A few years ago I got my first smart watch, and the daily data that interested me most, and probably made the biggest impact on my habits, was not my daily steps, but my sleep data. I had never really thought much about the ‘quality’ of my sleep or how certain things outside of my bedtime routine may or may not impact that. Wearing a smartwatch (and now and Apple Watch) to bed and tracking the patterns in my sleep quality has really opened my mind to how much of my other daily habits impact the quality of sleep I get, which in turn impacts my energy levels and how ready I feel to show up.
If you are struggling with getting a good night's sleep, or finding it difficult to relax at bedtime, here are four things that have made the biggest impact on my sleep routines in the last few years that just might help you too.
Have a routine
Our bodies are hardwired to respond to routine, it's often the reason that so many of us struggle with change. However, we can also use this biological instinct to our advantage, especially when it comes to helping improve sleep. Following a receptive 'wind-down' routine every evening before you go to bed, repeating the same actions in the same sequence (eg. doing some yoga, having a shower, making tea, reading a book), can help 'alert' your mind to the fact that it's time to sleep. Over time, you'll begin to notice that when you start to follow your evening routine, you will naturally begin to feel sleepy or tired because your body clock recognises this sequence.
Set yourself a bedtime
One of the things many of us look forward to when we are a kid, is one day being old enough to not have a bedtime anymore, but as we’ve already learned, our bodies are biologically hardwired to respond to routine. Having no set bedtime can throw off your body clock; your body and mind never really know when to start relaxing and often you never get that sense of feeling tired before you want to go to bed. During the week try and aim to be in bed roughly at the same time every night, even if you don't 'feel' tired; over time you might notice that you'll naturally start to feel tired approaching this time in the evening.
If you're scrolling through your Insta feed or TikTok FYP right before you turn in for the night, you might find it difficult to drift off to sleep immediately. You might still feel too alert, that’s because the blue light emitted from most screens such as your phone or computer, keeps the brain 'switched on' by mimicking daylight and tricking your brain into thinking it’s not time to relax yet. Try putting down your devices at least an hour before you plan to go to bed and if you really want something to read before lights-out, try a book instead.
Exercising helps release all those lovely feel good chemicals into our brains, often after exercising we can feel a surge of energy. As this surge fades out we can often feel calmer and more relaxed due to those feel good chemicals still hanging around. Exercises focused on breathing, such as yoga, can actually help still your mind and bring you into a more relaxed state. Trying to fit in some form of movement daily can go a long way towards improving the quality of your sleep and your body and brain’s readiness to relax at bedtime.