Why Bedtime Routines are Critical (Especially These Days)
Having a bedtime routine is probably your surest bet to getting consistent and sufficient sleep every day. Good bedtime routine habits may replace sleep medicine supplementation in some cases, and helps prevent you from the nasty cycle of low sleep followed by sleep binging. Sleep deprivation is insidious:
- Lower quality of life
- Worse eating/drinking habits (i.e., energy drinks, more coffee, etc.)
- Worse performance in every aspect of life
Sleep deprivation is often followed by binge sleeping, which feels good but tends to perpetuate the sleep deprivation cycle. Here are seven necessary steps to set a bedtime sleep routine and schedule.
1 - Create Good Sleeping Environment
Creating a good sleep environment is extremely important, in fact critical, to your creating your sleep routine. It’s quite simple, you need:
- A quiet room
- A dark room
- A clean room
Of course, depending on your existing environment, setting this up can take a bit of doing, such as:
- Using earplugs if you live in a loud area
- Use blackout curtains if you live near city lights or in the far north (like here in Alaska)
- No odd smells, dirty sheets, and other environmental distractions, that can be fixed with essential oils, cleaning your room, etc.
2 - Spend a Little Money for Good “Sleep Assets”
Sleep assets are the items that aid you in feeling comfortable and in love with being in your bed. Just ask yourself: Is your bed comfortable? How old is it? Is it causing you pain?
But sleep assets go beyond just your bed, and include things like:
- A good mattress and/or topper
- A comfortable pillow(s) for your head and, often, between your legs
- Good quality sheets
- A comforter that’s in good condition
Don’t worry if you don’t have the budget for a new mattress. A couple hundred dollars can go a long way in getting a nice memory foam topper and excellent pillow.
3 - Change Diet/Drink Habits As Needed
This should be rather obvious, but having good drinking habits is essential to being able to stick to your bedtime and sleep schedule. Of course, for most of us that means making lifestyle changes! These usually include:
- Not drinking alcohol right before bed (no night cap), as alcohol produces REM sleep
- Drinking less coffee
- Sticking to drinking coffee in the morning
- Limiting liquids directly before bed
Cutting and reducing coffee is especially hard the first few days, but you will adjust quickly.
4 - Choose Activity to Do Before Bed
A pre-bedtime activity that you do dogmatically before bed is absolutely essential. Think Pavlov’s dog, which salivated every time it heard the bell ring because Pavlov always fed the dog after ringing the bell. It’s called conditioning.
This is the purpose of choosing an activity to do before bed – condition your body to start producing melatonin and mentally slow down. Some tried and true pre bedtime activities include:
- Taking a hot bath
- Listening to a book, podcast, etc.
- Journal writing
There are many other possibilities depending on your taste and interests, but some things to avoid are:
- Anything on screens (TV, smart phone, computer)
- Working out
These will wake you up and suppress melatonin production.
5 - Set a No-Screen Rule In Bed
The blue light from screens delay the release of melatonin, and may even suppress the amount that is released. Melatonin is the hormone that regulates sleep.
This rule is especially hard to follow because we are beset by screens:
- Smart phones
Furthermore, there are endless activities to do online with no obvious stopping point, such as a book with chapters. You can scroll through Facebook or Instagram endlessly. You can watch endless YouTube videos. You get the point. The best practice: don’t tempt yourself, don’t expose yourself to blue light.
6 - Set a Realistic Bed Time
Set a bed time? Really? We are not children any more. A bed time is a useful tool. It is your way of self-regulating by setting boundaries and rules for yourself.
There’s an important catch. Your bedtime should be realistic. Set one you think you can actually attain. If you are a night owl, set a bed time later.
7 - Commit to It Until Habituation
Last point and most importantly, commit to setting a sleep schedule. If you don’t commit fully, you won’t be able to set your sleep schedule.
The purpose is to habituate yourself. Habits are hard to set, and take time to build. Like anything, you will likely make mistakes and not follow through at first. But over time, a week or a month, with the commitment to the tips above you should set a nice sleep schedule and get requisite sleep most nights.
What If you Simply Can’t Set Bed Time?
Of course, there are some sleep conditions that will make it seemingly impossible to set this schedule, in which case you may need external help. These conditions include:
- Sleep apnea
- Restless leg syndrome
- Circadian rhythm disorders
If you live in Alaska and have tried setting your schedule without success, please contact us.