At the end of a difficult day, it can be hard to wind down and drift off, even when you feel tired. Many people struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep because they keep their schedules packed up to the moment they climb into bed for the evening; worse yet, they bring the demands of the day with them in the form of always-on notifications from work, news, and social media. If you want to change your habits, but don’t know where to start, read on for a nighttime routine full of expert-approved tips that will help you get the quality sleep you need.
Step One: Establish a Routine
Unfortunately, many of the “relaxing” activities people enjoy in the hours before bed are anything but. Scrolling through your social media feeds or the day’s news might feel like a break, especially if you’ve been fighting the urge to distract yourself at work, but your brain won’t interpret it that way. Not only does the stress of scrolling make your heart beat faster and cue your body’s wake-up response, the blue light from TVs, phones, and computers convincingly signals your brain that it’s morning by tricking the photo-receptors in your eyes into perceiving your screen as a source of daylight.
But if you put down your screen and turn off your TV, what should you do for those two hours? It’s understandable to feel bored and lonely without your electronics; after all, they’re a more important way than ever for people to socialize and relax. Experts suggest replacing these sleep-interfering behaviors with a new routine that you can associate with rest, relaxation, and, ultimately, sleep. Your skin is most effective at repairing itself overnight, when the body steps up its cellular regeneration processes, so lean into those benefits by taking some time to pamper your skin before bed.
If you’re new to the world of skin care and not sure where to start, consider a starter kit or a recommended routine from a brand you trust. This makes it easy to use several new products together because products from the same brand are designed to complement each other. Some brands, like Beverly Hills MD, include collagen supplements to make your routine work even better. Dermal Repair Complex reviews suggest that customers trying to make the most of their skin’s natural repair processes will benefit from adding these capsules to their regimen.
Step Two: Setting Up for Sleep
You might swear by nodding off to the flickering light of your TV, but for the best possible sleep, your bedroom should be cool, dark, and quiet. Of these, keeping things cool may be the most important. The issue at hand is core temperature, which is a key component of the biological mechanisms your body uses to regulate wakefulness.
In the morning, as it gets brighter and warmer, core temperature rises, kicking off an intricate sequence of hormonal cues that help you wake up. At night, however, core temperature declines, signaling your brain to shut things down for the evening. Hot sleeping environments interfere with this process in much the same way that blue light does; both confuse your body into thinking that it’s daytime and you need to be awake.
“Dark and quiet” are self-explanatory, but how cold should your bedroom be for the ideal night’s rest? The National Sleep Foundation recommends somewhere around 65 degrees F, but no hotter than 67 F. If you live somewhere that’s hot for much of the year, support your air conditioner’s efforts with a ceiling fan and a cold shower before bed to turn down your body temperature without breaking the bank.
Step Three: Get More Comfortable
Even if you cool your bedroom to the right temperature and avoid screens for the full two hours before bed, you won’t sleep well if you’re tossing and turning all night because your mattress isn’t right for you. Most manufacturers recommend replacing your mattress if it’s more than eight years old, you notice sagging or indentation anywhere on its surface, or if you keep waking up in the morning with back, hip, or shoulder pain.
It’s important to examine your mattress while you’re awake, since you may not realize that you’re getting mostly low-quality sleep. Mattress shopping is worth it, but it’s an expensive and time-consuming proposition, and the best way to know if you’ll like a mattress is to sleep on it. In light of this, more manufacturers are offering extensive trial periods after which you can return the mattress at no cost—even if it’s been your bed for three to six months.
Step Four: Know What To Avoid
Many of your favorite afternoon or evening indulgences probably don’t mix well with a good night’s rest. If you haven’t already cut out that late-afternoon coffee, now is a good time; most experts recommend that anyone dealing with insomnia should have their last cup no later than 3 or 4 p.m., and after-dinner espresso is out of the question!
Alcohol, though it may initially make you feel relaxed and sleepy, prevents you from reaching the rapid eye movement stage of your sleep cycle, which is one of the most important components of a good night’s rest. Without it, mood and memory suffer, and you may end up wide awake well in advance of your alarm. The more you drink, the more pronounced these effects will be, and doctors suggest cutting off your alcohol consumption four hours before bedtime.
Step Five: Make a Backup Plan
You’ve invested two hours in a relaxing bath, a soothing skin care routine, and a relaxing book. You’re reclining in your new bed with the thermostat set to 65 F. The TV is off. And yet, you still can’t sleep. It’s important to have a plan for what to do when insomnia strikes despite your best efforts so that your understandable frustration doesn’t undermine your good habits. It’s a maddening paradox familiar to insomniacs that the more you wish you could fall asleep, the harder it is to do so.
For this reason, sleep psychologists emphasize that it’s important not to catastrophize your insomnia; naturally, you want to sleep better, but you’ll get through the day even if it’s a tough night, and you’ll be doubly ready for bedtime tomorrow. To avoid associating your bed with insomnia, don’t lie under the covers wide awake for more than 20 minutes. Get up, move to another room, and go back to your relaxing pre-sleep activities in low-light conditions. This lets your brain disengage from stressing out about sleep. Once you start to feel tired again, head back to bed and try again.
Trying to get restful sleep is frustrating when it feels like your body won’t cooperate with the bedtime you set for it. Luckily, taking control of your bedtime habits could be all you need to help you get eight hours of quality sleep.
Worrying about how much sleep or the quality of sleep you are getting each night can lead to more poor sleep. To help you get on the right track, talk to one of our sleep experts today.