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A bedtime routine helps you transition from waking to sleep

Chapter 3 Promoting good sleep


A bedtime routine is a sequence of activities performed before going to bed, which helps ease the transition between waking and sleep. Repeating the same pattern of activities consistently each night before bed acts as a signal to the mind that it’s time for sleep. It’s a great way of winding down and helps avoid that annoying experience of being unable to fall asleep.

Pediatric sleep specialists commonly recommend bedtime routines as a technique for overcoming bedtime resistance in children, but pre-sleep habits can be equally effective in adults.

The purpose of the routine is to get your brain and body ready for sleep. Typical activities include having a shower or bath, listening to music, brushing teeth, and reading. The routine can be completely personalized, the vital factor is consistency. Overstimulating activities should, however, be avoided.

A bedtime routine can incorporate moderate exercise (e.g. walking the dog), but vigorous physical activity should be avoided too close to bedtime. Falling asleep requires a drop in core body temperature. Vigorous exercise can elevate body temperature for over an hour. Relaxing yoga sequences, such as the moon salutation , are suitable for a bedtime routine. Muscle relaxation techniques can be to help prepare for sleep. Sex is considered mild or moderate exercise, so it shouldn’t interfere with sleep. On the contrary, sex leads to a reduction in blood pressure and hormonal changes that may promote sleep onset. Some of the benefits may even be achievable without a partner .

One of the most important tasks of the bedtime routine is calming the mind. Going to bed while thoughts are still racing is a surefire way to experience some temporary insomnia .

A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow …
Charlotte Brontë Share this expert CB Charlotte Brontë , The Professor

A good bedtime routine should be free of distractions and sources of stress. Start by avoiding screens and removing gadgets from the bedroom. It helps to plan the next day and make your to-do list before starting the bedtime routine. Writing down all your ideas, concerns, and unfinished business is usually an effective way of clearing them out of your mind. If stress and anxiety are keeping you awake at night, then it’s essential to find ways to overcome them. Journaling is a powerful tool for structuring thinking and unburdening the mind. Keeping a gratitude journal has the additional benefit of boosting well-being .

If you’ve ever paid attention to how many thoughts are going through your mind at any given time, you’ll know it can be a noisy place. Using breathing , mindfulness , and meditation techniques can help tame the wandering mind and prepare it for some restorative slumber. There are guided meditations designed specifically for sleep .

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