When kids are little, parents often rely on a consistent bedtime routine to help them fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. In fact, when my boys were small this bedtime routine was key to sleep for all of us – if the routine varied, sleep was inevitably harder to come by.
It is unfortunate that as adults, we lose that routine around sleep. We end up staying up too late to catch the end of a show or scroll endlessly through social media or wake up to a jolting alarm clock far before we are ready. It is no surprise then that fatigue is one of the top 10 reasons adults present to their primary care physician, much of which can be attributed a poor nights sleep.
When it comes to the brain, sleep is an integral part of repair and renewal. In fact, it is one of the pillars to success in AFFIRMATIVhealth’s RE:mind program. Try these recommendations to developing an adult bed-time routine and getting that good nights sleep:
- Do not do vigorous exercise after 6pm. Calming exercise such as yoga or stretching may be helpful in the evening.
- Eat a light dinner and finish no later than 7 pm, to allow at least 2-3 hours between your last meal and bedtime. This will improve digestion and allow your brain to better “clean up”
- Challenge your brain after dinner to prevent that drowsiness that often occurs right after a meal – ideally without the use of stimulating electronics, try readying, playing cards, or doing a craft.
- Start getting ready for bed at least half an hour before you’d like to go to sleep.
- Avoid watching TV or using cellphones, tablets, or computers in bed. If you prefer to read on your tablet, make sure that it is set to “night” mode to limit the amount of stimulating blue light.
If you still have trouble falling asleep with the above routine, try the following:
- Using massage grade sesame oil or a lotion with a soothing scent like lavender, massage the bottom of your feet for about 2-5 minutes. After massaging, place a thin pair of socks on your feet and lay down to sleep.
- Take 5-20mg prolonged-release melatonin at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime.
- Perform 10 deep belly breaths right before you sleep. If you want to inhale a light, soothing oil like lavender, this can also help.
- Perform a simple meditation. My favorite is a body scan meditation, where you bring attention to each area of your body starting with your feet and moving up to your head. There are many guided meditation CDs and apps that provide a soothing voice and gentle sounds to help ease you into sleep.
If you wake up in the middle of the night and find it hard to fall back to sleep:
- Perform 10 deep belly breaths
- Try a simple guided meditation.
- Take a dose of prolonged-release melatonin, as long as you haven’t taken the maximum dose before bed.
As humans we thrive on routine and this is as true for sleep as it is for anything else we do. Try establishing a bed-time routine and let us know what works for you. Remember, we are here at email@example.com to help if you have any questions. For more information on AFFIRMATIVhealth’s RE:mind program for cognitive health, please visit www.affirmativhealth.com