I don’t know about you, but in the evening I often find myself stressing about all the tasks I need to do, but instead watching TV, working on my laptop, or messing about on my phone. I very rarely allow myself the time to wind down and relax before getting into bed, resulting in getting into bed wide awake, unable to sleep for hours. For a long time I presumed that it was just because I was in my 20’s now, and sleep wouldn’t be as easy now I wasn’t a teen, but that opinion is slowly adapting.
Have you ever wondered if the way you spend your evening has anything to do with how well you sleep, and how productive you are? As it happens, a regular routine can help to regulate your sleeping pattern, and ensure that you have a better quality sleep cycle each night. Getting into an organised routine has more benefits than one, and here are some ideas that you can implement into your evening to get a better night sleep.
Take a shower.
Our bodies are powerful things, and we really don’t give them credit. The brain uses our body temperature to sync with our sleeping pattern – crazy right? Our bodies gradually rise in temperature throughout the day, and then cool down in the evening, which is when our body clock tells us it’s time to go to bed. If you have a shower before bed, then although you are raising your core temperature, when you get out of the shower, your body cools quicker than it would originally. This leads to a better and deeper sleep. However, research has found that in order for this to have the correct effect, we would need to shower at least 1 hour before we are wanting to go to bed, to ensure we give our bodies plenty of time to cool down again.
Add to your journal.
I have a journal (well, multiple actually) and I find that they are a perfect way to wind down and relax. They enable me to de-stress, not only because I find them unbelievably therapeutic, but also because it allows me to get all of my thoughts down on paper. Personally, I find that when I write down everything on my mind, I instantly feel more relaxed and in control of my life, as I am able to temporarily stop thinking and worrying about them. I use a journal at all times of the day, however I have recently started using one in the evening.
Each night, just before I get into bed, I write down all the racing thoughts in my head, which are usually the tasks that I need to do, or things I forgot to do that day. I’m a huge fan of lists at the best of times, but I find clearing my head with a ‘tomorrow to-do list’ helps to prevent these racing thoughts, as I know that I can focus my attention on conquering that list the next day. This allows me to have a better night sleep, and prevents the hypothetical worrying that comes along with anxiety in order for me to wind down and relax so that I am able to have a better day tomorrow.
If you don’t journal already, I would recommend that you get one. Even if you’re not very creative, it really doesn’t matter! Just scribbling down thoughts is the main focus of this task – it doesn’t need to look pretty and organised and neat! (I’ll admit I’m being a tiny bit hypocritical here because I’m a perfectionist and total neat-freak when it comes to being creative, but we all have our flaws!) I use a grey elephant Dingbats bullet journal, and I absolutely love it!
Drink a glass of water before bed.
Of course, drinking water throughout the day is essential for a healthier lifestyle. It is important to keep your mind and body hydrated, as it can help to aid concentration, improve your mood and regulate your body in general. However, there has been a lot of debate about drinking water before bed. Some studies show that drinking cold water right before your sleep has the impact of interrupting your sleep cycle, which in turn has a negative impact on your physical health. Although, other studies have shown that being hydrated throughout the day, and then drinking lukewarm or hot water about an hour before you go to bed have lasting improvements on your health and sleep pattern.
Warm or hot water works as a natural cleanser of the body. It helps to break down food in the stomach to aid the digestive system, which in turn flushes out toxins that can make the digestion process take longer. Therefore by drinking a glass of water in the evening before going to sleep, you are enhancing the body’s ability to digest food in the stomach, which can lead to lower blood pressure and a better night sleep. Warm water has also been proven to alleviate headaches and stomach pains, as it has a soothing effect on our muscles, naturally easing pain.
Talk a walk after dinner.
In a similar way to drinking warm water, taking a walk shortly after eating dinner can also help to aid the digestive process. Exercise in general can help to break down the food we consume, and going for a short walk when you feel like you’ve over-eaten (which is actually pretty much after every meal for me, oops!), can help to prevent stomach problems, such as heartburn and indigestion. It also helps you feel much better in yourself (I have no scientific proof for that one I’m afraid, I just always feel better for walking when I feel bloated!)
Not only does taking a walk help with your physical health, it can also help you to have a better night sleep. Taking a walk can help with your blood circulation, and also reduce stress. I am a huge advocate for taking a walk to clear your head, especially when I’m at University and have a lot on my mind, I’d find that a walk would work wonders. In a similar way, taking a walk after dinner/before bed means that you’re able to mentally congratulate for all the tasks you’ve managed to achieve that day, and mentally prioritise what you need to get done tomorrow. This time is so much better used by taking a walk, than being a coach potato and watching whatever is on the TV whilst you wait for Love Island (I know, we’ve all been there!)
Write a to-do list for the next day.
This point has been briefly covered by journalling and your ‘mental prioritisation’ in the point above, but it is so important to right a short list of what you want to achieve over the next day, or maybe the next week. We so often get into bed, turn out the lights, and immediately start thinking about the huge pile of notes on your desk that you didn’t get round to doing that day, the washing you forgot to put on, or the food shop you need to do because you’ve run out of bread.
By writing your concerns on paper, whether this is a to-do list, a shopping list or just a mental note; you are able to temporarily shut them out of your mind and return to them at a later date. There is no use in allowing them to take over whilst you are trying to sleep, because they are not tasks that you can accomplish at this time of day, and the anxiety-fuelled worrying is completely hypothetical and, actually, completely irrelevant. By writing a to-do list, you are forgiving yourself for not completing them yet, and reminding your future self that you need to complete these things at a later date. It can allow your mind to feel instantly less chaotic and stressed, which in turn gives you the chance to have a much better night sleep, and a far more productive day to tackle the to-do list tomorrow.
Okay I’ll admit it, this has it’s own dedicated section for most of my blog posts, but reading is so important for so many areas of your life, and it can relate to anything – even helping you sleep! As well as the many benefits of reading, for instance, increased knowledge and vocabulary, improving your memory and reducing stress, it can also help you to sleep at night.
Research has found that by reading before bed, you are reducing your stress levels by 68%. That’s right, 68%! Using your imagination and thinking of something other than your normal personal thoughts can help you to wind down, both mentally and physically. In the same study, it was discovered that your mind and body relaxes this way by just 6 minutes of reading, making it even easier to incorporate into part of your bedtime routine. There’s no wonder that reading is one of the top ways to practice self-care, as it is the perfect opportunity to calm your body and take care of your mind.
Reading also means that you ditch a screen, whether this is the TV or your phone. There has been vast research about the impact of screen-time before going to bed.
Put down your phone and turn off the TV.
Since social media has had more of a drastic impact on our lives, there has been a wave of new evidence and scientific studies evalutating the impact it can have on all aspects of our life. One of the key areas of this research is the impact it has on our sleep. It has been found that ‘blue light’, which is the type of light that emits from digital devices, has a negative impact on many areas of our wellbeing. For instance, blue light prevents the production of melatonin in the body, which is a chemical that aids sleep. There is therefore no wonder that by spending too much time looking at blue light, through our phones, laptops, TV’s etc, we are actually damaging the body’s natural sleep cycle. Not only does it prevent the onset of falling asleep, it also disrupts the sleep cycle generally, resulting in poor sleep quality, and feeling tired even after you’ve potentially had a 7-8 hour sleep.
Relating to my previous point, this is another good reason to read before going to bed. Reading is an activity that naturally calms and relaxes your body, and also means you won’t have as much screen-time and exposure to blue light before going to sleep.
Get to bed early.
It’s so easy to tell yourself that you’re going to have an early night, but by the time you’ve caught up on all your TV programmes (*cough* Love Island *cough*), and then start your bedtime routine, it’s already gone 11pm. For me, the key is to start your routine early, and actually get to bed and go to sleep early too. It’s not rocket science to know that when you go to work on very little sleep, your cognitive ability is significantly reduced, meaning you’re finding it hard to focus and concentrate, and you’re not producing your best work. Instead, by ensuring you get at least 7 hours of sleep each night, you are increasing your chances of having a more productive day, which ultimately leads to lower levels of stress. You will be more focused and will have more energy to tackle the to-do list that you wrote down the night before, and will feel much better for it!
Pack your lunch for the next day.
Not everyone takes lunch to work, so this may not relate to everyone. I choose to eat at work, which usually ends up in the non-healthy sorta food, but food keeps me happy so I don’t usually mind! However if you’re not like me, and happen to have your life together, pack tomorrow’s lunch after dinner rather than the morning. If you are anything like me, by the time the morning comes around you’re rushing around the house like a mad-woman trying to find a matching pair of socks; let alone trying to pack a healthy lunch. (Actually, maybe this is the reason I choose to eat at work – guilty!) Whether you have a healthy salad, your own sandwiches, or your leftovers from dinner, packing it all the night before means you can easily grab it out of the fridge in the morning without any hassle or mad-woman-related episodes. Not only will you have the time to make a lunch that you’ll actually enjoy, but you’ll also be able to go to sleep calmer knowing that one of your usual morning jobs is already taken care of.
What do you do each evening as part of your routine?