The bedtime wind down
Bedtime routines are a hot topic. So many of us are bad sleepers as a result of the frenetic world we live in today, we are constantly told sleep is really important (a fact that if you are a bad sleeper, can make you feel instantly more stressed).
However, there are some tips and tricks that really do help, and a bedtime routine is definitely worth the effort. Why? Because essentially routines are predictable and boring and boring is good at night, it's calming.“Routine implies safety,” says Dr. Rafael Pelayo, clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at the Stanford Centre for Sleep, Science, and Medicine. “It’s why we read kids the same story every night.”
Here are 6 tips that have really helped this one-time insomniac:
Decompress, if you don't allow yourself time to switch off, chances are you are not going to sleep well. At least 2 hours before bedtime you need to start your wind down. The best tip I ever learned was to put my phone on airplane mode at around 8 pm. This stops the Instagram scrolling and email checking that instantly raise your cortisol levels.
Have a bath just before you go to sleep - this raises your body temperature and being hot in bed can really affect sleep and make you restless. Instead, have a bath when you get home or stop working, at least a few hours before bed, light a candle, and chill. This is a lovely symbolic way of telling your brain the busy day is over and now it's time to mellow out. Once you get into bed, your temperature will have dropped significantly.
Go to bed hungry - often you are told not to eat heavy meals at night, and although this is true and it can disturb your sleep, going to bed feeling hungry is actually stimulating. Have a light carby bedtime snack before you go to bed.
Once in bed do some diaphragmatic breathing - One of the biggest benefits of diaphragmatic breathing is reducing stress. It has such a relaxing impact on the body. Put one hand on your tummy and one hand on your chest, fill your belly up with as much oxygen as you feel possible (usually around a count of 6) hold the breath for 5, then exhale every last morsel of breath out (usually around 8) do this for 5 minutes or so.
Write down worries and reminders for the next day - keep a pen and paper beside your bed and write down your worries and the things you need to remember for the next day, this stops them unnecessarily buzzing around your head.
IT'S NOT A BIG DEAL - the first thing my doctor said to me when I went to see him about insomnia was, it's not going to kill you. Yes it's horrible and unpleasant but you can survive a few bad night's sleep, the more you catastrophize it, the worse it is.
Time Magazine "6 Tips to Build a Better Bedtime Routine"
Healthline "The 9 Best Breathing Techniques for Sleep"