Let me tell you a tale about Jane. Jane used to use the excuse of “not having time” to explain why she wasn’t working out. But after realizing that she has the same hours in a day as everyone else, and that people busier than she are out there getting their workouts in, Jane makes the decision that she just needs to get up earlier. But Jane runs into a few road blocks. She doesn’t get to bed till late and has a hard time falling asleep. Once she does get to sleep, she sleeps somewhat fitfully. This makes it extra hard for her to get up in the mornings, and she hits snooze multiple times before getting up. Then she finds her mornings to be hurried and frazzled. Just like many other things in life, laying a good foundation is the key to success. So lets go back to the beginning, and outline some steps that can help us avoid Jane’s fate, starting with a nightly routine.
Here are some steps you can add to your nightly routine to help you fall asleep faster and get a better night’s sleep. You don’t have to do every single one, but try each out for a few nights and see if it makes a difference in your sleep.
Set an alarm
Many of us set alarms to help us wake up, but it can also be very useful to have an alarm to remind us that it is time to get ready for bed. Maybe you’re catching up on episodes of your favorite show, or you’re engrossed in a really good book, or even just mindlessly browsing Facebook or Pinterest. We can easily lose track of the time, and before you know it, it’s late. Set an alarm each night that reminds you that it’s time to start winding down and getting ready for sleep. And set that alarm with plenty of time. If watching TV is your thing, and you’re halfway through an episode when your alarm goes off, you want to have time to finish the episode, do all the rest of your routine, and still get to bed by your ideal bedtime.
Brush your teeth
Aside from just being a good habit, brushing your teeth can help signal to your body that it is time to get into rest mode. I actually try to brush my teeth earlier on in the evening, as it prevents me from wanting to snack on something the rest of the night.
If you have a nightly facial routine, you can do it when you brush your teeth, or right before bed. Some of us need toner, others of us need moisturizer. No matter what, be sure to remove any makeup you may have applied that day. A minute or two of care in the evening will leave your face looking that much more refreshed in the morning.
Do some light stretching or yoga
You are about to lay comatose for hours on end. Your body will get stiff. Fend off some of that stiffness ahead of time by doing some light stretching or yoga before bed. The idea here isn’t to tire yourself out, but to just loosen up your body so that you don’t wake up with a strange crick in your neck.
Take some “Zen” time
Immediately before bed, take some time to do something for yourself. This can take any number of forms. You can do some journaling, either writing down what you were grateful for, or just doing a brain dump of the day to get it out of your head so you’re not thinking about it as you drift of to sleep. You could read a chapter of a book, but the stipulation is that it must be fiction. The idea here is to wind down. No reading a self-help book and then thinking of all the ways to apply it to your life when you should be falling asleep. You could knit or crochet while listening to some relaxing music. You can do some meditation. I personally engage in some of that de-stress coloring before bed, and I find that when I make the time for it, it significantly cuts down the time it takes me to fall asleep. Do whatever low-key thing works for you. I recommend spending at the very least a solid five minutes on this activity, but if you can do 15 minutes or more, that’s fantastic!
Brush your teeth, take care of your face, change into your jammies, take a moment to stretch, then check your social media accounts one last time, because…
This last one is PARAMOUNT. The longer you can go without a screen before heading to bed, the faster you’ll be able to fall asleep. Our computer, television, tablet and phone screens all emit a ton of light in the blue spectrum. That blue light signals to our brain that it is still day time, throws off our circadian rhythms, and makes it much harder for us to fall asleep. This is why none of the zen items above involved playing games on your phone before bed. It is also why I recommend that the zen time be the very last thing you do before bed as it’ll force you to be without a screen for a bit. If you find yourself using screens far too late (it’s just the way of the world) you can help combat the blue light syndrome by installing certain apps to change the “temperature” of the light on your screen. These apps automatically adjust the color of your phone to more and more reddish based on the sunset time in your location. I use the Twilight app on my Android phone, and I use f.lux on my PC.
Hopefully trying some of these ideas will help you get to sleep quicker, and also help you have a better night’s sleep. I really do like trying to do all but the last thing as early in the evening as possible. It sounds ridiculous, but on nights I don’t do this, I find I go to bed way later because, get this, the prospect of doing all the things to get ready for bed just seems like too much work, so I put it off. Seriously. On the other hand, if I’ve already done almost all of my getting ready for bed things, once I decide I’m tired enough for sleep, I can easily just turn off my phone, sit down and color for a bit, and then go off to bed. No having to make any stops along the way.
What activities make up your nightly routine? What would you add to this list? Let me know below in the comments!
Next up, how to get a better night’s sleep.