Why is it that we place so much emphasis on building a sleep routine for children, but we throw it out the window as we get older? I would argue that establishing a sleep routine as you age is just as important as when you are young. Today, we are going to walk through how to build a solid sleep routine!
First, setting a sleep routine starts with knowing how many hours of sleep of sleep you actually need. I like to use these guidelines:
Age and Number of Hours Recommended
One thing to note with these guidelines - if you are recovering from an autoimmune disease or other chronic illness, you might need more sleep than even the higher end of your age group recommendations. Some people with autoimmune diseases need upwards of 10 hours of sleep during their healing journey!
Second, it's time to determine what time you need to wake up in the mornings and count backwards from there with the number of hours of sleep you need each night to determine your bedtime. For example, if you need to get up at 7am and are 30 years old, you need to go to bed around 10-11pm in order to get enough sleep each night.
Next, it's time to build your nightly sleep routine. I like to start by shutting off electronics about 1-2 hours before bed. If this is a bit difficult for you starting out, I recommend wearing orange-tinted glasses about 2 hours before bed to help block the blue light emitted from electronics. This blue light suppresses melatonin, which is a hormone that needs to rise at night to help you sleep. I wear these glasses every night. They aren't the most glamorous, but they do the job! Other amber-tinted glasses are available as well, some even made now specifically for this purpose. There are also filters (f.lux for instance) on electronics that help darken the screen at night (Apple now has a "nighttime" function too).
Then, it's time to replace those electronics with something more relaxing to settle your mind and body. I like to spend some time reading, talking with family, journaling, meditating, or simply doing something that relaxes your mind. This doesn't have to be for a super long time either - even just 5-10 minutes of relaxing before bed can make a big difference! One of my favorites from that list is journaling. It's helpful to get your thoughts out on paper, especially if you are one that has a racing mind before bed.
For the best sleep, ensuring that your bedroom is completely dark and cool at night helps with sleep as well. I like to use blackout curtains and fans (and AC during the summer!) to keep my bedroom cooler. The ideal temperature for sleeping has been shown to be about 65-68 degrees. The blackout curtains are also great for eliminating any light from the bedroom, which can interfere with falling and staying asleep.
Other tips for building a sleep routine include stopping caffeine at noon each day (caffeine's effects can last up to 6 hours or more), preparing for the next day before bed (laying out your clothes, packing a lunch, etc), taking a bath, and listening to relaxing music. I also like to write down a to-do list from time to time for the next day so that my mind isn't racing while I'm trying to fall asleep!
Once you have all of these factors in place, it's time to put these tactics into practice! Starting tonight, make one simple change to your sleep routine by setting a bedtime for yourself going forward. Then, every few nights, add or try something new with regards to your sleep routine, and before you know it, your routine will have become habitual!
In the final two posts in this series, we are going to be covering what to do if you have trouble falling or staying sleep. Stay tuned!