Following on from my last post in the series about the importance of a morning ritual, today we are going to look at the other end of the day. Having a fantastic morning ritual is great for setting up your day in the right way. An evening ritual is all about getting yourself in the right place for the NEXT day.
I’ve spoken in the past about the importance of sleep. Since I’ve made sure I get at least 7 and a half hour per evening I feel better mentally. Staying up until 3 am watching the Superbowl this year wiped me out for about 3 days.
But what is the most important thing about ensuring a good night sleep? There are so many different factors that can affect your sleep, but here are six of my key ones.
Remove your mobile device
If there is one single piece of advice to take away from this article, this is it. Do your body a favour and remove your mobile device from your bedroom.
For most of human history, we have spent our days basking in the sun and nighttime in darkness. The light of the sun controlled our body clocks, thus making us go to sleep when there is no light and wake up when there is. This is known as our circadian rhythm. In modern times, with the invention of artificial light, this has been thrown completely out of whack.
Not all light is bad, some wavelengths are worse than others. The worst of the worst is the dreaded blue light. During the day blue is our friends. It boosts attention, reactiveness and our moods (Harvard Health, 2018). But who wants to be more alert, reactive and attentive at 10 pm?
Mobile devices emit a lot of light in the blue range. So sitting scrolling through facebook before you go to bed is literally increasing your alertness just as you want to go to sleep.
A really easy 1% win here. Most people I know have their phone chargers plugged in next to their beds. Just move your phone charger to a different room. I keep mine in the lounge, but anywhere will do. Kitchen, spare room the place is irrelevant. Just make your bedroom a screen-free zone.
Actionable Tip 1 – Make your bedroom a screen free zone
This one is one of the less obvious tips, but one that I’ve found useful. It’s taken from Arianna Huffington, who is probably the queen of sleep and it benefits. The tip: get changed before bed and ensure it’s into ‘bed-time’ clothes.
Whether your bed-time clothes are pyjamas, lacy underwear or your birthday suit it doesn’t matter. The routine of moving from your day time clothes into a set of night clothes subconsciously tells your brain to start shutting down.
Changing into the leggings and vest you usually wear for the gym will not have the same effect. That is you telling your body it’s time for the gym, get ready!
This may seem like a really small thing, but you won’t believe the difference it can make to just ready the mind before lying down.
Actionable tip 2 – Have a set of clothes you only sleep in and change into them just before bed.
I love to read and try to fit in as much reading time as possible every day. I find it calms my mind, relaxes me and is also a fantastic way to constantly be improving. But there are some other benefits to diving into a book before bed.
Scientifically, reading has been proven to reduce cortisol levels. Cortisol is a bit of a catch-22 chemical. It’s great to have in your body, especially first thing in the morning to help rouse you from sleep. However, long term high levels have been directly linked to weight gain, gastrointestinal problems, depression and chronic fatigue.
The number one cause of high cortisol: high stress!
One of the fantastic benefits of reading: lowering of stress
The simple act of reading before bed to simply lower your stress levels could have a massive impact on your general health.
I’m sure others have had this same experience. But I can’t even count the number of times reading in bed has sent me straight to sleep. To the point, I start to drop my Kindle. A quick tip here; read a physical book. That way if you do fall asleep, you don’t smash your Kindle.
A confession here from me: I do tend to read on my Kindle. Which I do appreciate is a screen and I’ve already talked about the dangers of too much screen time. Whilst it is still a screen, with the brightness turned down to it’s lowest possible level I don’t find it causes me any problems. Unlike the garish glow of a smartphone.
Actionable tip 3 – Fit in 15 minutes of reading before bed. It will reduce your stress, help you fall asleep and also keep you on a journey of self-improvement. 15 minutes of improvement every day soon adds up, believe me.
I’ve found one of the most commonly overlooked things with people going to bed is the lack of water they drink. Throughout the day, we are all told to be constantly drinking and ensuring we are hydrated. Yet we go to sleep and spend 8 hours without consuming anything.
Without setting up some fancy IV drip in your own bedroom, which I categorically do not advise, there is no way to take on water whilst sleeping.
In that case, just ensure you drink something before you go to bed. I try and drink a pint of water 30 minutes – one hour before going to bed. But as my partner puts it “Are you sure you’re not half fish? You certainly drink like one”.
Would you go 8 hours during the day without a drink? I doubt it. So do yourself a favour and take on some form of liquid before bed.
To be clear, wine does not count.
Actionable tip 4 – Drink some water
Show some gratitude
A great habit to get into, and one I have fallen out of in recent weeks, is writing in a gratitude journal. The premise is really simple. Every night before you go to bed, write down three things you are thankful for. These don’t need to be huge, philosophical thankyou’s. Simple is best here. My list quite often includes the word pizza, I do love pizza.
The benefits? You are re-framing your mind just before you go to bed to focus on the good things in your life. No matter how small, you are finding happiness in every single day. Your three things could be:
- There wasn’t any traffic on my drive to work
- The sun was shining
- I managed to have a ten-minute walk in the sun
- I spent an extra 15 minutes in bed
- I spoke to my boss and he is going to give me a 5% raise
- My partner cooked me dinner and it was delicious
Nice simple things that you are thankful for. Every. Single. Day.
Actionable tip 5 – Keep a notebook and pen next to your bed and use it to write down three things you are grateful for every day.
Have the same routine
The importance of routines in the human body cannot be underestimated. Following the same steps, every night before you hit the hay lets your body know that it is time to shut down. For me, this looks something like this
- 30 minutes before – Shut down my devices. My phone goes on flight mode, TV is turned off and screen time is ended
- 20 minutes before – Drink water, feed the gecko! The second part of this one probably doesn’t apply to most people. But Pablo the leopard gecko needs his daily feed. The water is probably the important one here, hydrate yourself.
- 10 minutes before – Brush teeth, use the bathroom
- 5 minutes before – Show some gratitude. Write in my gratitude journal
- 0 minutes – zzzzzzzzzzzz
I follow that same routine every evening and I can tell you, by the time I hit 0 minutes I am already asleep.
Actionable tip 6 – Follow the same routine
I don’t know about you, but I need a nap
All this talk of bedtime has got me thinking about sleep already. It’s 7 am, this is not a good place to be in!
To quickly summarise the key takeaways:
- Make your bedroom a screen-free zone
- Have a set of clothes you only sleep in and change into them just before bed.
- Fit in 15 minutes of reading before bed. It will reduce your stress, help you fall asleep and also keep you on a journey of self-improvement. 15 minutes of improvement every day soon adds up, believe me.
- Drink some water
- Keep a notebook and pen next to your bed and use it to write down three things you are grateful for every day.
- Follow the same routine
Go away not and take a look at your own routine, which of the 6 points above could you take on board to improve your life? If you could pick just one, I’d recommend going for the screen-free zone. But the choice is yours.
Action one of the tips and I’d love to hear how you get on in the comments below.