Getting a good night’s sleep is critical to having good energy throughout the day. Good sleep starts long before you lay your head on the pillow though. What you do and don’t do during the hour or two before bed can significantly impact the quality of your sleep. Let’s have a look at some science-backed strategies to create a calming sleep routine that actually promotes optimal sleep and, in turn, good energy.
The Science of Sleep
It’s beyond the scope of this article to do a deep dive but it’s important to know that you have an internal clock that controls our sleep-wake cycle. It’s known as the circadian rhythm and it uses the hormone melatonin to help regulate sleep. Melatonin is influenced by external cues such as light exposure. Research studies are clearly showing that exposure to blue light from electronic devices suppresses melatonin production, making it harder to fall and stay asleep . If we understand this we can then make changes in our homes to optimise our sleep routine and increase our energy.
Creating a Calming Environment
A. Minimising Electronic Device Usage
Electronic devices disrupt our sleep. Part of this is just the stimulation they provide but a larger part is the exposure to unnatural levels of blue light. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that screen time in the evening is associated with delayed sleep onset and shorter sleep duration . Blue light decimates our melatonin levels. To promote better sleep, it’s essential to avoid screens at least an hour before bedtime. Consider putting your devices away or use filters to reduce the amount of blue light you are being exposed to. Most phones have settings you can change or you can get blue light blocking glasses which are a wonderful solution . While this requires a bit of work it’s perhaps the most effective sleep routine to implement.
If you want to learn more about melatonin here are some really cool tips on how to increase its production and preservation
B. Dimming the Lights
Bright lights in the evening can also interfere with melatonin production. Research suggests that exposure to bright light in the evening suppresses melatonin levels, and negatively affects our sleep . Try dimming the lights in your home in the hours before bed. You can also opt for candles. Another great option is to use things like full spectrum or red bulbs.
If you are interested in light here’s a blog on how certain wavelengths of light can increase your energy levels.
C. Establishing a Relaxing Bedtime Ritual
Consistency in life is critical. It turns out it’s also very important with sleep. A consistent, relaxing sleep routine tells your body and mind it’s time to wind things down. It helps prepare your body for sleep. Reading some mindless fiction, taking a warm bath preferably with Epsom salts, or practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing have been shown to promote better sleep quality . Pick your “things” and then build a bedtime routine that you stick with.
Promoting Physical Comfort
A. Creating a Restful Sleep Environment
Your bedroom and what you have in it matter. A study published in the journal Sleep Science found that a comfortable mattress and pillows contribute to better sleep quality and reduced pain perception . It’s also important to have a dark, quiet, and cool room. A mattress these days doesn’t have to break the bank. The relatively new “bed in a box” mattresses have been shown to be as good as traditional mattresses at a fraction of the cost. Consider purchasing a supportive mattress, good pillows, a sleep mask, or earplugs to get that good night’s sleep.
B. Engaging in Light Physical Activity
Light physical activity before bed can help release tension and promote relaxation. A study conducted at Northwestern University demonstrated that incorporating regular physical activity, such as walking or light stretching, into your daily routine can improve sleep quality . While light exercise may help be careful to avoid intense exercise as they can make it harder to fall asleep.
Managing Mental Stimulation
Did you know that REM sleep is essential for memory consolidation and emotional regulation? It also processes and integrates the information from our day, helping to solidify memories and enhance cognitive functions. That sounds an awful lot like what journalling is supposed to do, doesn’t it? A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that journaling about one’s thoughts and emotions before bedtime led to faster sleep onset . There are many types of journals these days so have a look for a type that suits you. Personally, I feel a gratitude journal is a great way to go and a good addition to a quality bedtime routine.
B. Practicing Mindfulness or Meditation
No surprise here. Mindfulness and meditation techniques are effective in promoting relaxation and reducing stress. Many studies have shown that mindfulness practices can improve sleep quality and reduce insomnia symptoms . If you haven’t tried it give it a go and see what you think. There are some high quality apps these days that walk you through the process.
Avoiding Stimulating Substances
Caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol have been shown to interfere with sleep quality and the ability to fall asleep . Caffeine can be sneaky as well as it’s in some soft drinks, chocolate, energy drinks, and some pain and weight loss medications. Alcohol will perhaps allow you to fall asleep quickly, but the quality of the sleep is poor. Without a doubt your sleep, and overall energy, will improve when you create a bedtime routine that avoids these substances.
Your sleep routine an hour or two before bed matters. It’s worth the effort to implement and stick consistently with as many of these suggestions as possible. Have a play, experiment a bit with them, and see what works best for you. A good bedtime routine and prioritizing quality sleep are key to having great energy and reducing fatigue.
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