Sleep is a natural and organic body process. However, our habits and routines can get in the way of falling asleep easily and returning to sleep, if awakened. Our bodies love a predictable routine… including exercise, nutrition and sleep. When we create a standardized bedtime and build in a “winding down” period as part of our routine, we send a message to our minds and bodies to put away the day and get ready for sleep. If you want to improve your sleep, you have to treat it as important. Sometimes that means saying “no” to a late-night horror film or reading your news feed after the lights are off. Taking some time to think about your pre-bedtime routine and making even a few changes can make a difference and improve your sleep.
Everyone has a transition to sleep. For some it may be the five minutes spent washing up and brushing teeth between the late night news, the head on the pillow and lights out. For many people this might work, but for many it is an invitation to lie awake with a restless mind and body. When you choose a bedtime and build in time to unwind prior to “lights out” you create a healthy habit that improves your sleep.
Here are some tips for planning your transition to sleep:
Consider eating a lighter dinner and give yourself at least four hours to digest your food before bed.
- Take a relaxing walk after dinner to help digest your food.
- Make a deal with yourself to turn off the TV, shut down the laptop and put away the work an hour before bedtime.
- Minimize alcohol within two hours of bed and keep liquids to a minimum.
- Listen to calming music or sounds of nature for a little while when you get into bed.
- Spend a minute or two journaling or writing down just one thing you were grateful for during the day.
- Read inspirational or uplifting literature before you go to bed. An enjoyable novel, biography or history can engage your mind in a relaxing pursuit. Avoid reading material that requires intense concentration or adds to mental stress.
From Preparing for Restful Sleep by Linda Portnoy, a Cancer Lifeline Meditation Facilitator