A good sleep hygiene routine can help you to sleep better. There is lots of advice for things to do and not do. But how do you put together your own routine? This post is all about what you need to consider when you create your own. Bear in mind it can take at least 66 days to form a habit, so it will take a while for your routine to bed in (pun intended!). There are lots of benefits to a good routine, not just better sleep. For example, it can reduce anxiety and help with organisation.
There are three things to take into consideration; timing, your activities and your environment. Here, all three will be covered, plus I’ll share my own routine with you. If you’re new to sleep hygiene, check out this post which will give you all the basics you need.
Finally, there’s a sleep hygiene competition, so read all the way to the end for details on how to enter!
Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day programmes the brain and internal body clock to get used to a set routine. This is obviously difficult for those who do shift work (there will be a post about this soon).
Allowing enough time for winding down ensures you go to bed relaxed and ready for sleep. Having too short a lead-up to bedtime means you could be going to bed stimulated/wired and will find it hard to drop off. When exactly to start your bedtime routine, depends on what it involves. The easiest way to work out when to start your routine is:
- Work out what time you need to go to bed.
Take the time you need to wake up and count back however many hours of sleep you typically need. Most adults need between 6 and 9 hours of sleep every night. This is your bedtime.
- Work out when to start your sleep routine.
Time how long your sleep routine takes, then count back from your bedtime. You might find it easier to remember when to start your new routine if you set an alarm or reminder.
You may find you need to tinker with your timings a bit as you refine your sleep routine. Allow at least 30 minutes for your routine, although many people prefer to take longer. Once you’ve established which aspects work best for you, stick to your routine. This way, your brain recognises the routine as a cue that it’s time to sleep.
Sleep Hygiene Routine Activities
Certain activities can help you to relax or unwind, others can stimulate or excite. Your sleep routine should be tailored to your own needs and preferences. It should include things like brushing your teeth and putting on nightclothes, as well as activities which help you relax. There are some activities however, which should be avoided.
Switch off screens 2 hours before bed as the blue light from these devices could have a negative effect on falling asleep. If you use your phone or tablet for sleep or relaxation apps use a blue light filter and ensure the screen brightness is turned down, PC Mag has a range of suggestions.
Experts advise avoiding caffeine and nicotine as they are both stimulants. Alcohol may make you sleepy at first, but too much will cause dehydration and you’ll wake during the night due to thirst. Certain foods should also be avoided. Specifically, meals which are large, rich or spicy as they take longer to digest. So, if you have them late you may still be digesting when you could be sleeping soundly.
Avoid activities which raise your core temperature right before bed. For example, very hot baths and strenuous exercise. Core temperature drops at bedtime, so raising it will make it harder to fall asleep. It’s fine to have a bath if you allow enough time for your core temperature to drop afterwards.
Activities to Consider
The Practical Ones
Incorporate all the obvious things like brushing your teeth and putting on nightclothes. If you like to have a small snack before bed, choose something easy to digest that won’t pile on the pounds. Certain foods contain compounds which can help you sleep better. This healthline article has 15 top suggestions with different benefits clearly explained. A soothing drink (herbal tea, or warm milky drink) can also be a good choice, but avoid drinking too much right before bed (or you’ll wake later needing to pee). You might want to get yourself organised for tomorrow. Putting out your clothes or ensuring your bag is packed can save precious minutes the next morning. If you know you need a supplement to help you sleep, or take medication, incorporate it into your sleep routine too.
Calm Your Mind
If you go to bed with anxieties whirring in your head, you might find it helpful to write them down (and any ideas for tackling them). This means they’re ‘parked’ ready for you do deal with tomorrow and you don’t have to keep mulling them over as you try to sleep. Some people also like to note down a few things they’re grateful for. By forcing a focus on the positives, it can lift your mood if it’s been a tough day.
Some people enjoy meditation at the end of the day. There so many different forms there’s bound to be something you’d like to try out. Some forms are guided, others not, some involve movement or sounds. Check out this post from Headspace which lists 16 types of meditation. Headspace has a meditation app, another popular app is Calm. There are literally hundreds of meditation apps to choose from.
Music triggers the release of the ‘happy’ hormone dopamine. It can also help to sooth the autonomic nervous system. Choose music you find relaxing, rather than the kind that fires you up. For more details see this post on Music and Sleep from the sleep foundation. You might prefer to listen to an audio book, or read a physical book. Don’t pick page-turning thrillers, or you’ll still be promising yourself ‘one last chapter’ at 3am. Choose something less compelling, whether fiction or non fiction.
Relax Your Body
As well as your mind, it’s good to relax your body. If you’re a fan of exercise, or you’ve been sedentary and are feeling stiff, try some gentle movement. Exercise such as tai chi or yoga are great choices because they loosen muscles and don’t significantly raise your heart rate. If you want to do a moderate intensity workout in the evening, make sure it finishes 90 minutes before bedtime.
Lots of people like to unwind with a bath or shower. This is a great way to relax both mind and body and take a few moments for self care. Make sure you allow enough time for your core body temperature to cool down afterwards. This takes around 90 minutes and according to research the drop in body temperature could actually help you sleep better.
Your Sleep Environment
The environment where you will sleep is also very important. There’s no point having a fantastic sleep routine if your bedroom or bed isn’t conducive to sleep. The three key environmental factors to consider are:
- Noise Levels
See full details of each of these aspects in the post on sleep hygiene. The right environment can maximise your chances of a great night’s sleep.
My Sleep Hygiene Routine
My own routine can vary depending on my health needs. Due to complex chronic illnesses I’m sometimes bedbound anyway, but regardless my sleep routine begins around 9:45 pm.
Tea+ Sleep and a Snack
I kick off with a herbal tea and a couple of oatcakes with hummus, avocado or some walnuts. ME/CFS involves dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system so I’m a big fan of Tea + Sleep tea. It contains magnesium which is important for supporting my nervous system. I find it such a relaxing and delicious way to supplement. If I have enough energy, I’ll light a scented candle or switch on my aromatherapy diffuser.
Bee Rested Sleep Supplement
Regular readers will know I sometimes struggle with sleep (see my Sleep and ME post). To help, I take a herbal supplement every night called Bee Rested from Unbelieevable Health. Formulated by nutritionists, it contains 9 therapeutic ingredients shown to help support healthy sleep. These are natural ingredients that aren’t usually found in diets or other supplements. I take two about 30 minutes before bedtime. The benefits build up over time, but I notice a difference within a day or two if I run out. I love that I can take these alongside the Bee Calm supplement on days when I’m especially stressed out. Scroll down to find out how you could win a pack of Bee Rested and try their benefits for yourself!
Journaling, Skincare, Yoga and Meditation
If I have the energy, I like to journal for a few minutes. It helps me keep track of what’s been happening, monitor symptom changes and find things to be grateful for. I take any meds I need and brush my teeth. Back in bed, I apply my night serum and eye cream and do some gentle bed yoga. I love the Sleepy Santosha routines which are specifically designed for people with chronic illness and include alternative poses for those with limited mobility. Finally I put out the lights and enjoy some meditation. If I have a half hour and want to deeply relax I’ll choose one from Synctuition, which uses 3D sound and binaural beats. Otherwise, I’ll pick a shorter guided meditation from Insight Timer.
Competition: Win Sleep Hygiene Routine Goodies!
You have the chance to win a set of sleep hygiene goodies to incorporate into your own routine. The prize includes a pack of Unbeelieveable Health Bee Rested supplement, a satin eye mask from Glov and a 100ml bottle of Molton Brown delicious rhubarb and rose bath and shower gel. Huge thanks to Sarah at Unbeelievable Health for supplying the Bee Rested. For full details of how to enter, check out the above graphic on our instagram account.
Do you have a sleep hygiene routine? Are you tempted to create one? What elements or activities do you include? Let me know in the comments below.