Bedtime Routines… Are they just for kids?

One of the most common complaints associated with the hectic, stressful, and fast-paced lives that we live today is difficulty sleeping. Many clients report experiencing trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or poor quality sleep. Sleep difficulties can be attributed to a variety of different factors including sleep apnea, anxiety and stress, depression, and use of stimulants to name just a few.  Although good sleep hygience will not cure all sleep troubles, it will certainly help to ensure that you are creating an environment conducive to quality sleep and addressing any bad habits that you may have developed that are preventing you from getting the sleep that you need.  This article focuses on providing suggestions to create a healthy bedtime routine to ensure that you are getting the best sleep possible.  If you or someone you know has been struggling with sleep, read on.

Sleep difficulties have become the bane of our existence in the 21st century.  In a survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation in the United States, 1 out of every 2 people reported that they have had trouble sleeping at some point in their lives.  In addition, women and adults under the age of 55 were more likely to report difficulty sleeping.  Why are sleep difficulties so common?  What can we do about this?  Well, first we need to ensure that we are practicing good sleep habits.  Interestingly, many people start their lives with good sleep routines, but slowly lose touch with the habits that worked so well in the past, namely a child’s bedtime routine.

What are some common aspects of children’s bedtimes?  Well first, there’s predictability.  Most kids go to bed at the same time every day be it weekday or weekend.  Also, kids tend to wake up at the same time everyday too.  Kids usually insist on some type of consistent activity before bed such a bedtime story.  Finally, children tend to seek relationship bonding activities before bed.  Cuddles, kisses, hugs, and snuggles.  Although we often shed our childhood rituals when we grow up in favour of more sophisticated and grown-up lifestyles, the childhood bedtime routine is one ritual that we may want to re-think giving up as we become adults.

Based on the above model, here are some ideas for you to incorporate into your evening to achieve a better sleep.

1.  Set up a routine.  Go to bed and wake-up at the same time every day.  Our bodies like routine (do you let your kids stay up to all hours of the day and night and then expect them to be able to get up the next day and function?).

2.  Make sure you establish a relaxing ritual before bed that is calming and soothing. Do you remember your mom or dad telling you not to excite yourself before bed? Kids that get overexcited before bed tend to have difficulty falling asleep. As adults, we seem to have forgotten that lesson and tend to run around doing last minute errands, watching stimulating television shows, or playing games on a bright screen.  That goes for all of you news junkies as well.  If you must watch the news, try to get your news time in the morning when stimulation is wanted rather than at bedtime.   I know caffeine is a touchy subject for some but if you’re going to be working on soothing and relaxing yourself in the evening, please consider limiting caffeine intake to the first part of your day. Stimulants interfere withn our body’s ability to relax. If you suffer from anxiety or feel keyed up before bed, caffeine will exacerbate the problem.

3.  Have a look at your environment. Are the lights out? Is it cool enough?  Are you sleeping in a comfortable bed?  Your comfort can go a long way towards ensuring that you get a good night’s sleep.

4.  If racing or stressful thoughts keep you up, develop a habit of journalling before bedtime.  You don’t have to write a novel or be brilliant in your daily observations. Sometimes just making a list of all of the things that are racing around your mind can put the thoughts to rest.  Think of the noise in your head as your brain’s way of reminding you of things you need to know. If you write it on paper, your brain no longer has to worry about keeping up a running list of things to do.

5.  Finally, try to end each day on a positive note.  Tell someone you love them, give yourself praise for something good that you accomplished, identify something that you’re grateful for in your life, or decide on your positive thought for the coming day.  If you have a special someone in your life, bedtime is a great time to get intimate, even if it’s just for a few minutes of cuddle time. Ending your day on a positive note will set the stage for a great tomorrow.