Seven Things You Should Do Before Bed
We take sleep for granted. During the week, we have so much going on that we might not get as much sleep as we should. We may even try fitting in more work before we go to bed. The CDC reported that one in three adults don't get enough sleep. Americans are exhausted, and it's taking a toll on us. Bleary eyes, dark circles, lack of energy-these are just some of the signs of not getting enough sleep. "Sleep is a really important variable that we can take control over," says Karyn J. Horowitz, MD, Director of Outpatient Child Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Services at Bradley Hospital/Lifespan. "There's a lot in our lives that we can't control, but getting sleep is something that we can. We should do anything we can to protect our sleep." And part of protecting our sleep involves getting our bedtime routines right. Sleep is so important, Dr. Horowitz says, that not getting enough of it can impair cognitive functions and even lead to mental health effects, like increased depression or mood swings.
Bedtime routines will vary on a variety of factors, like our work schedules. That's why it is important to work out a routine that helps you get to sleep at night so that you can feel well-rested when you get back up the next day.
Stick to Your Bedtime
Training our bodies to sleep at a certain time and awake requires sticking to a schedule. Routines like a regular bedtime that you stick to help to combat insomnia symptoms, Dr. Horowitz says. "You can vary it by two hours if you need to," she says. "But you want to keep to a regular routine as much as possible."
Stretch to Unwind
This bedtime tip comes from Laura Thomas, CPT-ACE, CPPC, of Thomas Fitness Consulting. Tense muscles can make it uncomfortable when you try to go to sleep. "Stretching before bed can be great!" says Thomas. "Viparita Karani or legs up the wall from yoga is awesome for relieving stress and swelling, and improves circulation. Others include reclined knees to chest, Half Happy Baby while bending and straightening the leg, Cobra, and Child's Pose."
Put Away the Electronics
Bright lights and noises disrupt sleep. Even though it might feel as if our brains shut off when we watch television, that is not entirely the case. "Turn off your electronics at least an hour before bed," Dr. Horowitz says. "And since texts can interrupt your sleep cycle, turn off your cell phone, too. Get an old-fashioned alarm to wake you up in the morning instead of using your phone."
Workout (But Not Right Before Bed)
Working out right before bed can disrupt your sleep. Dr. Horowitz advises against working out within an hour of bedtime. But what about if you can only fit in your workouts at night? According to Thomas, just make sure to be done with exercise at least two hours before you plan to go to bed. "I was a night exerciser for years until I realized the gym is the most crowded at 5 p.m. I actually forced my body into a morning workout routine over time by going to bed earlier and now I can't go much past late afternoon to workout if I miss a morning," says Thomas. "I feel better getting up and moving first thing. It also eliminates excuses for not going to workout after a long day!"
Eat a Small Meal
Nothing is worse than feeling a sugar crash first thing in the morning. If you tend to be hypoglycemic in the mornings, then a healthy snack before bed can help you to stay stabilized throughout the night. Dr. Horowitz recommends a small turkey sandwich or a glass of warm milk to prevent waking up in the middle of the night due to hunger, or feeling sluggish in the morning from a drop in sugar. Keep a balance, however, because Dr. Horowitz says that you don't want to go to bed feeling too hungry or too full.
Prepare for Tomorrow
Does your to-do list keep you up at night? Make planning for the next day part of your routine, but do it at least an hour or two before you intend to go to sleep. Pick out your work outfit; pack your lunch; organize your files for tomorrow's meetings. That way you won't feel rushed in the morning, and you can have peace of mind when you settle down to sleep. Try to leave the day's worries at the door of your bedroom. Dr. Horowitz advises her patients to use relaxation exercises if they need to do so.
What does caffeine do? It keeps you awake! So, when you are trying to get ready for bed, the last thing that you should do is drink anything that has caffeine in it. "You really want to avoid anything that makes you more alert before bed," Dr. Horowitz says. Drink some chamomile tea instead; soda, chocolate, and non-herbal teas should also be avoided as these items tend to have caffeine that can keep you up at night.