Here are 10 tips to improve your sleep ritual
1. Decide on a bedtime in advance and start preparing for it 1–2 hours ahead. (Consider erring on the earlier side.)
Just like you can't go from 0 to 100 in the morning, you can't instantly calm down from a busy day the moment your head hits the pillow. Create a transition period during which you tell your brain and body to start relaxing.
2. Limit your caffeine to the morning, and cut yourself off after 2 p.m.
Caffeine is a stimulant that stays in your body for 8–10 hours after ingesting it. An afternoon coffee could still leave you tossing and turning at 10 p.m.
Remember that caffeine sources include coffee, black and green tea, colas, energy drinks, and dark chocolate.
3. 1 to 2 hours before bed, do a "brain dump" on paper.
Whether we're planning our next day, ruminating over stuff that happened earlier, or just thinking about nothing in particular, it's easy to let the "brain hamsters" run in their wheel as we lie there staring at the ceiling. Doing a brain dump is one way to get hyperactive thoughts under control.
Keep a notebook next to your bed and write down everything that's in your head: To-dos, the meeting next Tuesday, remembering to pick up milk, stuff you're worried about, the meaning of life... Write it all down. The notebook holds on to that stuff for you, so your brain doesn't have to. Now your brain is clean, clear, calm, and ready to relax.
4. Turn off all electronic screens (TV, computer, etc.) an hour before bed.
While you may swear that cruising Facebook or watching late-night reality TV are relaxing, electronic media are actually stimulating. They rev up our brain and body even if we don't realize it. Plus, the light from screens can mess up our circadian clocks.
5. Make yourself some decaf tea, listen to soft music, and read something light.
Reading light ﬁction while sipping on hot herbal tea gets you out of your mind and into a story. It regulates your breathing and signals to your body that you're "shutting down" for the evening.
6. Turn off all phones and gadgets and put them in another room.
It's hard to ignore that ping when you know an email or text is waiting to be read. On the other hand... the phone's easy to ignore if it's turned off. Get an old-school alarm clock without a lit display. (Hey, if you go to bed early enough, you might not even need an alarm. ... Woah.)
7. Keep your bedroom a little cooler.
Cooler temperatures tell the body it's hibernation time. And you won't wake up wrapped in sweaty, knotted sheets.
8. Take an Epsom salts bath before bed.
Epsom salts contain magnesium, which calms the body and promotes sleep. This also helps overall recovery and will ease aches and pains. Dump 1–2 cups into your bath and soak.
Experiment with bath temperature. Some folks swear by warm water; others ﬁnd that cooler water knocks them out better. See what works for you.
9. Dim the lights. Darken your bedroom.
Darkness tells our body that it's time for sleep.
Dim the lights an hour or two before bed—only as bright as they need to be to keep you from bumping into things. Make your bedroom as dark and quiet as possible: Get good drapes or blinds, block out ambient light, and cover any light sources (e.g., electronic displays).
10. Try some white noise.
If you're bothered by outside noise, try leaving a fan or humidiﬁer on in your bedroom. This will create a "white noise" or steady hum that will drown or level out distracting sounds, such as your neighbor deciding to sort his bottles and cans into the recycling bin by the light of the full moon.
Develop your own sleep ritual
- You don't have to try all these strategies tonight.
- Pick one or two that you think might work for you.
- Think of it as your own personal sleep experiment.
At the end of the experiment, you'll have a fool-proof sleep ritual.
Your Health Coach, Chris