Not Sleeping Well? Try a Bedtime Routine! 

One of the most common pieces of advice new parents hear is to provide their baby with a consistent bedtime routine, like a warm bath, a story, and a lullaby. Bedtime routines help babies know it’s time to wind down, so they can get the rest they need to learn and grow. 

But what about adults - can we benefit from a consistent bedtime routine as well? The answer is “Yes!” Consistent bedtime routines help regulate your circadian rhythm, which is a natural 24-hour cycle of changes in the body, largely influenced by light and darkness. It’s why we sleep at night and are awake during the day. Shore Sleep Center Clinical Educator John Keeley shares 11 ideas you can incorporate into your bedtime routine so you can regulate your sleep cycle and get a better night’s rest. 

  1. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. “Life can be busy and unpredictable, but a relatively consistent bedtime each night can help your body naturally relax when it’s getting close to bedtime,” Keeley says. If you forget and find yourself binge-watching Netflix until the wee hours, consider setting a calming alarm tone on your phone so you know when it’s time to wind down. A consistent wake time can also make it easier to go to bed on time. Choose a bedtime and wake time that will work seven days a week.
  2. Swap your wine with herbal tea. Keeley suggests drinking herbal tea before bed, especially those designed to promote sleep, such as chamomile or valerian root. He says to avoid alcohol because it is a stimulant, just like caffeine and nicotine. “A glass of wine might make you feel sleepy at first, but the body converts it to glucose which could give you a jolt of energy before bed, or even wake you up,” he says.
  3. Breathe deeply. Whether you meditate or simply breathe deeply for an extended period of time, deep breathing stimulates the production of melatonin. Keeley recommends the 4-7-8 breathing method: inhale for four counts, hold your breath for seven counts, and exhale for eight counts. It can help reduce your anxiety and prepare your body for rest. 
  4. Do a relaxing activity. If your usual nighttime activities aren’t helping you relax, try something different, like an art activity, a jigsaw puzzle, or reading a book.
  5. Take a warm shower. Your body temperature drops when you step out of a warm shower into cooler air, which signals your body that it’s time for sleep. If you prefer to shower in the morning, Keeley says just take a quick one at night as well to help you get sleepy.
  6. Write it down. If you find yourself stressing about the next day’s to-do list, or anything for that matter, try writing it down before you go to sleep or if you wake up in the middle of the night worrying about it. “If you wake up in the middle of the night worrying about something, write it down on a notepad next to the bed. Getting it out of your head and on paper can help you clear your mind,” says Keeley.  
  7. Turn the alarm clock around. Alarm clocks can emanate light which interferes with sleepiness. Turn your alarm around or turn the backlight off so you can’t see any light, or what time it is. Sometimes knowing the time can increase your anxiety and make it even harder to fall back asleep. 
  8. Avoid screens. It may be tempting to scroll on your phone or watch TV before bed, but the light emanating from them is tricking your body into thinking it’s time to be awake. Keeley recommends putting the phone down and turning the TV off an hour before bed. Definitely avoid reaching for your phone if you wake up in the middle of the night. 
  9. Don’t go to bed if you’re restless. Keeley says that while a consistent bedtime is important, if you lay down to sleep and you’re restless, rather than tossing and turning, it’s better to wait and go to bed when you’re ready. Otherwise, if it happens too frequently your mind associates the bed with restlessness. 
  10. Think twice before taking a sleep aid. Consult with your physician prior to taking a sleep aid, including melatonin. Sleep aids may not be right for you, and even reliance on melatonin supplements can decrease your body’s need to produce it naturally. 
  11. Exercise daily. While Keeley doesn’t recommend a hard workout right before bed, regular exercise is a wonderful way to help your body feel more tired when it’s time to sleep. However, he says if before bed is the only time you can fit in exercise, it’s better than not exercising at all. Just take a warm shower afterward and when you step out into the cooler air your body will sense that it is time for bed. 

Keeley says if you feel like you’re doing all the right things and you’re still having trouble sleeping, or you’re feeling tired during the day, talk to your doctor. You may have an underlying sleep disorder interfering with your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Your doctor can refer you to Shore’s Center for Sleep Medicine for a sleep study. To learn more about sleep disorders and solutions, call (855) 633-6818 or click here.