Work, hectic schedules, and worrying about life, in general, keep many people up late or cuts into the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep we should be getting each night.
One of the best ways to prepare your body for sleep is to establish a bedtime routine. Setting aside a few hours each night to wind down and practice healthy habits will teach your body and mind what to expect and help ease you into sleep.
Here are five things you can incorporate into your nighttime routine that research has found is good for inducing sleep.
Eat a Healthy Snack
Whilst it’s true that there are certain foods you shouldn’t eat just before bedtimes such as anything heavy and greasy or that contain caffeine and sugar, there are several foods that can help make you drowsy.
Foods that contain tryptophan are a great choice. This amino acid helps your body produce melatonin, a hormone that regulates your sleep/wake cycle. Good sources of tryptophan include:
- Chicken and turkey meat
- Dairy foods such as cheese, milk, and yoghurt
Other foods to try include:
- Plain rice mixed with warm milk—rice helps produce melatonin
- Popcorn, unsweetened cereal, or oatmeal—foods heavy in carbohydrates, when consumed at night, help make you feel sleepy
- Kiwis—a study was done at Taipei Medical University in Taiwan found that people who ate kiwis regularly for four weeks reported falling asleep faster and enjoying better sleep through the night
Try also sipping on a herbal tea blend formulated to help you relax and fall asleep faster.
Remember to keep the portion size under control, as an actual meal may be too heavy to consume at bedtime—your stomach has to work harder to digest it, which can cause heartburn and keep you awake.
Yoga and/or Meditation
Both yoga and meditation have calming effects, making them the perfect pre-bedtime practice. No matter which one you choose, you’ll be focusing on your breathing and being in the present moment instead of worrying about what went wrong during your day or what may go wrong in the future.
In one study of older adults, meditation was found to decrease the amount of sleep disturbances participants experienced that prevented them from getting a full night’s sleep. They also reported feeling less stressed and depressed.
You can simply visualise being in a pleasant location such as a tropical island whilst you meditate or listen along with an online guided meditation that helps you focus on positive thoughts and feelings. When done lying down in bed, the regular practice can lull you into sleep.
Yoga also gives you the added benefits of increased flexibility and waking up with fewer aches and pains. In fact, both yoga and meditation help the body produce endorphins, the “feel-good” chemical that also acts as a natural pain killer as well as dopamine, the hormone associated with reward and pleasure.
So not only will yoga and meditation help you sleep better, but you’re more likely to wake up in a good mood the following morning. Here are six yoga poses to try that can boost your mood and help you sleep better.
Power Down Your Mobile Devices
The amount of time many of us spend online may very well be compromising our sleep. The blue light given off by phones, tablets, and laptops can actually trick your body into thinking it’s still daylight by disrupting your melatonin production so that you feel more alert.
In fact, a Harvard study comparing the effects of 6.5 hours of exposure to blue light to exposure to green light found that the blue light suppressed melatonin for about twice as long as the green light and shifted circadian rhythms by twice as much (3 hours vs. 1.5 hours).
Avoid entertainment screens for at least an hour before bedtime, and opt instead to read a physical book or magazine or practice a relaxing hobby, such as knitting.
De-Stress the Next Day by Planning Ahead
We all know that stress can prevent us from falling asleep, which then creates a dangerous cycle of sleep deprivation, fed by worrying about everything we need to do the next day.
Organising what you can for the following day can diffuse some of the stress and worry that may keep you awake longer at night.
To tackle what you can the night before, such as making lunches for you and your kids, making a to-do list of what needs to get done, adding water to the coffee machine, and laying out clothing, footwear, and accessories you’ll need for the day (watch the weather report so you’ll know how to dress and if an umbrella is needed.)
Your mind will rest easier knowing you won’t have to scramble as much in the morning to get out the door on time.
Enjoy a Warm Bath or Shower
A review of over 5,000 studies on the connection between taking a warm bath or shower an hour or two before bed and sleep quality found that this practise really works.
Enjoying a soak in warm water temporarily increases body temperature, which then will drop by the time we get under the sheets. It’s our drop in body temperature that relaxes us and preps our body for slumber. Plus, you can visualize the day’s negativity getting washed off of you to prepare yourself mentally for the following day.
Establish a Nighttime Routine for Better Sleep
Just as kids benefit from a bedtime routine to help quiet their mind and relax them into better sleep, so too can adults feel more rested during the day by preparing for sleep the night before. Try incorporating one or more of the tips above to help evade insomnia and get the proper amount of sleep that you need.