In order to help your brain and body prepare for sleep it is important to “set the scene”. Keeping a predictable schedule and routine will give clear signals to your brain that sleep is coming and help you sleep better at night. Here are some suggestions for how to create a relaxing routine to prepare yourself for bed.
- Pick a bedtime and stick to it on both weekdays and weekends, varying by no more than +/- 30 minutes. Choose a time that will allow you at least 7-9 hours before you need to wake up in the morning.
- Keep it dim and red. Darkness in the period leading up to sleep is the strongest cue to our brain that sleep is coming soon. Blue light in particular suppresses our body’s natural darkness hormone, melatonin, so your evening lighting should be skewed to the warm part of the color spectrum. Ideally you should start dimming the lights 2 hours before your desired bedtime. (For more on light, see this post)
- Do your bathroom hygiene routine at least 30-60 minutes prior to bed to avoid waking your brain up with bright light and cold water. If you don’t need bright light for your evening bathroom routine (most people do not need bright light to brush their teeth), try using a 5 watt incandescent night light bulb instead of the overhead light.
- Avoid ALL SCREENS (TV, smartphones, tablets, laptop, etc.) for at least 30-60 minutes before bedtime and keep electronic devices out of the bedroom, or at least out of reach of the bed (such as across the room). If you must have electronic devices in your bedroom, ensure that a “do not disturb” mode or similar is activated so you will not be woken up by notifications in the middle of the night.
- For the 30 minutes before bed, try reading an old fashioned book with a warm-tint (“amber”) booklight, writing a to-do list for the next day, writing in a journal, listening to a podcast or music, doing a few minutes of deep breathing, meditation and/or gentle stretching.
- Turn down the heat (the temperature should fall over the night to 62-65 degrees) or turn on a fan, consider turning on “white noise” (such as a rain or ocean sound) to drown out any sounds that might disrupt your sleep.
- Once you get into bed, turn out the lights, take a few deep breaths and let your mind wander. It is normal to take 5-20 minutes or more to unwind at night before you fall asleep.