Sleep is arguably the most essential ingredient for maintaining optimal health and well-being. When it comes to your health, sleep is just as crucial as what you eat and how you exercise. However, many of us may not be taking the time to optimize our sleeping habits and may actually be doing more harm than is necessary when it comes to our night time routine.
In modern American society, our lifestyle is not often very intuitive to getting good sleep. Between the 40+ hour work week, commuting times, squeezing in time to exercise, and trying to watch our favorite shows, there's not always a whole lot of time left over to ensure that our night time routines are optimized to fully recharge our bodies for a full 7-8 hours. Inadequate sleep can lead to lower productivity, weight gain, higher stress levels, poor calorie regulation, poor athletic performance, heightened risk of heart disease, poor social/emotional intelligence, higher risk of depression, inflammation, and a weakened immune system. However, ensuring you have the best sleep possible can actually reverse all of these effects and improve each of these areas significantly.
Now, improving your sleep may sound easier said than done. It is certainly something you need to put some effort into in today's day and age; however, improving your sleep is completely possible! To help guide you, think of it as setting three key goals: getting the best sleep possible, lowering stress/anxiety levels, and preparing yourself for the next day.
One of the first steps of your night time routine should be prepping your sleeping environment ahead of time. About 2-3 hours before bed, you should prep your space so that by the time you get to bed, you're not stressing yourself out trying to get everything ready.
Three things to focus on here are: light, temperature, and humidity.
First off, get rid of all sources of light by closing the shades and turning off the lights. If you don't already have one, invest in a night light of some sort or even string lights with a dimmer that allow for a soft, warm light source so you don't stub your toe on the way into bed. But, other than a small light source so you can climb into bed, try to keep it as dark as possible. Studies have shown that even a small source of light can disrupt sleep and make it more difficult to stay asleep, so even with these small light sources- try to only use them as needed! The sooner you can completely black out your sleeping environment, the better.
Secondly, adjust the temperature of your bedroom. The ideal room temperature for sleep hovers somewhere around 65 degrees fahrenheit. Your body naturally lowers its body temperature during sleep, so if you can help it out by lowering the temperature in the room, you can fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Otherwise, your body will try to lower its internal temperature by sweating- and no one wants to wake up in sweaty sheets. Yuck!
Lastly, in your bedroom you want to ensure the air in the room is not dry. During these summer months many of us are running our ACs throughout the night to stay cool, but the air coming out of them is actually very dry and can irritate the nasal passageways, leading to congestion, a scratchy throat, and chapped lips. Invest in a humidifier or diffuser of some sort to help combat the dry air and ensure that you wake up feeling rejuvenated and refreshed, not dry and congested. If you're a snorer, this may be a game changer!
Let's go over some additional tips for lowering your anxiety levels before bed. Taking a stroll around the neighborhood at night can help you release any excess energy you may have and help your digestion after dinner so that you aren't going to bed feeling restless and bloated. Additionally, having some sort of "sleepy time" tea can help lower anxiety and increase melatonin in the body. It's important to ensure, however, that there is no caffeine in your nighttime tea. Even if you are someone like myself who can literally drink a coffee before bed and still go to sleep, it's important to avoid all caffeine at night as it may not affect sleep quantity but it can affect the stages of your sleep, thus reducing sleep quality. Chamomile tea is a great option to have a night as it's a relaxing herbal tea that also tastes great!
Additionally, use the night time to do some mindful exercises such as journaling, updating your planner for the days to come, and practicing meditation. In conjunction, these practices can help clear your mind so that it isn't racing with stress about what happened during the day, what you need to get done tomorrow, and anxiety about that weird interaction you may have had with the waiter when he said "enjoy your meal" and you responded "you too!" Is that last one just me? Well, whatever your thoughts may bounce between as your trying to get to sleep, you can help mitigate all of that by practicing meditation, journaling, and creating a to-do list/planner at night while you sip on some chamomile tea!
Further, ensure that the lighting in is dimmed- while it's important to keep the light to a minimum in your actual sleep environment, dimming the lighting in your other living space prior to actually getting ready for bed is also key for boosting your melatonin levels to make sure you have an easier time getting ready for bed. Try to do this after dinner to start preparing your body for a good night's rest.
Next, do your bathroom/skincare routine. Take the time to really treat yourself during this time! This is the opportunity to take a relaxing shower or bath, do your skin care routine, maybe even treat your skin with a face mask or lip scrub, and- last but certainly not least- brush your teeth! Think of your time in the bathroom as a way to both relax and destress (not as a chore or annoyance) but also to treat your skin and rejuvenate it. Doing a proper skin care routine before bed can help your skin restore itself overnight, adding plumpness, reducing signs of aging, getting rid of dryness, and improving overall look and feel. Let us know if you'd like to see a proper AM/PM skin care routine in a future blog in the comments below!
Lastly, let's go over a few things you should definitely not to before bed. We all are victims to giving into this and it can be so difficult with Instagram, funny Tik Toks, creeping through old Facebook photos from 2016, seeing what ridiculousness is happening on Twitter, etc. but stay off your phone! Screen time can peak anxiety levels before bed which is extremely detrimental to good sleep. Additionally, avoid heavy conversation. For some reason, many of us choose the nighttime to bring up things that require a lot of emotional energy- especially if you are going to bed with your partner. You will likely not be able to give it a sufficient amount of time or thought so just hold off until the next day, and never go to bed angry! Lastly, stay away from the news. Especially right now, the news is full of anxiety-inducing headlines that- while important- are just not fun for our brains. Save it for the morning, and try to just get to sleep without thinking too much about it.
And that's all folks! I'd like to shoutout Dr. Mike on YouTube as his video on sleep routines inspired a lot of this blog. Check him out for more health and wellness tips and tricks and be sure to check back next week for another blog from 6AM Health!
Let us know your sleep routine tips in the comments below!