Your night-time routine provides the external context that signals your brain and body to wind down and prepare for good quality sleep.
In this post, I want to explain about my ideal nightly routine, why you need to consider creating your own routine, and a couple of options for how that might look for you.
💤 My Ideal Sleep Routine
Every night I come home and do a few regular chores and carry out any other necessary preparation for the next day. I try to cook and eat my dinner as close to sunset as possible (at least 3 hours before I go to sleep) and I put my blue light blocking glasses on about 30 minutes after the sun sets, signalling wind down time.
I then take proceed to take my magnesium supplements, turn on my essential oil diffuser which disperses frankincense and lavender (very calming), reduce the lighting in my home and have fun socialising with friends and family, or enjoy other relaxing and unwinding activities up until the time that I want to get into bed.
Roughly 90 minutes before I plan to fall sleep, I turn my phone onto airplane mode (meaning that I can still use it as an alarm clock), I turn the laptop/TV off and disable my WiFi router until the next morning. I usually spend the last 60 minutes of my day reading a paperback book under low red/amber lighting or by candlelight.
Shortly before I fall asleep, I turn off all the remaining lights in my bedroom and make sure that it’s fully blacked out until the morning. I don’t have any technology in my bedroom apart from my phone (on airplane mode) which I place on the other side of the room (a great tactic for getting straight up when the alarm goes off).
Before falling asleep, I take some time to do a short body scan meditation or 5-10 minutes of deep abdominal breathing. This helps me to relax into an even deeper para-sympathetic state that boosts melatonin production and sleep quality. These last steps are especially important if I am going through a stressful period.
Despite how great my ideal sleep routine sounds, it doesn’t work that way every night.
I am no different to anybody else in that sometimes, life doesn’t want to play ball!
However, there are a few consistent activities that anchor my entire night-time routine and signal to my brain that it’s wind down time, beginning with putting my blue blocking glasses on after sunset.
My brain has become so accustomed to slowly winding down from the moment that I place my glasses on my face, that this makes the rest of my night-time routine even easier and more fluid.
Occasionally I have to work later than planned or something else interrupts my night-time routine, which is why I plan for an ideal routine but allow for flexibility and never chase perfection.
“Perfection is the enemy of progress.” – Winston Churchill
💤 Designing your own evening routine
The first thing that you need is a set point, curfew, or other activity that designates the start of your evening routine.
This is the signal to your brain that it’s time to prepare for a good night’s sleep.
The activity could vary a lot depending on where you are in your life and what you are doing – you might be a busy parent who has to take care of the kids or carry out other commitments until 8 or 9 PM – that’s okay.
The important thing is to create some structure to your evening routine by having a number of regular activities set in place that help you to wind down and prepare for sleep without you having to think about what you are doing.
Creating a consistent routine allows your body and mind to switch off easily, disengage from the day and get high quality sleep.
💤 Here are a few steps outlining how you might review and improve your current routine:
- Think about your current night-time routine. Are you watching TV till 10 PM? Are you surfing social media or the internet until you fall asleep? Are you eating too late or exposing yourself to bright lighting late into the night?
- Consider which aspects of your night-time routine you need to change to get higher quality sleep (if you don’t know what you need to do to improve your sleep (read back through our previous posts to learn more).
- Designate a time that you’re going to begin engaging in your evening routine (tip: this might be the time that you’re going to put your blue light blocking glasses on).
- Plan out a number of relaxing and unwinding activities that you want to include in your evening routine, this could include; hanging out with friends or loved ones, taking a hot bath, watching some enjoyable TV (with blue blockers!), enjoying an evening walk, reading a novel or doing some simple mindfulness meditation.
- Decide on a time to disable technology and disconnect yourself from the internet.
- Take out a piece of paper or a journal and write down your ideal night-time routine. Schedule it with flexibility in mind (prepare yourself to bend so you don’t break!)
When you schedule something, you’re more likely to get it done – sleep is no exception!
Your night-time routine doesn’t need to be long and arduous or timed with military precision, but it does need to include a consistent set of habits that signal to your body that it’s time to relax and wind down so that you can get high quality sleep.