How messy is your sleep routine? No, not your bedroom. I’m talking about your actual sleep routine. Have you got one? Have you ever thought about this before? If I had a pound for the number of people who tell me they’re always tired, I’d be a millionaire In this post, I’m going to be looking at a few simple ways to clean up your sleep routine.
Now, I’ve got a genuine reason for being consistently exhausted – but do you? If not, maybe it’s time to have a long hard look at your sleep routine and try out these methods to tidy it up a bit. You might not realise it, but your sleep routine is absolutely crucial to your well-being. Many of us are waking up tired each day, and with some simple changes, that can stop.
Making your sleep routine a priority is one of the best ways you can improve your health. Yet many of us neglect our body’s primal need for rest and relaxation. It’s part of our ever-evolving digital culture. I’m guilty of this too, but it has to change.
So let’s jump into my 5 ways to clean up your sleep routine, and see if there are some positive changes you can make today.
Sleep routines are for kids. I’m an adult.
That’s true, but you’re probably an adult who’s completely run-down every day from a life of constant work-based, life-based stress. An adult who more than likely stays up way too late watching pointless documentaries on 90’s love triangles, Gavin and Stacey repeats on Dave and only mildly amusing re-runs of 8 Out of 10 Cats.
Sleep routines absolutely are for kids. They exist for a reason, but that reason is equally valid for adults too. We neglect our sleep health as soon as we’re able. It’s the one routine that almost all of us forget to take care of. And yet, it’s the one routine that can make the biggest difference to our health and well-being. Most adults need at least six to nine hours of sleep a night, and many of us just aren’t getting that on a consistent enough basis.
When I was first diagnosed with a form of narcolepsy, I had to work so hard to reset my internal clock and actually cultivate a sleep routine. It’s all gone a bit sideways in recent years, to be honest, but it genuinely made such a difference to my life when I stuck to it. I felt awake. Actually awake, and not just dragging my battered carcass through each day until it was TV time at night.
When was the last time you felt truly awake? If you want to remember what that feels like, here are 5 ways you can get started with cleaning up your sleep hygiene. That’s what it’s called, by the way, I didn’t make that up.
1. Ditch the TV at night
I know. What about Gavin and Stacey?
Look, you’ve seen all of the episodes about 400 times. You can recite the ‘two steaks Pam’ routine with your fingers in your ears and still do the Essex accent to boot. You look fabulous, and you feels it, alright?
Turn the television off at least an hour before you go to bed. It’s the same thing that you’d do with the kids, and it does actually work. Your brain needs wind-down time, especially with the level of mental and online processing it does on a daily basis.
Use this TV-free time to relax, have a bath or do something relatively concentration-free to help your brain tell your body that it’s time to switch off.
2. No caffeine after 3 pm
I’ll apologise in advance but it’s worth it. This one was a much bigger one for me to combat than I realised. I used to drink about ten cups of tea a day. This was before I knew I had a sleep condition and just thought I really loved PG Tips. Crafty old brain. Basically, though, you can’t expect your mind to relax for bed properly if it’s wired off its neurological tits with caffeine, nicotine or sugar.
The hormone that tells your brain that it’s night-time and time to wind down is called melatonin. Foods that contain an amino acid called tryptophan boost the production of melatonin and therefore induce a better quality of sleep. Try to switch out the caffeinated drinks for one of the following.
Things to eat and drink that can help relaxation and promote sleepiness are:
- tryptophan-rich proteins such as chicken, turkey, nuts and seeds
- milk and dairy products which also contain tryptophan
- decaf tea or coffee if you have to drink it
Make sure you’re not eating a massive dinner just before you plan to go to bed either. Digesting it will push your body temperature up and delay your brain’s ability to start the sleep process, plus you’ll feel really uncomfortable trying to sleep on it straight away.
My advice on this point is to try and reduce your caffeine intake gradually. It’s not easy, but it is achievable!
3. Pick a bedtime and stick to it. No deviating
Again, this is a tough one. I had to train myself to be in bed and actually asleep by 10 p.m. Also, this was in the pre-child days, so it was much, much easier to be ruthless about. However, if you’ve got one that’s in a fairly stable nighttime pattern now, you can give it a whirl. I used to start my wind-down at 9 p.m. and then be in bed, on my way to falling asleep by 10 p.m. To begin with, it was incredibly hard work, but after a while, I started to wake up naturally at 7 a.m.
Without the alarm clock.
You know that when you’re waking up before your alarm goes off, and you don’t feel like death on toast, then something is going right somewhere.
It’s not easy, and temptations to work, catch up on emails or mess about on social media will always be there, but trust me, this one really does reap its own rewards. I need to start doing it again myself.
4. De-stress your bedroom
You might not realise it, but your bedroom can be causing you more than your fair share of bad dreams. According to sleep specialists, your bedroom should be used for two things only; sleep and sex. As an aside, a moment of passion is one of the other things that can induce quality sleep, so that’s one to just make a side note of and file under FYI for later.
Your room needs to be quiet, dark, tidy and at a cool temperature. Most importantly, it should be free of any electronics. My room has a bed, a chair and a chest of drawers in it. That’s it. No TV, no gadgets, literally nothing else. If you’ve got a television in your room, consider getting rid of it. It could be playing major havoc with your brain’s ability to properly switch off.
Genuinely, removing electronics and gadgets from my room made an absolutely huge difference to my sleep quality and subsequent waking pattern.
5. Don’t fixate on a magic cure
If you’ve got any sleep issues, like me, then it’s really important to know that they’ll take time to sort out. It’s never going to be as easy as following a list of tips and tricks to magic away insomnia or eye bags.
Proper cleaning up of your sleep routine takes time and perseverance, but also a pinch of salt. It’s important to take your sleep cycle seriously – not enough of us really consider the long-term implications of poor sleep and the constant mental stimulation we all endure thanks to our tech-heavy lifestyles.
However, it’s not something to fixate on if it doesn’t all go to plan straight away. You’re not going to definitely develop Alzheimer’s just because you’re using your iPad before bed each night! Like everything else in life, it’s about moderation and evaluation.
I hope you’ve found some of this helpful and that if you’ve been looking into your own sleep issues at all it provides a bit of food for thought. If you’ve got any questions about sleep disorders, sleep hygiene or narcolepsy, feel free to pop them in the comments below.