It was a Saturday night and I was in with my mum, having a much-needed girl’s night. We’d had a busy day and been for a long walk around the local park and so I started to fade at about 9.30pm.
“No no, it’s only 9.30 and a Saturday night, I can’t go to bed yet! I’m just going to have a 5 minute nap and then I’ll be good!” - said my mum.
Meanwhile, I was already halfway up the stairs, ready to brush my teeth and crawl into bed for a good night sleep! I had tried to convince her to just go to bed but she insisted on staying downstairs, almost seeming embarrassed to be going to bed so early on a weekend (despite the fact it was only us 2 in the house that night!)
So why do we as adults not prioritise our own bedtime routine, just like we would our kids. As you probably know by now, a good routine for children often includes;
- Bath, feed and story
- No TV/screens at least an hour before bed
- Dim lighting (red or amber lighting is best for nightlights)
… But many adults do the complete opposite for themselves and then wonder why they often don’t feel fully rested in the morning (excluding those of you with newborns or still battling night wakings and yet to book a free consultation!).
Having that glass of wine while settling down on the sofa, lights blaring in the lounge, watching the latest Netflix series and scrolling through Facebook before dragging yourself up to bed at 11pm. Maybe even checking your work emails one last time right before bed. Does that sound familiar?
If so, here are my 5 top tips to implement your own bedtime routine.
1- Try to reduce caffeine 8-12 hours before you plan to go to bed.
The most documented effects of caffeine on sleep include: prolonged time trying to get to sleep, shorter total sleep time, worsened perceived sleep quality, increases in light sleep and decreases of deep sleep and more frequent awakenings. You may not even realise your sleep is being affected or think you’re one of those “caffeine doesn’t affect my sleep” type of people, but I can almost guarantee you’ll feel a difference if you just try to cut out the caffeine at least 8 hours before your bedtime.
2- Use dim lighting or candles
Your circadian rhythm is basically a 24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of your brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. But the use of bright lighting right before bed can knock our circadian rhythms out of whack and trick our bodies into thinking it’s the middle of the day. This then releases a shot of cortisol (which is like adrenaline) which makes it harder for us to fall asleep. Dimming the lights or using candles before bedtime is a great way to keep to our natural circadian rhythms which will then make bedtime much easier and more peaceful.
3- Reduce screen-time an hour before bed
Similar to bright lighting, the lighting from our electronic devices can also knock our circadian rhythms off. The best recommendation is to avoid these devices at least an hour before bed, but realistically a lot of us (myself included!) struggle with this!
However, one thing that I found really helps is some blue-light blocking glasses. I got mine for just £10 from Amazon and always wear them from about 2 hours before I go to bed if I know I’m going to have to be on my laptop or tablet until late. I’ve noticed a difference to my sleep quality and how quickly it takes for me to fall asleep, and they’ve also helped with the occasional headaches I used to get from being on my devices too much.
4- Read a book in bed to help you drift off
Most of you know about the importance of reading regularly to your children, but many adults neglect this and go years without reading books for themselves. I personally only rediscovered my love of reading last year but then was hooked and made it a goal of mine to finish at least 2 books a month.
We all live such busy lives nowadays and it feels like we barely have any time to just stop and chill out. But taking just a few minutes to read before bed not only helps your mind shut off from the busy day but is also proven to help reduce stress by up to 68% (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/5070874/Reading-can-help-reduce-stress.html)
So why not give it a go? It doesn’t matter if you prefer fiction or non-fiction, just dim the lights or use a bedside lamp and settle down into your favourite book before bed.
5- Hot shower before bed (especially if you’ve exercised in the evening!)
Among other cues, your mind relies on your body temperature to determine whether it’s time to be asleep or awake. At night, your body temperature naturally cools slightly, telling your brain to release melatonin and get ready for sleep. It reaches its lowest temperature in the early morning and then begins to rise to get ready for the day ahead.
Having a warm shower at night can help to aid this process. During the shower, your body heats up due to the temperature of the water. When you then get out of the shower, the water evaporates from your body, cooling it down and signalling to your brain that it’s time to sleep. This is especially important if you’ve exercised late in the evening as your core body temperature will be even higher than usual and will need extra help to cool down.