, and taking a warm bath can all help.
Creating a pre-bed routine doesn’t require a huge time commitment, but it does mean being consistent with the schedule you set. Many of these nightly rituals, like meditation, work best when performed regularly.
Meditation takes many forms, but the end goal is the same: To quiet the mind and allow the body to relax. For people struggling to fall asleep, the benefits might be even greater. Meditation has been shown to reduce the need for sleeping pills.
There is no right or wrong way to meditate. To try it for the first time, lie on your back in bed and picture your passing thoughts as clouds in the sky. Rather than think too much about them, just watch the thoughts roll by and move on to watching the next set. If you’re looking for a little help, download guided meditation apps, including ones specifically geared towards sleep. Headspace is an example of one where a narrator guides the listener what to do and think, all while explaining how your body should be responding.
Breathing exercises often go hand in hand with meditation, though they can also be effective at promoting sleep on their own. As you inhale and exhale slowly and fully, close your eyes and visualize the air moving through your body. Concentrate on making each breath flow smoothly. Set a target to count to 10 as you breathe in, and 10 again as you breathe out. The goal is to focus solely on your breathing, letting go of other thoughts as you work to find a steady rhythm of airflow.
Adjust the Thermostat
Bedtime routines are about more than self-relaxation, of course. Preparing the room to be sleep-friendly is key as well. Your thermostat’s setting matters more than you might think: Pick a cool setting between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit which is cooler than you prefer during the day. A cool room helps you go to sleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Take a Warm Bath
Better yet, take one with lavender—the soothing scent promotes quality sleep. The warm water may help relax tight muscles and ease tension, making it easier to drift off. Equally importantly, baths are an age-old stress reliever, providing a mental as well as physical remedy for feeling anxious and overwhelmed.
Darken Your Room
It’s logical that you want a dark room during sleep. But it’s helpful to reduce the brightness of the room in the hour leading up to bedtime as well. Darkness triggers the release of the sleep hormone melatonin and is also a necessary factor in maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm. Beginning about an hour before bedtime, dim the lights in your bedroom or living room (wherever you may be) and turn off overhead lights so that you are reading or relaxing with just a soft, localized light. Stow away cellphones and other smart devices as their blue light interferes with sleep.
Drink Caffeine-Free Tea
Specifically, chamomile tea, which has been found to provide stress relief. The nightly ritual of sipping from a steaming cup while reading a favorite book or talking with family can form an important wind-down routine.
Write About It
Sometimes, the easiest way to let go of stress after a long day is to write about it. Logging our to do’s and regular journaling help free our minds so that we can focus on sleep. Just remember to write the old-fashioned way (pen and paper) as opposed to logging your thoughts on a computer, which emits a blue light that stimulates, rather than soothes, the body.