We know the importance of warming up our car in the winter before we drive it.
We understand the benefits of warming up before we do any kind of exercise.
We see the purpose of boiling the water before we make coffee...
See where I’m going with this?
But when it comes to sleeping, we just expect to plop onto the pillow after watching TV or scrolling through social media, having our brains stimulated, and instantly be able to sleep, no ‘preparation’ necessary. And chances are, that’s why your sleep isn’t nearly as good as it could be. Or dare I say, it sucks?
Just like we warm up before working out, we need to warm up (or wind down) before we sleep.
We never have enough time in the day (everyone’s ‘problem,’ eh?) but this doesn’t require another 30 minutes of your valuable time, I assure you that. So here’s the why and the how:
Before these 5 tips, here’s some important insight: our bodies produce a hormone call melatonin, which helps signal the body to fall asleep and wake up. More melatonin is produced as night in response to lower light levels, which is why we often feel more tired in darker environments. When we start to relax our bodies (and minds) in the evening, our bodies are signalled to create more melatonin, allowing us to prep for sleep better.
These 5 tips were inspired by mentalhealthfirstaid.org - just written a bit more simply because we all have valuable time and we can get right to the point:
1. Schedule tech-free time. Many of us are guilty of scrolling through social media or watching a show before we go to sleep. Studies show that the blue light emitted from your screen negatively affects your sleep patterns. Using ‘night shift’ (or similar) is a great support, although that feature isn’t going to be the game-changer you need to improve your sleep. The earlier you can have that turned on before bed, likely the better.
2. Separate work from bed. This is a huge ‘new challenge’ over the last 1.5 years for those who work from home. But whether you go into the office or your office is down the hall from your bedroom, it’s important to log off when the workday is over. I encourage my clients to set a time limit (either X hours before bed or only 1 hour after dinner) to set your own boundaries to respect your sleep time. Physically closing your laptop has helped me with this!
3. Read a book. An actual paper book works best (remember that pesky blue light from screens), but any kind of reading will help you relax. One study showed that just six minutes of undisturbed reading can reduce stress by 68%, and it’ll give you the opportunity to think about something other than your worries. That’s nice, right?
One of my current favourite reads is The Science of Self-Control by Menno Henselmans.
4. Listen to music. No matter what you choose to do to wind down, listening to soothing or calm music in the background can help you feel relaxed, even if you just have it playing in the background. Classical music has been proven to lower blood pressure but if that isn’t your vibe, your favourite music should do the trick too. Just try not to blast it; we want a relaxed and chill atmosphere that doesn’t stimulate your mind too much.
5. Try stretching or light yoga. Stretching exercises help relax your muscles by relieving some tension after a long day. A comprehensive review found meditative activities like yoga are wildly beneficial for sleep quality and also improve quality of life and depression. My clients follow a guided athlete-specific mobility system in their workout program on our team, and I encourage them to add that in before bed to help them wind down. Those who have built this habit, love it!
No matter which of these tips you apply, releasing stress (anxiousness or worrisome thoughts) before sleep should be your priority. And when habits are built, improved sleep will happen. Set your own boundaries with your sleep; that’s self respect, that’s self care. Our coaches at Courtney For Life (instagram.com/cflcoaching) help our clients set up a wind down routine that works for their lifestyle and schedule. www.courtneyforlife.com/coaching