If you want to achieve great sleep, it is important to develop a good bedtime routine. As we talked about before, you want to stop using alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine at LEAST 6 hours before you intend to go to bed. Although that is more of a daytime preparation, it needs to still be in effect at bedtime.
Let's get right to it.
Number 1: The best thing to do in developing your bedtime routine is to set a fixed bedtime.
Going to bed the same time every night will train your body to become tired at that time, because it knows it is bedtime.
There is a phenomenon I like to call the Opening Monologue Effect. There was a study done that took a whole bunch of people whose night time routine was to watch their local news at 11pm, and then watch the Late Show or the Tonight Show right after at 11:30. These folks would watch just the first part, the opening monologue, where the host would tell jokes and lay-out the show's schedule for the evening. When the show went to the first commercial break, these people went to bed.
This was their routine. Every night. So what researches did was gather a bunch of these people and split them into a few different groups. At a different time of the day, one of the groups would watch the opening monologue of one of these shows. And guess what:
The participants reported feeling more tired than usual after watching this, even though it was the middle of the day.
It is because their brains associated that monologue with going to bed. They watched the monologue, and their brains told them it must be getting time for bed. In another post, I'll discuss what to do (and not do) while in bed to promote sleep. Until then, I want you to remember that the brain associates certain activities with sleeping; just like in the Opening Monologue Effect.
So if you go to bed at the same time every night, you will start to naturally feel sleepy at that time of the evening. You have trained your body to be ready for bed.
Number 2: Relax!
If you are all stressed and tense you are not going to fall asleep very easily. Even if you do, you will likely sleep fitfully. You need to relax you muscles and your mind to prepare for bed. I have recommended to my clients that they make this a bedtime habit that can be done right before bed.
There are a number of different relaxation techniques, and any number of them would be fine. In a later post, I will walk you through the relaxation technique I use with my clients. Until then, a quick YouTube or Google search should net you considerable results. Just find one (or two or three) that resonate with you.
Number 3: Sleep in a Comfortable Bed.
It sounds obvious, but if you are sleeping somewhere uncomfortable, you won't sleep as well. Think of the last time you crashed on someone's couch (or your own couch if you were in trouble). Sure, it was better than the floor or the bathtub, but it just wasn't your bed.
If your bed is uncomfortable, you need to seriously consider replacing it. Now, I understand that that might not always be feasible, especially financially. I'm not saying to go out and buy a whole new bedroom suite. What I am saying, is start with the mattress.
You can usually find discounted mattresses at a mattress store that are just as good as the high-priced ones. Mine was 50% off because of some dis-coloration on the side, where the pattern was smudged. It was still a brand new mattress, but not salesroom approved. Guess what? The fitted sheet covers that part anyway, so I really don't care. If your mattress is fine, but you still don't have the support you need, take a look next at the box-spring, and decide if that needs replacing too.
In a future post, I may do a how-to guide for shopping for mattresses (here it is), or maybe a comparison of the best/cheapest/most comfy brands. Until then, I'm afraid you'll have to do the legwork yourself.
But, whatever your budget, make sure your bed is a comfortable place to sleep. You spend 1/4-1/3 of your life sleeping. It is worth the investment.
Number 4: Watch what you eat.
We will go into greater detail about food and sleeping in another post, but it does warrant mentioning here. Food can be disruptive right before sleep; stay away from large meals close to bedtime. Your body uses energy to digest. And working on a whole meal could you keep awake. Also, indigestion could keep you up. If you just cram your pie-hole with a full meal, and then lay down, you are going to feel it.
Also dietary changes can cause sleep problems. If you are struggling with sleeping now, it's not a good time to start experimenting with spicy dishes. A light snack before bed can actually help you sleep, but again, remember to stay away from the caffeine.
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As always, happy zzz's...