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4 minReading time

Aint nothing gonna come between you and good sleep.

Most of us don’t sleep enough. Most of us don’t sleep the night through. Most of us think that in order to be more productive we need to get up earlier and sleep later. Most of us are wrong.

I’ve already written about why sleep is important, but what about the oh-so-important time before you climb into bed? What can you do before getting into bed to make sleep that much sweeter?

Here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way:

1. HAVE A WIND DOWN ROUTINE
I listened to a podcast a few weeks ago where Arianna Huffington, who I have now dubbed ‘Sleep Queen’, was talking about how important sleep is. I loved all she said but one thing in particular struck me. She pointed out how when we put kids to bed we have a routine for them. Brush teeth, pyjamas on, into bed for a bedtime story, kisses and leaving the door just open enough for light to sneak into their room. When it comes to us, we kind of just collapse into bed, iPhone in hand, and assume we’ll fall asleep immediately.

“Bedtime routines help children learn to transition from the busy activity of the day to settling down for sleep. Bedtime is a time to teach children how to soothe themselves and how to relax.” says Marie Hartnell-Walker Ed.D.

What if it’s the same for us? Bill Gates reportedly reads for an hour before bed. Gwyneth Paltrow takes a soothing bath in epsom salts. Buffer CEO Joel Gascoigne takes a 20-minute walk.

Start thinking about it, what would your bedtime routine be? [PSSTTT… my dream routine is at the bottom of the page]

2. PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY
There have been a ton of reports revealing how over-exposure to bright screens like laptops, TV, and smartphones; is bad for our health. Essentially the spectrum of light that comes from these screens signals to our bodies that we don’t need to produce melatonin, which is a vital part of kick-starting our sleep. This why waking up in the middle of the night and checking your phone because you can’t sleep, could make it harder for you to sleep, instead of easier. And this is why Sleep Queen says we should put our phones away (in a separate room, or just really, really far away from us) an hour before bed time.

3. GO TO BED AT THE SAME TIME EVERY NIGHT (if possible)
Building a routine (there’s that word again) helps teach our bodies what time it is and therefore what to do. Things become automatic. If at the same time each day we go to bed and get up, we’re telling our bodies ‘it’s bedtime now’, and falling asleep becomes easier.

4. MAKE YOUR BEDROOM SACRED
Decorate your room to assist in falling asleep. The right lighting, the right sheets; all of these things contribute to our comfort and therefore influence our sleep. Respect the place where you sleep. Make it a special place where only two things happen: sleep and sex. No work, no tv, this is a space designed for relaxation and that’s it.

5. CUT OUT THE CAFFEINE AT 4PM
Six hours before bed is the recommended time to stop intake of caffeine. No more coffee, no more caffeinated teas, no more sodas. So if you’re going to bed at 10pm, have your last caffeine fix at 4pm.

6. CUT OUT THE FOOD AND ALCOHOL AT 8PM
As with caffeine, when we eat and when we drink alcohol also affect our sleep (who knew?). I’ve actually noticed this in my body, and find that if I eat too soon before bed, falling asleep either takes forever, or I find myself feeling unwell the next morning. It’s best to give it some time.

7. CHECK THE TEMPERATURE (Keep it dark, quiet, and cool)
Funny story. My roommate and I are at opposite ends of the bedtime temperature spectrum. She sleeps in long-sleeve pyjamas and pants, under the comforter, with another sheet on top. Meanwhile, in my bed, I’m struggling to fall asleep because I’m too hot. What do experts say? Keep the room cool. Not cold, but a nice 66 degrees fahrenheit (18 celsius).

Okay now for my dream wind down scenario:

  • Take a 20-minute walk after dinner
  • Return home, put on some calm music, make camomile tea
  • Put on pyjamas or a bathrobe, drink tea and chat to my roommate or read a book
  • Lights out, open the window a little, bedtime

RELATED: But First, Coffee – The Case For A Slow Morning

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