Christian Baker, professional speaker and nutritional specialist talks about the importance of having a bedtime routine. He shares his favorite habits and steps on how to build an effective evening routine to improve sleep quality.
Sleep. We all need it. Some of us do it effortlessly. Others struggle. But either way, in the end we all get some. Sleep that is. And if we didn't, we wouldn't be around for very long.
Despite sleep being such an important function of being human, there is still quite a lot of mystery surrounding sleep and exactly why it is good for us.
However, what we do know for sure is that sleep is important.
Sleep trumps pretty much everything else when it comes to being, fit, healthy and focused. Trying to lose weight? Good luck losing much without enough sleep. Trying to get work done? Good luck finding much brain power without a proper night's sleep.
The aim of this post is to help you set yourself up for a better sleep each night by preparing for it.
Preparing for an activity that involves relaxation may sound counterintuitive at first, but proper planning can have a dramatic impact on both your sleep quantity and quality.
The place where you sleep, as well as your bedtime routine have a big impact on your body's sleep-wake cycle. Sending your body a signal that it's time to move into a sleep portion of the day is the main goal of winding down for the night.
It is likely that you are familiar with morning routines. Stretching, drinking lots of water, meditating and other activities to help you get your engine running for the day before you run out the door or drink that first cup of coffee.
Preparing for the night could include everything from avoiding blue light and using a spike mat to incorporating stress-reducing supplements. Experimenting and trying different things will help you understand what works and what doesn't.
So let's take a look at some actions you can take to build yourself an evening routine.
For some of you, this will be like telling you to stop breathing, device addiction is real and it's not easy to break the habit.
There are 2 main reasons why it's best to avoid electronic devices in the evenings:
This means that it's wise to not only stay away from your devices close to bedtime but also not to charge your phone near your bed as the electromagnetic field created from this process may also mess with your ability to fall asleep.
It is also unwise to put your computer or any electronic device under your bed or even in your room for the same reason. Also be sure to turn off your WiFi completely when you go to bed if the router is anywhere near your bedroom.
If you use your phone as your alarm you can do what I and many other people do:
Put it on aeroplane mode (this stops it from emitting a signal) and put it on the other side of your room (it's still emitting a low level of electromagnetic radiation so don't put it next to your bed).
Plus by putting it on the other side of the room it forces you to get up and out of bed when your alarm goes off which can help you to wake up faster.
This means not only the light coming from your devices but also from the lights in your ceiling.
Now I could tell you to install special light bulbs but that's a lot of effort plus it can be annoying for those times when you actually want some bright light.
So instead, you can do what many people are now doing which may seem a bit odd at first but is proving to be quite effective.
Wear UV glasses for a few hours before you go to bed.
These work surprisingly well as they block the "blue light" mentioned in the previous point about electronic devices.
Plus they also look sooo cool (well, you can be the judge of that).
Having a shower before getting into bed should be a no-brainer, it still surprises me how many people come into their house from the outside world and jump straight into their bed. You filthy animal.
Seriously how can you consider going into the outside world and then dragging all that bacteria back into your bed with you? Your Bed. Your Sanctuary. Your dream factory. I just can't get my head around it.
But then again, I am admittedly obsessive when it comes to daily habits and rituals, just re-read the title of this post you're reading right now.
Ok, so now that my hygiene essay is over, let's take a look at why else a shower before bed may help to improve your ability to fall asleep.
Image source: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327461
Having a hot shower is important for hygiene but there are also some benefits to be had from finishing with a cold shower.
Finishing your shower with cold water may feel counterintuitive at first especially as it hits you like an icy slap to the face.
However, once you get out of the shower, you may find that you begin to feel pleasantly sleepy as you gradually warm up again.
A full 30 seconds of cold water seems to do the trick. However, when being assaulted by cold water it may feel like every second becomes an eternity and even if your first few tries are only 10 to 15 seconds there are still some benefits to be had.
It is not recommended that you exercise within a few hours of your bedtime as it may keep you awake.
The only exception here is sex, which apart from the hormonal and immune benefits, may actually help you to fall asleep faster.
Whether it's in the morning or the afternoon doesn't matter too much, as long as you get it done.
Ideally, you don't want to train within 3 to 4 hours of bedtime otherwise you may find yourself still too stimulated to fall asleep.
Now, if the only time of day you can train is later in the evening then it's still better to train than not to train if this means that you'll be able to fit in a few sessions per week rather than zero sessions per week.
Also, if you're a hardcore athlete type who trains 6 to 7 days per week, your training load may be making it harder for you to fall asleep due to having an overstimulated and exhausted nervous system.
If this describes you, consider trying the following options:
Cap your workouts at no longer than 45 minutes and only once per day.
Reduce training days to 5 per week with 2 full days of rest or perhaps some light active recovery like stretching and see how you feel.
You may want to throw in a de-loading week if you haven't used one for more than 8 weeks.
This alone can help to give your nervous system and joints a break and may be just what you need to get yourself back on track for better sleep and better performance.
I love good fantasy fiction and have been an avid reader since childhood. However, once I turned 17 and discovered self-development, biography and business books I dropped fiction entirely from my routine. I have since re-added fiction reading to my evenings and am very glad that I have.
Apart from the numerous benefits of reading fiction such as enhanced creativity and a broader vocabulary, there is also one other great benefit. It may help you to fall asleep faster.
I began reading fiction again a few years ago for 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime and lo and behold, it has made a big difference to the amount of time it takes for me to fall asleep.
This strategy was recommended by my favourite author, Mr Tim Ferriss, who is a hardcore type-A personality man and used to only read books he could learn from and no fiction at all.
If you haven't read fiction for a while and are looking to give this strategy a shot, here are some recommendations for you:
As for non-fiction:
Reading non-fiction can stimulate too many ideas and often can get you inspired and motivated which doesn't usually work out too well for sleeping so it's best to leave these for the daytime.
No Kindle or other e-readers as they break our previous rule of no electronic devices.
Now, if all your books are currently digital, you can print out some pages out and try that for a few nights to see if you notice a difference.
Just like how a morning routine requires you to get up earlier than usual, an evening routine also requires you to set aside some time. For example, taking a shower 2 or more hours before bed instead of immediately before bed may help you to feel more tired.
If you put on your UV glasses a full 2 hours before bedtime instead of just the last 30 minutes or so while you read you may get to feel more sleepy. Also, by going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time each morning you will be able to develop a stronger circadian rhythm.
This alone can not only make it easier to fall asleep as your body knows your schedule but it may even increase your sleep quality.
If you're hard-pressed to get a full 8 hours of sleep per night, even a 6 to 7 hour sleep can become quite restorative if you do it at the same time each night.
This is because your body will respond by increasing the percentage of deep sleep and REM sleep you experience while reducing the duration of light sleep.
That being said, the general consensus among all studies out there is that 7 to 9 hours per night is ideal and less than 7 hours per night over a long period of time may increase your risk of serious illness and disease.
If you're the kind of person who can't remember the last time you slept for a full 8 hours, you may want to check out this interview between Joe Rogan and sleep researcher & author of the NYT bestseller: Why We Sleep - Mr Matthew Walker.
The interview is fascinating and terrifying at the same time and it manages to remain conversational and entertaining whilst also delivering some hardcore science lessons to you. Highly recommended.
Putting together all of the above may seem like a lot of effort. So, like any good scientist, take your time and try out each technique one at a time.
For example, try the cold shower routine every night for a week and see how you feel. Wear the blue light blocker glasses for 2 hours before bed each night for a week. And so on.
You may find that one technique works better than all the others for you personally and there's no need for you to do them all.
The main objective is to help you get a better night's sleep and not overwhelm you with a to-do list that makes getting ready for bed feel like a chore.
So give them a go and let me know how you go in the comments below.
Also, if you'd like to see an intense evening routine put together with precision, please enjoy the following video from my favourite author Mr Tim Ferriss:
Until next time,
All the best to you and your sleeping routine.
P.S. By using the advice from this post and all of the content here in the blog I am confident that you will be able to upgrade and improve your life to an outstanding level.
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