For the past year or so, I have been struggling with sleep. I find it challenging to get enough sleep on a regular basis. Some weeks are better than others, but I can’t even say I get 7 hours of sleep at least 3 times a week. It just doesn’t happen. This is a major health related issue because of the importance of sleep. We all have heard it, sleep is important, but have we truly stopped for a second to really learn and understand how lack of sleep can affect us? Have we really and truly worked on improving not only the quantity of hours we sleep, but the quality of them? I for one can say I haven’t. Not truly and consistently, anyways. I let other things like work, school, friends, and laziness get in the way of my sleep. That is why, I am making myself read this book called “Why We Sleep” by Mathew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology. In this book, he explains the neuroscience behind sleep and all the cognitive functions tight to it. I have not finished it yet, but so far I have read enough to be deeply concerned about my sleeping habits and what the lack of it is doing and will do to my body. That is why I have recently been being intentional about getting better sleep. I will leave the details or learnings of this fantastic book for another article, because for now I want to discuss a crucial aspect of improving both the quantity and quality of your sleep: the importance of having a night time routine.
Do you remember how much you slept when you were a kid, how easy it was to fall asleep (most times), and how energetic you always felt the next day? I certainly can. I also remember that my parents had a very specific night time routine for me. For starters I did not have a phone or iPad. My only screen back then was the tv, which I was not allowed to watch past 7pm. At that time, I had to start winding down for the night early. I had to get my clothes ready, brush my teeth, wash my face, read a book, and say a prayer. My winding down time consisted of an hour of quiet time. With today’s rhythm of life is very easy not to have that; quiet time. Most of us bring our phone to bed and scroll through social media as part of our “down time.” Some others bring their work to bed, or work until they are so tired that their physical exhaustion walks them directly to bed. It’s now common not to have intention behind the primal need of resting.
Having intention behind your sleep will allow you to get the best out of it. Developing a night time routine let’s your body know it is okay to go to rest. If our body is prepared for it, then it will make the absolute best out of the sleep it gets, which will translate into improved health and better quality of life. So, now let’s just get to it. Here are three tips to improve your night time routine:
Disconnect from all screens an hour prior to your desired bed time.
Do something that helps your body and mind relax. It could be something like reading, stretching, taking a shower, journaling, etc.
Do some quick breathwork right before you fall asleep. As you lay in bed, close your eyes and bring awareness to your breath. Breathwork exercises don’t have to be complicated. They can be as simple as breathing in on a 5 second count, holding it for another 5 seconds, and then breathing out on a 5 second count again. Repeating this cycle 10 or 15 times will help your body and mind relax and be present.
I myself have a bedtime routine that has helped my mental health enormously. I am still working on getting my 7-8 hours consistently, but just by having a better “winding down” routine, the quality of my sleep has improved. I disconnect from screens at least 90 minutes before bed, I read for about 20 minutes, and then I do some deep stretching accompanied by breathwork. It has been a game changer for me. So, give it a shot! Sleep is easily one of the most important factors of our health that we have complete control over.
Hope this helped, and inspired you to work on your night time routine. If you have any questions let me know.