For kids, the bedtime routine is sacred ground. There is a set time and a set order of things that occur in order for them to get an optimal nights sleep. Then, we grow up and all that goes right out the window. You look at the clock and suddenly, “oh wow, it’s late!”, you set your alarm for the latest possible time that allows you to press snooze 3 times, throw together something to wear and get out the door. And, you’re still tired, running on 6 hours of sleep at best.
I hate to call you out, but; do better for yourself!
Sleep is a cornerstone of wellness and sets all your systems up for success. Think about it; when you’re tired you tend to make fewer healthy choices throughout the day, and reach for the quick-fix energy boost you need, often in the form of sugar-filled options and processed snacks. When tired, it’s easier to skip the workout you planned for the day. For many people this is an ongoing cycle that’s tough to break.
“Sleep disorders and chronic sleep loss can put you at risk for:
Lack of sleep creates an increased chance of encountering many of the same health risks of chronic stress. Sleep can also affect your immune function, aging process, memory, learning, and metabolism, and can lead to adrenal fatigue (read more on that here!).
Now that I’ve bombarded you with pro-sleep propaganda, here’s some pointers on creating a stellar bedtime routine.
Prepare for Morning
My mom still makes fun of me for this, but starting around 3rd grade I would sleep in my “day clothes”. I hated changing clothes and this cut down on the things I had to do before school, so I would sleep in whatever shirt I planned to wear the next day (I was 10, so usually a t-shirt) and when I got up, I’d put my jeans on and be good to go. Genius! I can’t really do that now (although I sleep in my sports bra 80% of the time, always ready for a morning workout!) but I do plan for my day the night before.
- Layout your clothes so you take away the stress of picking out an outfit
- Prep the coffee maker so you can simply press brew, or – better yet – get an automatic one with a timer
- Pack up lunch – either put leftovers into a container or make your sandwich
- Whole grain cereal and milk
- Nut butter and whole wheat toast
Work Backwards and Set a Bedtime
It’s recommended that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep, and while most of us know that, many don’t use that information proactively. It’s more like, “ugh, I stayed up too late, I only got 6 hours last night.” You know what time you have to get up in the morning, so work backwards from there. You won’t immediately fall asleep, so if you personally need 7 hours, set your bedtime of 7-1/2 hours before you need to get up. Now, set an alarm (until it’s routine) at least 30 minutes before your bedtime to allow you to prep for the morning, brush your teeth and get into bed.
Mind Your Intake
Cut off the caffeine about 6 hours before bed, and large meals and alcohol should be avoided within 2 hours. Nighttime snacks are a staple for me, so if they are for you, don’t worry, you don’t need to cut them out. Aim for snacks that are; under 250 calories, and contain tryptophan (seeds and nuts, soybeans, cheese, turkey, oats) and whole grains (whole wheat toast, English muffins).
- Whole wheat English muffin with spreadable cheese (like Laughing Cow)
- Cottage cheese with pumpkin seeds
- Plain yogurt with whole grain granola
Set the Mood
Quiet your brain before bed by powering down. Avoid screen time – yes, this includes your phone – roughly an hour before falling asleep. This probably sounds impossible as this is likely your current bedtime routine, but hear me out! You don’t have to sit and watch the clock tick, do something calming instead of stimulating. Here are a few ideas; read (a book is ideal, but many reading devices have screen settings to dim the light), write/journal, meditate, stretch, or listen to calming music.
Another way to set the mood is by making your bedroom a sleeping sanctuary. Black-out blinds or a sleep mask are great ways to keep the light out and ear plugs will help even heavy sleepers tune noise out and get to sleep. An oil diffuser is a great tool to set the mood with calming scents like lavender and chamomile.
Here’s a handy chart from The Huffington Post on cut-off times to be mindful of.
A bedtime routine is just that; routine. Find a combination of things that work for you, and do them consistently, most days of the week. You’ll have days that you get home at 9pm and can’t get everything done before shutting it down at 10. That’s OK! If your routine now is falling asleep on the couch at 11 and dragging yourself to bed at midnight, a new routine won’t instantly become natural, but your body will adapt to these changes and thank you in spades for the consistency.
What change could you make this week to your current routine?
What’s frustrating you with your bedtime routine?
What’s your biggest struggle in creating a bedtime routine?
If you’re struggling with where to start or how to stay consistent, my 4-Week Kickstarter Program is a great place to start this and other healthy habits. Shoot me an email with your biggest hurdle and let’s discuss if it’s the right step for you!