Great nights of sleep are priceless.
Sleep keeps us healthy. It enhances our workouts, concentration, memory, and weight control. It helps us regulate our emotions, stress less, and stay mentally well. Habitual good sleep literally lowers our risk of hereditary disease, workplace accidents, and car wrecks!
Getting that habitual seven to nine hours of slumber every night isn’t simple or easy for many of us though. Over a third of us are sleep deprived according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Like most worthy goals, great sleep requires some planning and routine. What works for you won’t work for everyone. But when you develop a bedtime ritual that helps you sleep well, the efforts will pay dividends in health and wellness. Use these five steps to create a bedtime ritual perfect for you!
5 Steps to Help Build Your Bedtime Ritual
Pick a bedtime that you can commit to nightly.
It needs to be at least seven hours until your alarm time or typical waking time. Plan to start your bedtime ritual 30 minutes to two hours before that bedtime. You may want to actually put bedtime on your calendar.
Honor your circadian rhythms.
Our minds and bodies operate on circadian rhythms that follow a 24-hour cycle. Blue light from computers, TVs, phones, and other lights tell our brains to stay awake and suppress melatonin production. We need at least 30 minutes without blue light before bed; an hour is even better. If you struggle be off screens an hour before bed, use a blue-light blocking filter (available on most phones, tablets and computers) or a pair of orange-lens glasses.
Relax and unwind.
It’s important to prep for your great night’s sleep. Taking a walk, doing light or restorative yoga, stretching, doing a breathing exercise, or meditating are highly recommended for nightly relaxation. Equally restful are reading, journaling, and listening to music. Some people sleep better after making a list for the following day. Additionally, a warm bath entices sleep by causing your temperature to rise and then drop, triggering melatonin production. (Bathe an hour before bed.)
Have a snack and/or calming tea.
While heavy meals and alcohol are sleep disrupters, it hard to can be hard to fall asleep when you’re hungry. A light snack with a cup of sleep-inducing tea is a healthy compromise. Snacks that are naturally high in melatonin include: cherries, grapes, bananas, pistachios, oats, rice, and milk. Soporific drinks to try include passionflower, chamomile, lemon balm, decaf green, and lavender tea; warm milk or almond milk, malted milk, or turmeric milk; and whole banana or banana peel tea.
Set the mood.
Since the mood is rest, you’re aiming for dark, cool, and quiet. In addition to getting off screens and using blue-light filters, dim lights as the evening progresses to sync with your circadian rhythms. Consider using an amber bulb in your bedside lamp.
The room temperature should be cool, but not freezing, ideally 60 to 67 degrees. Running a fan cools your room and provides soothing white noise to mask sounds. Depending on the ambient light outside your room and your sleep times, you may benefit from blackout curtains as well.
You many also benefit from aromatherapy. Essential oils like lavender are calming and can promote peaceful sleep. Add a couple of drops to your bath, pillow, or pressure points. Diffusing oils is also nice, but not the best option if you have pets as many oils are toxic to cats and dogs.
Of course, your bed, bedding, and pajamas also need to be comfy and appropriate for the season (and your body temperature!) If you easily overheat or get chilly mid-night, sleep experts recommend layering blankets so they’re easy to adjust. Many people, especially those with insomnia, find their best slumber under weighted blankets.
Hopefully, your evening routine becomes a ritual that lulls you into restful sleep. When you crawl into bed, think peaceful thoughts or visualize a place you love. If you lie awake for 20 minutes, get up and try another relaxing activity – without turning on bright lights or screens – and then try sleeping again. It’s worse to stay in bed fretting about being awake than to try again.