Sleep helps promote our physical and mental health, and yet a discussion on how to cultivate a healthy sleep routine is often lacking. Luckily we can learn and implement patterns that will help us get and stay asleep.
Just as we have rituals, thoughtfulness, and preferences around our the meals we eat, we too can create such intention and personalized routines with our sleep hygiene. Below are some tips to promote a healthy and effective sleep routine. It is recommended that along with these exercises that you consult a health care professional for any additional support.
Take a hot shower or bath
Having our temperature rise and then rapidly cool down allows our body to relax. It is recommended that you take a hot shower or bath about 20-30 minutes before bedtime.
Create your own ritual
By creating patterned behaviour before bedtime we are able to send signals to our brain that it is time to relax and rest. Some ideas of what a nighttime sleep ritual may look like include: drinking herbal tea, reading a book, or doing some light stretching.
Make sure your sleep environment is pleasant
We want to make the sleeping area as relaxing as possible. This might mean that you keep your bed tidy, that your sheets are clean, or that you have curtains on your windows. Another recommendation is to use your bed for sex and sleep, and reframe from other activities in your bed such as going online or eating.
Avoid blue light
The light from our computer screens, tablets and phones prevents the release of melatonin (which is what helps us feel sleepy). If possible try and avoid any blue light screens 1-2 hours before you go to bed.
I Still Can’t Sleep!
There are a number of free guided meditations online that can help you focus on your breath, and relax. As mentioned earlier it is advised to stay away from the blue light created by your device, this means that you may want to plan ahead and have a meditation easily accessible on your phone or computer.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This exercise helps when you’re already in bed and want to relax your body. Start by tightening and flexing your feet for 10 seconds and then release the tension for another 10 seconds, move your attention to your legs, flexing and tightening this area for 10 seconds, then releasing the tension for 10 seconds. Continue this process through your entire body (thighs, hips, stomach, chest, shoulders, arms, fists, neck, face) until you reach the top of your head. If you still find yourself awake you can repeat this process.
Get out of bed
If you’ve been trying to sleep for 20 minutes and still find yourself tossing and turning, get out of your bed. Try doing a meditation, drinking a herbal tea or other soothing activities. When you’re feeling sleepy you can return to your bed.
Being kind and caring to yourself as you try to fall asleep can help relax your body and calm your mind. This means that rather than becoming frustrated and upset that you cannot sleep you could be mindful of what you’re feeling, maybe it’s disappointed or worried. You could then remind yourself of the common humanity of this experience, that many people find it difficult to sleep, that you’re not alone in these difficult feelings. Finally, you could provide some loving kindness, perhaps something like “I am working at trying to sleep and it’s difficult for me to feel tired and restless at the same time. I am struggling right now and I can be gentle towards myself in this moment. I know I am doing my best and it’s going to be ok.”.