Create a Soothing Bedtime Routine
When you were a child, you probably had a bedtime ritual.
Perhaps you took a bath, got into your pajamas, brushed your teeth, and lay in bed under soft light while your mom or dad read you a favorite story. The process helped your body relax and signaled to your mind that it was time to cool down, let go, and fall asleep.
The snooze-inducing power of a relaxing routine in a comfortable environment doesn’t fade as you get older. In fact, the stressors of adulthood – coupled with technology that keeps us wired (literally and figuratively) at all hours – makes a calming bedtime ritual more important than ever for us grown-ups. At Canyon Ranch, we often remind our guests to reclaim the bedtime ritual as an integral component of a healthy sleep plan, no matter their age. The best part? Setting the stage for sleep is an all-natural way to get your Zzzzs.
Understand the Slumber Cascade
To discover the best routine for you, it helps to know what happens in your body before you nod off. As you go through your day, particularly when you’re physically active, the neurotransmitter adenosine rises in your body. High levels of this compound make you feel tired. The gradual dimming of light (artificial or natural) brings an increase in melatonin (a hormone produced by the pineal gland that affects alertness), signaling sleep to come. With that relaxation comes reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which would otherwise keep you bright-eyed. Finally, your body temperature lowers, making it easier to fall asleep. (The small drop – around one degree – makes a big difference.)
So, when setting the stage for shuteye, it’s important to think about all of these factors and how they affect your body’s ability to wind down.
Create a Restful Environment
Prepare for sleep well before it’s time to hit the pillow by making sure that your bedroom is conducive to a good night’s rest:
- Keep your bedroom cool. Studies show that temperature levels above 75° F (and below 54° F) interfere with sleep. For most people, somewhere between 65° F and 72° F is a good place to set the nighttime thermostat.
- Block out light and noise. Blackout shades can keep streetlights (or early morning sun) from seeping in. Use earplugs if sounds (car alarms, your cat meowing at the bedroom door) disrupt your slumber.
- Make your bed a sanctuary. Ideally, you’d use it for only two things: sleep and sex. Try not to watch TV, use your laptop or other screen devices, or eat in bed. Reading there is fine as long as you’re getting to sleep without difficulty. If not, consider taking your book to another comfortable place and going to bed when you’re tired.
Transition Your Body and Mind
You can train your body to start slowing down for sleep. Start by developing a consistent sleep schedule. Keeping regular sleep/wake times (or as close to it as possible) helps regulate your body’s daily rhythms. Even on the weekends, try to stray from this as little as you can.
Be mindful of the clock in other ways, too. Seven or eight hours before bedtime, stop drinking coffee and consuming other sources of caffeine, which block adenosine. You should be finished with exercise, food, and alcohol two or three hours before retiring, as they all have arousal properties that can interfere with sleep. Then, half an hour to an hour before you want to drift off, dim the lights, turn off electronics, and engage in a soothing practice that works for you.
Here are some of our favorite suggestions:
- Jot down your worries. Journaling about what’s bothering you can trick your brain into feeling like it’s dealt with the problem – at least for now.
- Take a warm bath or shower. When you get out, the air temperature will cool your core.
- Do some gentle stretches, yoga moves, progressive muscle relaxation, a visualization meditation, or breathing exercises. They all help your mind and body wind down.
- Use aromatherapy. Lavender is a popular bedroom scent for calming down and falling asleep.
Learn How to Get Back to Sleep
As you get older, you may find that you’re waking up during the night because you’re sleeping lighter than you used to. You may need to use the bathroom more frequently. And the worries from your day may show up in disturbing dreams. Whatever rouses you, don’t do anything that will keep you awake, like turning on the TV or answering emails. Instead, try stretching or hold a few yoga poses. If you still can’t fall back to sleep, sit in a designated chair with a soft light and read a book. When you feel tired, your bedroom sanctuary will be ready for you.