The benefits of a good bedtime routine for regular sleep
Bedtime routines are for kids, right? Well it turns out a bedtime routine is just as good for adult’s sleep as it is for kids.1,4 If you are taking a long time to fall asleep at night; designing your own sleep routine could be the key to nodding off faster, getting the right amount of sleep that you need and improving the health of your mind and body.1,4
What is a bedtime routine?
A bedtime routine is a sequence of repeated behaviours and actions that help signal your mind and body that it is time for sleep. When a regular habitual bedtime routine is established, your brain recognises this pattern as sign that it is time to start slowing down for sleep, which helps you to fall asleep faster and get a more restful sleep.
Why is a bedtime routine important for adults?
In a world that seems to expect us to be on 24/7 it can be difficult to establish a nightly routine for sleep. However, there are consequences on the health of your mind and the health of your body when you lack a consistent sleep routine, such as: 1
- Increased risk of obesity1
- Increased risk of high blood pressure1
- Increased risk of type 2 diabetes1
- Increased perceived stress and depression1
- Increased risk of poor heart health1
An irregular bedtime routine has also shown to increase the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep, resulting in less sleep during night-time hours and an increased likelihood of daytime sleepiness. Overall, this means you get less ‘healthy sleep‘
How will a bedtime routine benefit me?
If you want to know if a bedtime routine is right for you, then look at the following questions:
- Do you need help getting to sleep faster at night?
- Do want to get regular good quality sleep?
- Do you want to reduce daytime sleepiness?
- Do you want to wake up easier in the morning and not feel the need to keep pressing the snooze button?
- Do you want to feel refreshed and energised in the morning, rather than groggy and exhausted?
- Do you want to reduce stress and improve your mental health?
- Do you want to reduce your risk of high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes, dementia, stroke, and cardiovascular disease?
If you answered “YES” to any or all the questions, then a bedtime routine can benefit you.
How does a bedtime routine help me sleep better?
You may have heard of a process that controls your sleep called ‘the circadian rhythm’, which is also known as your ‘body clock’. Your body clock is influenced by the light in your environment, which is why your body feels the need to sleep when it is dark and to wake when it is light. However, these natural cues can be disrupted by electronic devices which fool your body clock into thinking it is still daytime. When your body clock is thrown out of sync, it can create issues with your sleep which can then lead to physical and mental health problems. When you align a bedtime routine with your natural body clock it can help promote regular, restorative sleep. 2
How to create a bedtime routine for adults
There is no one-size-fits-all bedtime routine for all adults, instead you could have fun trying to create a bedtime routine perfect for you and your life. The lead-up to bedtime plays a fundamental role in preparing you to fall asleep quickly and easily. Explore the ideas below, think about the bad sleep habits keeping you up, and consider what you could easily build into a routine that would help you get a more restful night’s sleep:
BUDGET TIME FOR SLEEP
Choose a consistent bedtime and wake up time that allows you to get the recommended 7-9 hours’ sleep3. Give yourself extra time before bed to wind down and get ready for sleep. 5
It can be difficult keeping track of time when we are streaming our favourite shows or scrolling through social media – set the alarm 30-60 minutes before your ‘sleep time’ to allow time for your sleep routine
DISCONNECT FROM DEVICES
Remember the light from your devices are keeping you up longer with its engaging content and bright light.
LOWER THE LIGHTS
Dimming room lights can help your body to start producing sleep promoting hormones like melatonin
TIME TO WIND DOWN
Allow yourself at least 30 minutes of time to wind down and do activities which relax your body and mind. Which of these activities help relax you? 5
- Warm bath or shower
- Gentle stretching/ yoga
- Reading or listening to a book
- Listening to music
- Breathing exercises
Approach the design of your bedtime routine like an experiment, where you try different tips to see which one’s have the greatest positive impact on your sleep. Your routine depends on what works for you, but the most important thing is working out a routine and sticking to it.3 If you make it a habit, your body and mind will recognise that it is time for sleep.
- Lunsford-Avery, J.R., Engelhard, M.M., Navar, A.M. et al.Validation of the Sleep Regularity Index in Older Adults and Associations with Cardiometabolic Risk. Sci Rep 8, 14158 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-32402-5