Written By: Karla Tafra
Good-quality sleep and an efficient bedtime routine are some of the most important factors in our overall health and well-being, and it’s often overlooked and underrated.
How many times have you sacrificed hours of sleep for work projects, school, partying, and even random things like binge watching all episodes of a nail-biting show or playing an exciting video game until you’ve reached a certain level? Probably too many to count.
Whether you’ve cut down on sleep efficiency due to your overworking, anxiety-ridden mind or a fun night out, it all yields the same result: reduced productivity, a weakened immune system, fatigue, slower metabolism, and a notable lack of energy. Additionally, it can result in insomnia, even when you’re ready to turn things around and focus on getting more sleep throughout the night.
Some people struggle with insomnia for different reasons, but regardless of the cause, it can cause further health complications which might become dangerous and even irreversible.
This is why implementing good and efficient night time routine(s) needs to be one of your top health goals, and here are some of the best things you can try.
What is Insomnia?
Before we go down the route of an effective bedtime routine, it’s important to explain a bit more about insomnia, its causes, and most importantly, its consequences.
Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep, stay asleep, or get good quality sleep, regardless of your environment. It’s a common sleep disorder that gets exacerbated with stress and can seriously impact your daily functions and quality of life.
Stress is known to cause short-term insomnia which can last a few days or sometimes a few weeks. If it persists and shows up at least three times per week for a longer period of time (at least three months), it has transitioned into chronic insomnia and can have serious implications on your overall health.
Causes of Insomnia
Insomnia can have a variety of different causes but the underlying factor seems to be a state of hyperarousal that makes it hard, and sometimes impossible, to fall asleep or stay asleep. This state of alert can be both physical and mental, increasing the list of potential causes even further.
Consequences of Insomnia
Unfortunately, if left undealt with, insomnia can cause severe health complications. From an increased risk of developing diabetes and hypertension, to obesity, depression, anxiety, heart attack, and stroke, there is a plethora of serious and often irreversible health conditions that might occur from continuous lack of sleep. That’s why it’s crucial to catch the symptoms and focus on improving your sleep quality so you don’t have to deal with dangerous health conditions in the near future.
Why Are Night-Time Routines Important?
Nighttime routines or better yet, a good and efficient night routine that encompasses a few different tools and techniques, helps your body and mind become better adapted to transitioning into relaxed mode and lowering your stress levels with intention.
The majority of us want to switch off our brains after a long day of work and errands but we often fail to help our nervous system deactivate its high-stress mode. And after months or years of doing the same thing, it might take some time to turn it all around.
That’s why consistent nighttime routines can help you get better adapted over time, making your system more efficient at lowering your stress hormones, increasing the production of melatonin, and improving the quality of your sleep - the only time in your 24-hour window that your cells get into recovery mode. Just like your muscles need stretching and recovery to stimulate their growth and improve their strength, your entire system needs sleep to optimize all of the functions in your body.
5 Night Routines That Can Help You Fall Asleep Faster
If you’ve been having trouble with sleeping for a while, you’ve probably heard of the 4-7-8 breathing technique: a specific breathing pattern that was scientifically proven to help you fall asleep faster and increase your deep sleep.
The 4-7-8 breathing technique was invented by dr. Andrew Weil, and it involves:
Inhaling to the count of four
Holding your breath to the count of seven
Exhaling to the count of eight
The goal is to bring the pace down and work towards extending your inhales and exhales, sending signals into your brain that it’s time to unwind and activate the parasympathetic nervous system.
Meditation is one of the most relaxing and grounding activities you can add to your daily life. Whether you use it in the morning to prevent yourself from starting the day on the wrong foot, during your lunch break to mitigate stressful work meetings, or before bedtime to transfer your nervous system from “fight or flight” to “rest and digest,” meditation is a truly powerful tool.
Mindful meditation is a special form of meditation that involves being more present with the surrounding world in addition to turning inwards and calming down your nervous system. It usually involves activating all five senses and focusing on what you hear, see, taste, feel, and touch at any given moment.
When added to a healthy bedtime routine, mindful meditation can help your body and mind realize it’s time to rest, recharge, repair, and sleep. Over time, the goal is to get your senses accustomed and adapted to what they’re sensing so that your body falls asleep faster.
Even though this part of your night routine seems pretty obvious, and we all know that gazing at blue light-emitting screens before bed isn’t a good thing, it’s probably the hardest one to implement.
After a hard day at work, most of us want to plop in front of the TV, watch a show, and chill with some snacks. We also like to do it with electronic devices in our hands, mindlessly scrolling on social media or shopping sites while the TV is running in the background. And while there’s nothing to judge here (it’s our current societal habit), it’s not a night routine we should keep.
Research continuously shows howblue light negatively impacts our sleep and affects our natural circadian rhythm, proving that a tech detox is crucial for optimal rest and repair. Try to stay away from screens and smartphones at least an hour or two before bed, and even when you’re using them, invest in a good-quality pair of blue-light-blocking glasses. They will reduce your eye strain and help lower the stress your body is exposed to right before bedtime.
Another important daily habit that can influence your inability to fall asleep faster is meal timing. Many people tend to eat late dinners, often with heavy ingredients such as meat and dairy, which take a lot of time to digest. This makes your body work harder and become more active right at the moment when it’s supposed to slow down and unwind.
Additionally, late dinners can cause stomach pains and bloating, especially if you’re not moving enough to help speed up the digestion process. Switch up your night routine and try to have your last meal at least two hours before bed so your digestive system has enough time to push the food down to your intestines and avoid high levels of stomach acid.
The same goes for late-night beverages. If you tend to drink plenty of fluids right before bed, there is a high chance you’ll postpone sleep by needing to get up and empty your bladder. If you feel like you need hydration, drink little sips of water and avoid chugging down a whole water bottle before bed.
Many people’s favorite, taking a warm bath as a part of your night routine can help you relax and de-stress. It’s no wonder it’s one of the “spa-like” sensations, transporting you to another world the minute you smell bath salts and your skin touches the warm water.
One of the main reasons why taking a warm bath an hour or two before bed helps you fall asleep faster is its ability to lower your basal body temperature, signaling your circadian rhythm and helping you unwind.
Still, warm baths might not be everyone’s cup of tea so keep that in mind when you’re creating your night routine and allow yourself to discover what works for you.
The key to getting restful sleep is to fall asleep fairly quickly, have as few disturbances during the night as possible, and keep the duration of your sleep time within a healthy range. This will result in waking up feeling refreshed and full of energy, better digestion, lowered risk of diseases and weight gain, and enhanced focus and clarity. Try implementing these tools into your night routine and improve your overall health and longevity.