Building a healthy bedtime routine

Sleep is vital. It’s the time when essential maintenance and regeneration is carried out in your mind and body.

What’s sleep hygiene?

‘Hygiene’ refers to the preservation of health, so sleep hygiene is basically about how to make your sleep habits healthy. Good sleep hygiene is important because poor sleep has been linked to an increased risk of many life-limiting diseases. These include high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, depression, stroke and heart attacks.

How can I sleep ‘clean’?

Firstly, make sure that your bedroom is a sleep sanctuary. You want it to be cool and comfortable, so spend a little bit extra on some breathable 100% cotton sheets that glide over your skin and don’t turn into sandpaper after the first wash. Also, stop working in bed. Whilst it might be comfy as hell, it’s not good for your back and it’s no good for your mind either. Your bed should only be used for sleep and sex to create a strong mental association between your bed and sleep.

Make sure that you’re leaving yourself enough time to get at least 8 hours sleep every night. If you’re sat there thinking “Woah, 8 hours?! I usually only get 6…” don’t worry. You can build up to that.

Daytime preparation for good night’s sleep.

Start by waking up at the same time every day. Routine is everything. If this is really tough for you, as soon as your alarm goes off, throw open the curtains and let the morning light stream in. This helps to normalise your circadian rhythms and regulate hormone production. For the winter (toughest) months, it’s worth investing in a light lamp to help get you going for the day. 

Doing just 30 minutes of exercise in the day will help prepare your body for sleep too. Even if it’s a short, brisk walk, this energy usage helps prime your body for a good night’s sleep. Avoid drinking anything caffeinated after lunch as well. We know the post-lunch slump is real, but you’ll be doing yourself a favour if you resist an afternoon coffee or naps. We all love a good nap but, like with anything, too many naps are bad news because they will throw your sleep cycle out of whack. If you can’t refrain, keep your naps to once a day in the afternoon and for only 20 minutes.

What you should avoid in the evening.

There are various things that we do in the evening which can hinder our body’s ability to fall peacefully into a solid night’s sleep. The main ones are consuming alcohol and nicotine, and eating large meals late.

Alcohol is an antidote to good quality sleep. Although it might send you off to sleep quicker, you won’t be getting the deep sleep that your brain needs to carry out that all-important maintenance. Something people can often forget is that nicotine is a stimulant. Whether it’s in a cigarette, vape or gum, nicotine will inhibit your ability to fall asleep easily. Try to avoid using nicotine within 3 hours of your bedtime.

The potential impact of nighttime eating on sleep has always been a contentious one. Luckily, scientists seem to have worked it out. It’s fine to have a light late-night snack before bed, as long as it’s low-calorie, low in refined sugar and high in protein. Avoid large meals though, as they can induced indigestion and disrupt your sleep cycle.

Nighttime preparation for a good night’s sleep.

What you do in the hour leading up to your bedtime can have a strong impact on the quality of sleep you get. Start by stopping the use of your phone, laptop or TV. They emit blue light which can inhibit the release of a sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin. This is also a good time to turn the lights down, using low-light lamps instead of overhead lighting.

In the half-hour running up to your bedtime, do an activity that you find soothing. This could be reading a book, doing some gentle stretches or listening to some relaxing music in a hot UNPLUG-infused bath. Anything that helps your mind slow down.

What if I can’t sleep?

Sometimes you’ll take all of these steps, but you still won’t fall asleep easily. It happens. The experts say that if you don’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing until you start to feel sleepy. This would also be a good time to give yourself a relaxing helping hand with some LIGHTS OUT drops. Just avoid watching the clock and any screens!

Making these changes at any point in your life has huge benefits, but don’t expect to be sleeping amazingly immediately. Gradually introduce the changes we’ve explained to give your body time to grow accustomed to these new habits.