Fed up of waking up feeling even more tired than when you went to bed? Join the (very boring and unfulfilling) club. We all know the solution – less screen-time, more exercise, nightly hot baths.
That said, it can be pretty hard to get into a healthy pattern and sometimes all you want is a glass (read: bottle) of wine and a Netflix marathon.
Routine. In my mind, having a routine means waking up early, doing yoga, making kale juice, sitting down at my desk and trying to do a full day’s work as a freelancer without having a nap.
In reality, my ‘routine’ exists only in the loosest sense of the word – being perpetually late, drinking gallons of coffee and staying up late to compensate for spending most of the day half-asleep and totally unproductive as a human being.
Sure, I might not write it on my CV but I really struggle to focus on work when I’m constantly tired, meaning I work late into the night to make up for it. The classic vicious circle.
I know the answer, of course – wind down after work, stop work at a set time, go to sleep earlier, wake up earlier, get my brain and body engaged and active in the morning, not at 11pm when inspiration strikes and I start deep-cleaning the house to old Abba hits or redesigning my website.
But how do you get yourself into the good kind of routine when you’re already so ingrained in your bad habits?
Read my top tips for getting a better night’s sleep and getting into healthier evening habits. You can thank me later.
Be Good to Yourself
Think about what will actually help you wind down and relax before bed, because that’s the key thing here.
We’re all aware that we shouldn’t eat too late into the evening and that we should stop watching or reading or mindlessly scrolling on screens a few hours before we want to be asleep. Just like we all know that everything is okay in moderation and yet still have ‘cheat days’ that have lasted over a decade. Or is that just me?
Bearing that all in mind, make sure you find something that fits into your life as it is now. Huge, dramatic changes will never go the distance.
If you think a hot bath will help you relax before sleeping, then go for it. If you can’t imagine anything worse than overheating in a tub of dirty water, don’t do it. Have a warm shower instead.
If you’re a reader, get stuck into a few chapters while you’re getting cosy in bed. If that’s not for you, try writing down all of your worries (I get through a whole notepad each night, sorry trees) and de-stress that way.
Find something that makes you feel good, relaxed and in the mood to get horizontal. That does help, too, by the way…
Waking and sleeping at the same time each day will make such a difference. I have a friend who wakes up at 6am every day – working day or weekend. At first, I just could not understand why anyone would do that to themselves, but your body gets so used to it that you start developing an ability to wake up thirty seconds before your alarm goes off.
Your body likes routine, and it will respond to it. Trust me. This will also help your body to naturally feel sleepy and ready for bed at the same time each night, making it even easier for you to carry on with your new nighttime rituals.
Stop snoozing. I know, napping is my favorite thing too, other than eating. But you’ve gotta stick to it and be a little bit strict with yourself.
Your body has an internal clock which will set itself to your new routine pretty quickly. Rise with the daylight, sleep when it’s dark.
If you need a little extra help, dim your lights in the evening to remind your body that it’s bedtime and open the curtains when you’re awake.
This will also stop you from lazing around in bed for an extra hour or three. Catching up with Instagram can be done over breakfast, don’t worry.
Make your bedroom a little haven. You’ll never sleep if it’s a place you don’t feel comfortable in. Don’t work in your room, if you have the option not to. Work can be done in another room; keep your bedroom for sleeping and relaxing.
Imagine you’re taking yourself on a date and really set the mood. Mood lighting, candles, unnecessary cushions that you will forever be taking off and putting back on the bed, you know what I mean.
Buy new pyjamas, or a new nightlight or shift the furniture around to make it more appealing. Try and shift your mindset to bedtime as soon as you walk into the bedroom.
I find that keeping slippers by the door helps me physically and mentally shift from work mode to sleep mode – you’re literally stepping into it. Plus, slippers are amazing, which helps everything in general.
There’s no point committing to a massive, new routine if you’re only going to stick to it for a couple of days before bailing because it’s too hard. After all, you’re meant to be getting ready to sleep, not to martyr yourself.
Routine doesn’t have to be army-drill strict; it just has to be a familiar pattern of things that lead to you falling asleep.
We brush our teeth and shower without really consciously thinking about it – your bedtime should have a similar style of ‘habit’ to it and you’ll get to the point where just lighting a candle will have you passed out like a Pavlovian dog drooling to the ring of a bell.
Small things can make a big difference. An hour before the time you’d ideally be falling asleep, start your new routine.
It can be something as simple as changing into your jammies, lighting a candle, putting on a certain playlist and getting in bed with a book. Yes, really. No need for insane workouts, fancy bath bombs and expensive hypnosis tapes.
You’ve really got to give yourself a chance to make this work. Imagine you’re going through a breakup and you’ve agreed to go cold turkey and stop any contact.
You can’t bail after two days because it feels too hard; this will only take you back to square one and you’ll wind up feeling disappointed in yourself, exhausted, and frustrated.
There’s a lot of debate about how long it takes to make a habit, although most say around 21 days. It’s pretty hard to measure as everyone’s behaviour is different, but the rule seems to be that you just need to stick at it.
See it as a challenge. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find a way to get competitive about this. Not just the sleep aspect, but the idea of making a commitment to yourself and pushing yourself to keep going.
I’ve been a vegetarian for over a year now, by accident, because I told myself to give up meat for one day; one week; one month and so on.
I do yoga every day because I’m too stubborn to give in to my own laziness. If you get into this kind of mindset, I really think you can do anything.
That said, I haven’t been able to apply this thinking to giving up drinking. Ah well, we’ve all got one vice and if I can’t have bacon, I’m keeping the beer.
It’s no walk in the park trying to redesign any part of your life and can take time and effort to get settled in any new situation. Sure, it might take a little while before you’re sleeping as much as you want, but it’s still an achievement.
This kind of thing takes time but will give you so many short and long-term benefits alike, so it’s really worth committing to it and rewarding yourself for it.
Your physical and mental health will improve so much, not just from having a routine and stability, but from getting more and better sleep.
So there you go – hopefully you’ll realise that it can actually be pretty easy to get into a new nighttime routine and you’ll soon be a fully-fledged ‘morning person’.
Your future may not hold 6 am Pilates classes and acai berries for brekkie, but if you can walk into your co-working space of office and say hello to everyone rather than crawling in, desperately clutching a coffee while snarling at anyone who dares look at you (sadly, I’ve been compared to the possessed Minions in the second movie that turn purple and insane), or stop working from home until 11pm every night you’re well on your way. Enjoy.
Hi, I’m Lucy and I’m currently traveling around South East Asia with my trusty yoga mat and a constant craving for the ocean. I love finding healthy, eco-friendly ways to improve my well-being, even more of a challenge whilst on the road. When I’m not on the move, I’m writing for SleepHealthEnergy.com (https://www.sleephealthenergy.com/), your one-stop shop for everything related to getting a great night’s sleep, enjoying optimum health and having buckets of energy.