Sleep is a critical part of your daily health behaviors. That is why Lark has extensive sleep coaching throughout the program, and may mention the importance of a bedtime routine. These are some steps to take to get to sleep faster and end up with more high-quality sleep to make weight control easier and to lower your risk for chronic conditions.
Be Active During the Day
If you want to sleep well at night, it makes intuitive sense to be active during the day. Indeed, science backs up intuition. Physical activity improves sleep quality and reduces the time it takes to get to sleep. Plus, exercise reduces stress, which lets you sleep instead of lying awake worrying.
Exercise raises your heart rate and core body temperature, so be sure to finish your workout a couple of hours before bedtime, if you exercise late in the day, to give your body time to cool back down. As a bonus, exercising outside in the natural daylight can further reinforce the contrast between active daytime and sleep nighttime.
Wind Down Early
You may not consider it part of your official bedtime routine, but everything you do during the day affects your sleep at night. Along with physical activity, when and what you eat and drink can impact sleep.
- Eating a large meal too close to bedtime can increase wakefulness.
- Caffeine can boost alertness for six hours, so it is best to avoid coffee and caffeinated soft drinks and energy drinks in the afternoon and beyond.
- Alcohol induces feelings of sleepiness, but it can lower sleep quality.
- Eating a lot of carbohydrates in the evening can boost blood sugar and wakefulness.
A proper bedtime routine requires enough time. Just as it is necessary to set aside time for workouts and for preparing healthy meals, it is a priority to set aside enough time for your bedtime routine.
First, figure out your bedtime based on how much sleep you need and when you will be getting up. Then, figure out how much time you will need to do your routine, and count back from your bedtime. That is when it is time to start your bedtime routine. It may take some trial and error before you figure out your sweet spot for how long to dedicate to your bedtime routine. For many people, it may be 20 to 60 minutes.
Turn off the Screen
Some people use movies, TV shows, or simple games to relax before bed. That can actually work for some people, but there are many reasons to be wary of screens, whether television, smartphone, computer, tablet, or gaming console.
- They can make you lose track of time, so you go to bed later than intended.
- Social media and emails can be stressful or, even if positive, stimulating so you do not feel sleepy anymore.
- The bright glare from screens can confuse your body, making it think it is daytime and not night.
Turning off your devices can be the first step in your bedtime routine. Then, resist the urge to do one last email or text-message check just before bed. It can interrupt your whole routine.
This is the heart of the bedtime routine. The goal is to relax or wind down, letting your mind and body know that it is time to rest now. Then, do something that lets you wind down. It could be reading, taking a warm bath, phoning a friend, meditating, or something else. It could be more than one activity.
Get Ready for Bed
Getting ready for bed before or after your relaxation activity can be part of your bedtime routine. This can include brushing teeth, getting into pajamas, and getting a sip of water, for example.
After your bedtime routine, it is time for bed, hopefully in the ideal environment: not too hot or cold, dark, quiet or with some soft background noise, and comfortable. Sleep well, and be sure to check in with Lark about how your sleep and other health habits are going!