Insomnia can feel like a cruel paradox: the more you try to make yourself fall asleep, the more elusive sleep becomes.
Still, you aren’t totally helpless when disrupted sleep strikes. One tool you have to fight back is … your bedtime routine.
In a perfect world, we’d be able to just lie down and instantly go to sleep. But in the world we live in, where we sometimes find ourselves lying in the dark watching the second hand on the clock, finding a set of habits that help ease us off to sleep can make all the difference.
The idea is that if you create a routine that helps you transition from waking to sleep, the elements of this routine act as cues to let your brain know it’s time to fall asleep.
Part of this routine might have to do with adjusting your physical environment to prepare for sleep. For example, bright lights (including screens) inhibit the release of the hormone melatonin, which is involved in sleep. In other words, if you stay on your computer right up to the moment you decide to call it a night, the signal you’re sending to your brain is “wakey wakey,” not “it’s time to go do some dreaming.”
So part of your sleep routine might be dimming the lights well ahead of the time you want to drift off. Or maybe you want to incorporate blue light blocking glasses into your routine. These are becoming increasingly popular, with research suggesting they may be able to counteract some of the most sleep-destroying effects of bright lights.
Another part of your sleep routine might have to do with what you actually do as you get ready to go to sleep. I like to read until I’m tired enough that it becomes hard to keep going – I’ve found it’s the perfect way to wind down my brain after crawling into bed.
There are so many variables you can adjust in your sleep routine – what time you go to sleep, what temperature you keep your room at, and so on – that it’s worth doing some trial and error to see what works best for you.
But that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. Ask the Therapists Marie Hartwell-Walker and Daniel J. Tomasulo are here to help with some concrete tips on how to build an effective sleep routine. Watch the video below, and happy sleeping!