Sleep is one of the most important things to get right. Being able to fall (and stay) soundly asleep is vital for living a healthy life. When you sleep, your body heals and repairs itself and your mind recharges and process information. You’re essentially recovering and preparing yourself for the day ahead.
But if you have anxiety and difficulty falling asleep, the thought of bedtime is often enough to bring you out in a cold sweat.
Having an effective bedtime routine is the best way to ease your mind, calm your thoughts and prepare your body for a night of deep sleep. Read on to find out how to create a good bedtime routine that will banish bad thoughts and send you off into dreamland.
Why a good bedtime routine is essential
Having a good, calming bedtime routine makes all the difference between drifting peacefully off to sleep or lying in bed falling victim to your anxious thoughts.
As insomniacs will know, there’s nothing worse than letting anxious thoughts run away with you in the middle of the night. Anxious thoughts turn into though loops, causing a downward spiral into the dark pits of your own personalized anxiety hell.
This is where having a good bedtime routine comes in.
When you take time in the evening to prepare for sleep, both your mind and body calm down naturally. Having a set routine each night before bed builds the connection in the brain that bedtime routine = sleep time.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Bedtime Routines
Creating a relaxing bedtime routine will avoid you falling into a bad routine that could disturb your sleep and trigger your anxiety. A good routine can take as little as 21 days to establish, but a bad routine is hard to break.
What to avoid before bed:
This means no scrolling out on social media or binging Netflix before sleep. The blue light your electronics emit will restricts the production of melatonin in your body. Melatonin controls your circadian rhythm (sleep cycle) so reduced levels of it before bed will making it harder to fall and stay asleep.
Avoid eating a heavy meal at least two hours before bed, as this activates your digestive system, making it harder to catch those Z’s. This is because heavy foods, especially carbs, are difficult to digest, and slows down the body’s metabolism. You could be lying in bed feeling pretty uncomfortable and restless with a full stomach.
Going to bed when you’re not tired
If you’re working late and your mind is still racing from the busy day you’ve just had, don’t climb into bed until you’re ready to fall asleep. Otherwise, you’ll end up tossing and turning, getting frustrated and anxious as sleep steers clear of you.
Using your bed as a movie theatre/office/library
It’s your dream cave, your sleep space, your sacred relaxation pod. It’s not for working, eating, or watching Netflix. Reserving your bed solely for sleep (and sex) will help you link the two together, making it easier to drift off when your head hits the pillow.
Stressful or mentally arousing activities
When you’re preparing for bed, avoid doing things that arouse your brain and cause stress or excitement. Instead, try some of the activities below to calm your mind and body.
Calming activities to prepare you for bed:
Pick your bedtime (and wake time)
Going to bed and waking up at the same time will help your body get used to the rhythm of your day and increase your sleep drive (your desire to sleep). Choose a time before midnight to hit the hay, as experts reveal the best sleep is had between 10pm and 6am. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
Empty your brain
It’s hard to fall asleep when your brain is buzzing with all the things you have to do the next day. Thought dump your to-do lists and thoughts onto a piece of paper before preparing for sleep so you can focus on relaxing instead. Meditation is a great way to calm your mind, and if you’re a beginner, a guided sleep meditation might be just the thing you need.
Do things you find calming
This could include taking a hot bath, drinking chamomile tea, reading a book or doing gentle stretches. Whatever you find calms you down the most and doesn’t require much brain power is what you should be doing.
Use lavender as a natural sedative
Lavender tea, lavender oil and lavender room spray are all perfect for people wanting to calm down their nervous system. Lavender is perfect for those suffering from anxiety and those who have trouble falling asleep too. This is because it works as an anxiolytic and a sedative, quietening your brain and nervous system and aiding sleep to come naturally.
Listen to sleep stories
If you’re really struggling with your thoughts, listening to calming sleep stories or sleep music can help. Listening to the same, favorite sleep story each night can help program the brain to fall asleep faster when listening to it.
Building Up Your Bedtime Routine
The key is to create a routine that you enjoy doing and one that isn’t longer than 30 minutes. This way, you’re more likely to stick to it and it will be more effective in the long run.
If you’re not a huge fan of routines, you can start slowly by having a couple of things on your pre-bedtime list. Once you’ve gotten used to these, you can slowly start adding a couple more things that you think will help and build up your routine.
Many people resist the idea of routines because they are tiresome and boring. This is exactly why you need a bedtime routine that fits you; one that you enjoy.
A good bedtime routine can make (or break) your day ahead. This is why it’s important to experiment and find out what works for you.
As far as calming your anxious thoughts is concerned, using some of the tools mentioned above should do the trick.
Incorporating an a natural anxiety supplement like Calm into your daily routine may help you improve your sleep, as well!
Do you have a bedtime routine? What activities does it involve?
Share your experience in the comments below!