5 Tips For Creating A Bedtime Routine

We can’t all get to bed at 8 p.m. every night, but we can establish a routine that will help get our sleep back on track. Here’s how to get those zzzs in faster.

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Woman sleeping in bed with the light on

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In partnership with Activia

You eat your fruits and veggies and are diligent about sunscreen and regular spin classes, yet there’s one aspect of your health that you’re probably neglecting: sleep. Sleep affects all parts of our lives—from work to relationships to appetite and mood–yet it’s all-too-easy-to-overlook. (Did you really have to catch up on the last three episodes of your fave show at 11:00 p.m last night? Probably not.)

While you can’t get eight hours every night, you can try to improve your overall sleep routine. Establishing one allows your body to get used to a regular sleep pattern and reap the benefits. “It’s similar to the idea of tucking our children in,” says Katherine Rasmussen, Director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the Centre for Sleep & Human Performance in Calgary. “As adults we need to tuck ourselves in to feel safe and relaxed.” Here are five simple ways to get your sleep routine back on track.

1. Put down the phone

If scrolling through Instagram one last time before bed is your way of winding down, it might be time for a new routine. James MacFarlane, assistant professor of pediatrics & psychiatry at the University of Toronto and director of education at MedSleep, a Canadian network of sleep clinics, says that the blue light of a phone or computer can disrupt your circadian rhythm–which manages the body’s 24-hour sleep and wake. If putting your phone away isn’t an option, try setting it to use a blue light filter after a certain time or use blue light-blocking glasses at night. Even with the blockers, try to avoid anything that over-stimulates the brain, like a horror film.

2. Leave your problems on your nightstand

Do you regularly think of something important while you’re drifting off? MacFarlane recommends keeping a notepad next to your bed to write down any thoughts that pop into your mind. Or, try making a to-do list before you go to bed. Once you’re in bed, trying thinking only of good things: your next holiday, everything you accomplished that day, or your plans for the weekend.

3. Eat a light snack if you need one

While the ideal time to have dinner is approximately three hours before hitting the hay, Rasmussen says that eating a light snack that contains both protein and carbohydrates shortly before bed can actually help you get a good night’s rest. (On the flip side, falling asleep without enough food in your system can disturb your sleep, while eating anything too complex before bed can cause digestion problems.) Try munching on something simple like an Activia yogurt with granola, celery and peanut butter or crackers and hummus.

4. Relax your body and mind

“Focus on activities that help you wind down as you approach sleep: read a book, listen to calming music or drink something warm,” says Rasmussen. Making that contrast between daytime and nighttime is key to your body relaxing, says Dr. Roger Godbout, director of the Sleep Laboratory & Clinic in Rivière-des-Prairies Mental Health Hospital in Montréal. Practising this routine for even a week should yield sleep benefits.

5. Wake up at the same time each day for an easier bedtime

Getting out of those warm sheets at 7 a.m. on a Saturday might seem like an impossible task, but it could be the key to helping you get to bed easier at night. Waking up at the same time each day–or at least within the hour–is essential to keeping your sleep pattern in check, says MacFarlane. Once you get up, try to open your curtains right away. “The sun is a cue to the [circadian] rhythm,” he says, “and that’s when we’re alert.”