How many times have you heard some variation of the words “it’s really important to have a good nighttime routine”? It’s such a game changer to have a good sleep routine, yet it’s so elusive for many people. Our lives are often go, go, go that by the time we crash into bed, our brains have trouble catching up to our body’s desire to slow, slow, slow. And while I’m not here to give you any sort of medical advice (earning an MD is more elusive for me than getting a full 8 hours of zzzzs), I do have some tips and tricks to help you set up a good sleep environment. I dedicate these tips to my mom, a woman who spent my childhood being called into my bedroom on far too many nights because I could never seem to sleep.
- If I took a poll here about everyone’s sleep preferences, I guarantee I’d get an even split on whether people need sound, or complete silence, in order to sleep. And whether you’re like me and watch reruns of the same five comedies you have in rotation, or you’re like my brother who needs complete silence, I encourage you to set up the environment YOU need. If you need silence, ear plugs are a great, inexpensive, tool to help turn any environment into a silent oasis. If you need sound, white noise machines, white noise YouTube videos, a fan, a guided meditation, or your favorite show as background noise, can all be ways to help you switch off your brain. My guidance for playing shows or videos would be to turn the brightness down or the screen off (because the light may keep you awake or interrupt your sleep) and choose something that isn’t so stimulating you HAVE to keep listening (because then you’re keeping yourself up even longer).
- At least an hour before bed, keep it calm. We can’t always control all the stressful circumstances in our lives, but we can control what we listen to, watch, and consume via media in the evenings. Staying away from media that spikes your adrenaline, blood pressure, or feelings of rage can help us slow down our brains and allow our bodies to mellow out. I am guilty of watching intense cooking competitions before bed. My therapist has advised me not to do this on several occasions. She’s not wrong in saying that no matter how much cooking soothes me, watching a competition where I’m deeply invested in strangers’ ability to plate a dish, is not doing my sleep any favors.
- Keep the routine consistent. I won’t tell you there is a perfect bedtime routine. Some people love setting up certain fragrances and mood lighting as the night goes on. Other people have certain PJs they love and tea they drink prior to getting into bed. Whatever routine works for you, try to be consistent with it. Start it around the same time each night and go through the steps in the same order. It’s sort of training your body and mind that when this routine begins, it’s time to start packing it in for the night. You’re signaling that sleep is approaching and your body and mind will be ready for it. And look, some nights you’re going to be out late. That’s okay! It doesn’t have to be perfect. But the more consistent you are with your practice, the better it will work.
Now, if you’re still reading, and I haven’t put you to sleep yet, may you sleep peacefully tonight. You deserve it.