Bedtime routines that will make falling asleep a snap!
So we talked about sleep hygiene and how that "perfect" sleeping space set-up can help encourage you to fall asleep, but maybe you're still staring at that ceiling every night begging for sleep to come. If that's the case, don't worry, there's a lot more to try, including changing up that bedtime routine!
1. Get off that phone/tablet/computer/TV!
Blue light late at night helps to keep cortisol high which can keep you away. It also blunts the natural rise in melatonin we are supposed to get each night so now you're REALLY wide awake. If you really want to "go for the gold" consider using blue-light blocking glasses from 4 pm to whenever you get off your screens or install an app such as "Flux" or switch your phone settings to "dark mode" after 4 - 6 pm. Also, if you happen do wake in the middle of the night and are having a hard time falling back asleep DO NOT get onto a screen! This will really made it much harder to fall asleep because cortisol can start to rise which means melatonin will drop which means you can basically say goodbye to falling back asleep...
2. Structure in about 1 hour of dim light exposure before bed.
Again this helps to allow our pineal gland to start to produce an adequate and robust amount of melatonin! This could mean either installing dimming light switches (if you either want to get all home-improvement or hiring someone to do it), switching off overhead lights and using more dim lamps or even using more of a night-light or salt lamp as your light source.
3. Consider adding in a light, protein-rich snack before bed.
Giving your body just a few extra calories before bed can reduce waking in the middle of the night as it helps to regulate blood sugar which is a common cause for not staying asleep. Some examples of light, protein-rich snacks can include a few cubes of cheese, a handful of nuts/seeds, half of a hard-boiled egg or a tablespoon of a nut or seed butter. **Don't eat something you don't tolerate or digest well but trying this simple trick can make a big impact.
4. Incorporate some relaxation techniques into your nightly routine. This can include:
Yoga -- Yoga with Adrienne is a YouTube channel and Yoga by Candace is a phone app that both have a vast array of relaxing yoga routines ranging from 5 - 60+ minutes. Talk about an easy way to get off your screen (they will walk you through what pose you are supposed to be in and you can always glance at the screen if you're really lost)!
Meditation/mindfulness -- Aura, Mindful.org, Calm and Headspace are all great resources for guided meditation/mindfulness.
Deep breathing -- as you get into bed, lie on your back, place your hands over your belly and take 10 deep belly breaths, focusing on exhaling longer than you inhale.
Body scanning -- this can be done in a multitude of ways but one of my favorite ways involves doing a progressive muscle contract-release exercise. Starting with the muscles of your feet, contract and hold that contraction for 5 seconds, then relax your feet, then contract the muscles of your feet and your calves, contract for 5 seconds then relax; keep adding in the next muscle group as you go up from your feet to your head/face.
Taking a hot shower or bath -- some hot water can really help to reduce stress and anxiety and calm the sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight part of our nervous system) so that you can drift off with no issues - consider adding some Epsom salts or lavender essential oil drops to your bath water or just the drops into the corner of the shower. **Do not use any items that you know you have a sensitivity or reaction to.
Taking a contrast shower (this is especially good if you feel 'ramped up' before bed) -- sure, no one likes cold water BUT this is an easy way to "tucker yourself out" so that when you lay down, you will actually feel tired. Try out this simple contrast shower method: 10-30 seconds of cold (or tepid if you really can't stand cold water) followed by 1 minute hot, repeat this pattern 3-6 times but be sure to END on COLD. This is crucial as it allows your body to go through the warming up process which can deplete a little extra energy (thus why it's an especially useful technique if you are feeling 'ramped up' pre-bedtime). **If you have issues with being able to tell the temperature of water, be EXTRA CAREFUL so as not to scald yourself.
Hopefully, these simple changes in your bedtime routine can help you catch some more "zz's" and allow you to get those full 7+ hours of sleep we all should be getting every night!
*DISCLAIMER: This document is not intended to treat or diagnose disease. Before implementing any new treatment protocols be sure to consult with a licensed physician. The author has nothing to disclose in regards to supplements or products mentioned within this document and the author does not receive any monetary or any other incentive to mention the recommended supplements or products.