When you hear ‘getting ready for bed’, what comes to mind? Brushing your teeth or removing your makeup? Planning the next day or putting on your PJs? While all those things are an important part of our bedtime routines, getting ready for a good night’s sleep can actually start a lot earlier in the day.
It might sound obvious but winding down for bedtime should be all about mental and physical relaxation, rather than stimulation. If you tend to find yourself lying awake for hours, you should try:
Having a warm bath or shower - We all know that gorgeous sleepy feeling you get from a warm bath, so it makes sense to have one before bedtime to get you in the mood for a good night’s sleep. This bathtime sleepiness is all to do with the science behind body temperature and your natural circadian rhythms; firstly, the warming effect of the bath gets the body working hard to regulate its temperature, leading to an expenditure of energy that can leave you feeling sleepy. Secondly, getting out of the bath causes the body to go from warm to cool fairly rapidly, mimicking the natural body temperature drop experienced during sleep and signalling to your brain that it’s time to get into bed.
Turning the lights down - In much the same way, light can really affect your natural body clock, with bright lights tricking your brain into thinking it’s still daytime. While you might already like to sleep in darkness, it can also be a good idea to turn the lights down some time before you go to bed, to simulate natural daylight and get your brain winding down.
Stretching and breathing - Modern life is full of stresses and strains, and these mental stresses can often manifest themselves physically too, with shoulder, back and neck pain being some of the most complained about issues. To shake off the tension of the day, a little light stretching or yoga – along with deep breathing exercises – can be immensely relaxing for the body as well as helping you to avoid waking up in pain the next morning.
Eating for sleep - While bathing or stretching before bed can be effective, according to dietician Sophie Medlin, one of the most important things you can do to get ready for bed is to make sure your diet isn’t preventing you from sleeping properly. “A really important hormone which controls our sleep patterns is melatonin,” says Sophie. “The biggest influence on our melatonin levels appears to be our intake of a type of protein called tryptophan. We can’t make tryptophan ourselves so we must find it in our diet. Rich dietary sources of tryptophan include dairy foods, pulses, fish, meat, soya, nuts and seeds.”
Incorporating these foods into your diet can also help you make sure you’re supplying your body with other nutrients such as B vitamins, calcium and magnesium, which Sophie says are just as helpful for sleep. “Dairy foods contain all these nutrients, meaning that – as is often the case – there is some science behind the old wives’ tale to have a glass of milk to help sleep!” she adds. “If you don’t have dairy in your diet, there are loads of other great sources of the nutrients you need for a good night’s sleep. B vitamins can be found in meat, fish, nuts and seeds, and calcium is found in tinned fish (with bones), dark green leafy vegetables and soya beans. These foods are also a good source of magnesium.”
Adopting positive habits is all well and good, but you might still find that your sleep is still hampered by these negative ones:
Drinking alcohol to sleep - It’s a habit many of us are guilty of, but having a drink before bedtime isn’t actually as good for sleep as it seems. Alcohol can help you nod off in the short term but actually has a negative impact on the overall quality of your sleep, meaning you still end up feeling tired the next day, even if you have slept all night.
Dining like a king - We’ve all heard the saying ‘breakfast like a king’, but most of us tend to do the exact opposite. Unfortunately, eating your biggest meal just before bedtime could be having an effect on the way you’re sleeping, causing gastrointestinal discomfort and acid reflux that can keep you awake. There might be some good news though; according to a recent study, the idea that cheese gives you nightmares is actually a myth, so you can still tuck into some cheddar before bed. Although the study in question was carried out by The British Cheese Board...
Screens in bed - When we get ourselves all wrapped up and cosy in bed, we’re telling our body that it’s time to go to sleep. If we then go on to do a bit of work, check our phones, or watch some TV, our body receives mixed messages from the daylight-mimicking blue light that’s issued from our screens. Keeping beds for sleeping and avoiding this blue light before bedtime is a great way to help yourself wind down naturally.
Implementing these tips around half an hour to an hour before bedtime could have a huge impact on the quality of your sleep, as long as your bedroom is a haven of relaxation when you get there! If yours needs a little updating, check out our stylish and comfortable Millbrook range, now in store. Sweet dreams!