How to Unwind Before Bed
Sleep is very important, and when it’s out of whack it can have a wide range of negative impacts on both our mental and physical health. Let alone the fact that it just doesn’t feel good to be tired all the time. Trying out some new bedtime rituals could be a good solution if insufficient or bad-quality sleep has been an issue for you. What rituals you choose will depend on your personal preferences, and you may need to try a variety of different strategies to find out what’s best for you. Here are a few worth considering.
Many of us watch TV and scroll on our phones to wind down before bed, but research has indicated that this may be harming our sleep. In one study, it was found that using an electronic device before bed was often associated with poorer sleep quality, especially when it was used for 1 – 2 hours. It was even noted that people slept better when their phone was kept five metres away from their bed rather than under their pillow. Next time you go to bed, try switching out scrolling on your phone for another wind-down method like reading and putting your phone further away from your bed so you’re not tempted to look at it through the night.
What you eat throughout the day and just before bed can impact the quality of your sleep. For example, a lack of key nutrients, like calcium, magnesium and various vitamins, has been shown to be associated with sleep problems. On top of this, high-carbohydrate meals might make you feel drowsy, but too much can make you wake up more throughout the night and stop you from getting enough deep sleep. Energy drinks and sugar-sweetened drinks have also been associated with poor sleep.
There isn’t a specific diet that guarantees improved sleep, however ensuring you have a balanced diet with adequate vitamins and minerals could be a good way to help.
Maintain a routine
Throughout a 24-hour cycle, our bodies go through physical, mental and behavioural changes. This is known as the circadian rhythm (or internal clock), and plays an important role in our sleep-wake cycle by telling our bodies when it’s time to go to sleep and wake up. If this is out of whack, it can be difficult to get the right amount of sleep. A sleep routine, in which we go to sleep and wake up at the same times each day, can help improve our circadian rhythm and make it easier to get good-quality sleep.
MeditationMeditation is a relaxation technique that can promote overall calmness and make it easier to sleep. This is particularly important if your sleep problems stem from stress or worry. But there’s more to it than this. It’s thought that meditation may also improve control of the autonomic nervous system, increase melatonin and serotonin (both hormones related closely to sleep), reduce your heart rate, decrease your blood pressure, and activate the parts of the brain that control sleep. By doing all this, it can make it easier to fall asleep, and even stay asleep. If meditation is difficult for you or you’ve never done it before, apps like Headspace can provide guided meditation sessions.