You now know why Sleep is on my brain and all sorts of facts about it. Today I’m focused on how crafting a nighttime routine (meaning you do it darn near every night) can help you improve your relationship with Sleep. And if you’re like Brityn, who sleeps like a baby no matter what, this is still for you! Nighttime routine is vital to her for entirely different reasons she says– mostly for recovering after a long day of frustration with two wild boys to better prepare for tomorrow.
Step 1 – Design your routine using these components
There are many different options of what you can do during your nighttime routine that all have the same end goal of getting you to sleep fast and to sleep well. In order to design your best possible routine, I think you should have one activity or process from each of the following components.
The first two components should begin roughly two hours before you actually plan to turn out the lights. The activities from the second two components will need to be the most consistent and should begin approximately one hour before planned bedtime.
Something Adult – this could be exactly what you’re thinking, ha, or it could be something kind of boring or logistical that you just can’t get done when the kids are around or during the day.
- Cleaning some area of your house…but only for 20 minutes, tops!
- Working on a project that needs some time. If it’s enjoyable, use up to an hour, but if it’s something you’re dreading, try not to spend more than 20 minutes. Doing this for a few nights might just finally knock it off your to-do list.
- Finishing those cupcakes you signed up to bring to a child’s classroom. I see you, over-achiever!
Something Enjoyable – this will vary depending on energy and time each night, but here are a few ideas.
- Sex…as soon as your kids are down is the time to strike with this iron. Don’t wait until midnight, because odds are that it’s just not going to happen. If you’re married, this is the glue, people! Make sure you’re not letting it dry out… If you’re not up for sex, try to do something that is enjoyable and promotes intimacy (emotional or physical) with your partner.
- Scrolling through social media.
- Watching TV.
- Card and board games with your partner or a friend (invite one who’s nearby over for an hour after kids are down for the night).
- Reading a magazine or book.
- Doing a crossword puzzle.
- Taking a walk if someone else is in your house with the kids.
Something Thoughtful – it doesn’t require much time, but I find that getting my emotions out at the end of the day can be very therapeutic and prevent me from awaking in the night. There are many ways of doing this.
- Talking with your spouse–talking, asking questions, and listening while unplugged from technology. We do this a lot as we’re getting ready for bed or as we’re lying in bed.
- Writing in a journal.
- Jotting down notes of things that are on your brain–be they negative, positive, or neutral.
- Recording your thoughts on an audio memo app on your phone or tablet.
Something Relaxing – this is where you physically wind down and the last thing before you hit the hay. I think this component should be the most consistent thing you do each night.
- Reading a book for pleasure. Reading is more relaxing to me than enjoyable, so I save it for the last thing I do. It also is always pleasure reading at night, because I don’t want to feel like I “have to” read something (for work, or my scriptures, etc.) at night. I save those readings for the morning if I’m being good about my Pre-dawn Power Hour or later in the day.
- Taking a hot shower or bath. Many parents switch over to nighttime cleansing as there aren’t any kids to bust in on their “spa time”.
- Play some white noise while you get ready for bed. Many apps or machines even have timers that allow it to fade out an hour or so after getting into bed–when you’re hopefully asleep!
- Spritz a relaxation-promoting spray on your linens while you spend the last minutes awake in your bedroom.
Steps 2 & 3 – Hold Yourself Accountable + Be Consistent
- Have Siri help you remember to be consistent by setting up the Bedtime feature on your iPhone. Android has many free apps that do that (and more). BOTH platforms have features that prevent notifications from interrupting you within a certain time range. It’s a life saver for people who are awoken frequently late at night by texts, email dings, etc. #aintnobodygottimeforthat
- See if your partner will commit to his or her own nighttime routine (to visually remind you) or just remind you about yours.
- Write a post-it note on your phone for a week to remind you.
- Use the hour (or two, depending on how much time you need) before bed for your new routine. Don’t plan anything within that time for MOST nights, to help you become consistent. When people ask you to schedule something during that time, it is OK to say no, without giving them a reason as to why.
- During your last hour before bed, avoid strenuous exercise and bright artificial light, such as from a TV or computer screen. The light may signal the brain that it’s time to be awake (NIH).
If you wake up… some ways to get back to sleep
“Stay out of your head. Hard as it may be, try not to stress over your inability to fall asleep again, because that stress only encourages your body to stay awake. To stay out of your head, focus on the feelings in your body or practice breathing exercises. Take a breath in, then breathe out slowly while saying or thinking the word, “Ahhh.” Take another breath and repeat.
Make relaxation your goal, not sleep. If you find it hard to fall back asleep, try a relaxation technique such as visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation, which can be done without even getting out of bed. Even though it’s not a replacement for sleep, relaxation can still help rejuvenate your body.
Do a quiet, non-stimulating activity. If you’ve been awake for more than 15 minutes, get out of bed and do a quiet, non-stimulating activity, such as reading a book. Keep the lights dim and avoid screens so as not to cue your body that it’s time to wake up.
Postpone worrying and brainstorming. If you wake during the night feeling anxious about something, make a brief note of it on paper and postpone worrying about it until the next day when it will be easier to resolve. Similarly, if a great idea is keeping you awake, make a note of it on paper and fall back to sleep knowing you’ll be much more productive after a good night’s rest” (HelpGuide.org).
I admit that when I’m not pregnant I sleep easily (thankfully!) and am not very consistent at having a nighttime routine. With these baby-induced sleep issues however, I’m working hard on creating my own nocturnal flow in the hopes of sleeping better. What components make up your nighttime routine? Do you need to craft one? Let me know in the comments! Thanks for reading <3