There’s something about climbing into bed at the end of a long, tiresome day. Forgetting all of your worries under those cool, comforting sheets is one of life’s great pleasures. But, if you’re like most people, the promise of restful sleep often gives way to racing thoughts and anxieties about tomorrow.
From restless legs to a restless mind, there are many reasons why you’re not catching the train to sleep town. But you don’t have to be trapped in a cycle of poor sleep and unpleasant mornings. Adding a few good habits to your bedtime routine can quickly help you get the blissful sleep that you crave.
Five habits for a healthy bedtime routine:
Setting up your water intake for the next day
Writing down the ideal flow of the following day
Taking out clothes for morning exercise
Reading a book
Making your room as dark as possible
Sounds too simple? Well, let’s go into more detail about how these habits can lead to better quality sleep:
1. Set Up Water for the Next Day
If you want your body to function properly throughout the day and night, you need to drink plenty of water. But don’t try to guzzle it all right before bedtime; you don’t want to catapult out of bed several times throughout the night to rush to the bathroom! What you do want is to have relaxed muscles, regulated body temperature and perfectly moisturized lips, nose and mouth.
Incredibly, getting an adequate amount of H2O every day can deliver on these points and so much more. Drinking water on an empty stomache in the morning wakes up your body’s systems and your brain. It helps your body flush more toxins and makes you feel more alert. Not to mention, proper hydration can fight those pesky under-eye bags.
The Mayo Clinic recommends the following amounts of daily water intake: “Women — 11.5 cups (&) Men — 15.5 cups”. A single, large jug with time goals or an app to help measure your water intake can help you take charge of your hydration and well-being. Good hydration will help a myriad of bodily functions that, in the end, will lead to a more restful night’s sleep. Careful, though! Too much water can be as bad as too little. Life is all about balance.
2. Plan Out Your Ideal Tomorrow
When the day’s work is done, thoughts about tomorrow’s tasks can sometimes take over. Well, get those thoughts out! Have an agenda, planner, or a simple notebook by your bed to jot down everything you’d like to get done the following day. Seriously, EVERYTHING!
When do you want to exercise? When do you want to eat lunch? Don’t forget to put in that pick-up order for groceries. And don’t forget to actually pick them up! Write it all down. Having a plan takes away the guesswork for the following day. This not only helps your mind calm down at night but helps alleviate decision fatigue the next day. Win-win all around.
Also, it’s important to use pen and paper instead of your phone. According to research, blue light from your phone can suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone your body secretes that helps you sleep. Thus, limiting usage of any blue light at night will help you get your sleep on faster.
3. Set Up Exercise Clothes for the Next Day
Whether you prefer going to your favorite gym or grinding it out with an at-home exercise program, you are more likely to achieve sweat status if you have your exercise clothes ready when you wake up. It’s about low-key guilt tripping yourself, and it’s effective. Put them in the bathroom, right next to the sink and its cold water that you’ll need to splash on your face to wake up.
This is another way that you’ll be defeating decision-fatigue, insofar as that goal of moving your body every day goes. A worthwhile goal, to be sure, as moving your body and getting your exercise in is linked to, “increase(ing) the amount of slow wave sleep you get. Slow wave sleep refers to deep sleep, where the brain and body have a chance to rejuvenate,” according to Charlene Gamaldo, M.D. medical director of Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep.
4. Read a Book
There is something to be said about holding a book in your hand. An actual, physical book and not an e-book, audio book, or other digital format. Beside the romantic aspects of the aroma of the ink, the feel of the pages, or the weight of a hardcover, there is scientific evidence that relates how just 6 minutes of reading a book can reduce your stress levels by 68%.
The study was done out of Mindlab International at the University of Sussex in 2009. Dr. David Lewis, a neuropsychologist, noted that the volunteers of the study only had “to read, silently, for six minutes to slow down the heart rate and ease tension in the muscles”.
It’s also important to choose your reading material wisely. Psychological thrillers, for example, may keep you in suspense and make it hard to stop reading. Keep the reading light and positive.
5. Make Your Room as Dark as Possible
Light helps to keep you awake. Even little lights that are barely noticeable during the day can light up the entire room at night. Eliminate those lights! If it’s not something that you can unplug, place something that will block the light. Use duct tape if you must!
Making your room dark is supremely important to the aforementioned production of the hormone melatonin and exposure to light can block that production. Even the smallest dot of light.
Simple tips for keeping it dark:
Wear an eye mask
Tuck your electronics away
Use blackout curtains to cover your windows
Bonus Tip: Make Sure Your Bed is a Restful Place to Be!
You can have the best bedtime/morning routine in the world, and you’ll still be missing out on sleep if your bed isn’t comfy and supportive. Consider a memory foam or latex mattress made to your specifications, and custom cotton bedding to match. A supportive mattress and sheets that breathe allow your joints and muscles to relax and your body to regulate its sleep temps correctly.
Getting restful sleep as quickly as you’d like may have everything to do with what you’re doing right before you get into bed. Try these tips out and see if they make all the difference when you finally slide between those sheets and fall into the deep sleep you so rightfully deserve.