What you do before bed can impact your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. So, in this blog, I offer advice on things you can do before bed to help you sleep better.
Louise Baillie S.A.C. Dip (Diet, Exercise & Fitness), Advanced Human Anatomy & Physiology Level 3 @ActiveLouise Ask Louise
01 June 2021
What can you do before bed to help you sleep?
Relaxing activities like Yoga and switching off technology are some of the best things to do before bed to help you sleep. Other things you can do include: avoiding caffeine after 5pm, blocking out light, avoiding eating close to bed time, creating a relaxing atmosphere, exercising during the day and taking a herbal sleep aid.
8 things to do before bed to help you sleep
So, let's take a look at each of these things in more detail and why they can help you sleep:
1. Factor in relaxing activities
We've all heard it before. Relaxing activities like a hot bath, reading and even knitting can help prepare the body for sleep. Did you know, however, that some forms of exercise can also lull the body into a sleepy slumber?
Yoga is a great option as this focuses on deep breathing and stretching that together help to calm the body before bed time. Why not check out a class on YouTube and do a quick 10-20 minutes before you climb into bed? Just make sure you opt for 'bedtime' or 'wind down' yoga rather than a workout that's going to be fairly strenuous as more vigorous forms of exercise have actually been found to impair sleep when practised close to bed time. This is because exercise can be stressful for the body and, as a result, it releases stress hormones such as cortisol. These can affect our ability to sleep well.
2. Exercise during the day
As long as you don't practise it too close to bed time, exercise has been proven in research to aid sleep.
There are lots of ways in which exercise can benefit sleep:
It boosts mood and eases stress through endorphins, which may have the effect of making us feel calmer and more ready for sleep at night.
We, of course, use up lots of energy through exercise which makes us physically tired.
Some exercises may release the sleep hormone serotonin.
There's also been evidence to show that exercise can help conditions like insomnia, so there are plenty of reasons to get moving more throughout the day. (1)
Need inspiration on how to be more active? Have a look at our get active videos on YouTube!
3. Switch off technology close to bed time
Whether you like to get through a few episodes of your favourite Netflix series or spend hours scrolling the internet for bargains, screen time has a negative impact on sleep. It emits a blue light, for one, which tricks the brain into thinking it is day time and makes it harder to get to sleep. It is also a very stimulating activity and may even impact upon our mood and stress levels – both of which will not do our ability to sleep any favours.
So, switch technology off a couple of hours before you go to bed, if possible. I put my phone in a drawer away from my bed to avoid looking at it. The temptation is very much there but, as long as I keep busy with other activities, I can usually resist! Use an old-fashioned alarm clock if your phone usually wakes you up in the morning.
When it comes to television-watching or digital game-playing, give yourself a designated slot to do these things in. Just make sure that it is not too close to bed time.
4. Cut your intake of caffeinated drinks and foods
Are you prone to drinking 3-4 cups of caffeinated hot drinks throughout the day? Well, this could be impacting upon your ability to sleep at night.
Research has found that drinking 400mg of caffeine reduced sleep by one hour or more when consumed 1-6 hours before bed. (2) It has therefore been suggested that we avoid caffeine after 5pm at night. This includes coffee, of course, but don't forget that fizzy drinks, energy drinks, chocolate and tea also contain a notable caffeine content.
Switch to herbal teas after 5pm for a lighter alternative. Lemon and ginger can be good for digestion after dinner, whilst chamomile is a comforting favourite before sleep.
5. Avoid a heavy meal before lights out
Eating too close to bed time means that your digestion still has a lot of work to do by the time your head hits the pillow. On top of this, the body starts to slow some of its processes in preparation for sleep and this can make food (especially carb-heavy items) more difficult to digest.
Issues such as heartburn and acid reflux are also more likely to occur if we eat close to bed time due to the motion of lying down. This is simply a matter of gravity, as it is harder to keep food down where it is meant to be! When these issues occur it is, unsurprisingly, likely to have a negative impact on sleep.
So, make sure to give yourself a couple of hours to digest food before you go to bed.
6. Try a herbal sleep remedy
For a little extra support in getting to sleep, you could turn to a natural herbal sleep remedy such as Dormeasan Sleep. This makes use of the herbs Valerian and Hops and helps to bring temporary relief from sleep issues caused by anxiety. This is ideal if you worry about getting to sleep, as it encourages a more natural sleep. Natural remedies like Dormeasan Sleep also come with the benefit that they won't leave you feeling groggy in the morning. Instead, they should help you to wake up feeling refreshed and rested.
Help to lull your body off to sleep by creating a relaxed atmosphere in the bedroom. Here are my tips on how to do this:
Try a diffuser with relaxing oils like lavender
Dim the main lights and light up some candles (just remember to blow them out before you fall asleep!)
Get cosy in your comfy clothes
Make sure the temperature of the room is set at a medium level – if it's too hot or cold it can impact your ability to sleep
Move any stimulating technology such as televisions or laptops out of the bedroom
Keep the bedroom as stress-free as possible by moving out anything connected to work or study, such as piles of text books or documents
Put on a meditation podcast or calming musical mix
Keep the area tidy – avoid leaving clutter or leftover clothes lying around.
8. Block out light
In the summer months, lighter evenings and bright sunrises can affect our ability to get a good night's sleep. You can prepare for this in advance by investing in some blackout curtains or, as a cheaper option, sleep masks are really effective in keeping out sun light. These come in various shapes and sizes from cotton, silk and even beaded options! Heated sleep masks are also really popular and come in a range of different prices and variations.
So, before bed, make sure to look out one of these if you think it might benefit your sleep, and pull over the curtains to help prepare your body for sleep.
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