Did you know that 50-70 million Americans have chronic sleep issues? And as of 2014, roughly 35 percent of U.S. adults sleep less than seven hours per night? If you relate to one (or both) of these categories, don’t fret. Amongst other lifestyle habits, creating a bedtime routine is one of the easiest steps to ensuring better sleep. Bedtime routines are a simple lifestyle change that can help your mind and body relax before bed.
How Much Sleep Do I Need?
Getting enough sleep is important, but sleeping too much can be just as detrimental for your health as being chronically sleep-deprived. In essence, regularly getting too much sleep can increase your risk of getting diabetes, heart disease, depression, obesity, and more. On the flip side, the average person gets less than seven hours of sleep every night, according to the National Institutes of Health.
In terms of how much sleep is enough, that varies. We’re all bio-individuals, meaning, the amount of sleep you need, specifically, depends on various factors—your age, lifestyle, etc. While sleep needs vary significantly among individuals, consider these general guidelines for different age groups:
|Age group||Recommended amount of sleep|
|Infants 4 months to 12 months||12 to 16 hours per 24 hours, including naps|
|1 to 2 years||11 to 14 hours per 24 hours, including naps|
|3 to 5 years||10 to 13 hours per 24 hours, including naps|
|6 to 12 years||9 to 12 hours per 24 hours|
|13 to 18 years||8 to 10 hours per 24 hours|
|Adults||7 or more hours a night|
There is research that suggests men need less sleep than women. Studies show women not only need more sleep than men, but they also tend to sleep about 11 minutes longer every night. Speaking from personal experience, I tend to have more energy, focus, and mood stability when I sleep seven hours. However, my husband can thrive off of less sleep. The newborn stage was an entirely different ballgame, of course, but that experience taught me the power of being adaptable. After all, being sleep-deprived (as a new mom) is temporary.
What Is a Bedtime Routine?
A bedtime routine is a set of activities you perform in the same order, every night. They begin roughly 30-60 minutes before you go to bed. Bedtime routines can vary, but they often include calming activities like dimming the lights, taking a warm bath, brewing a cup of herbal tea, cleansing and moisturizing your skin, reading, journaling, or meditating. Bedtime routines are a consistent, repetitive set of activities. They help you prepare for sleep by setting aside time to relax and calm down. And, they’re the secret sauce for becoming a morning person.
Why is a Bedtime Routine Important?
As humans, we are creatures of habit. Like any other routine, bedtime routines establish habits that help our brains recognize when it’s time to sleep. By performing the same activities in the same order every night, your brain understands they’re a precursor to sleep. The importance of bedtime routines stems back as far as childhood. In fact, a consistent bedtime routine has shown to help children fall asleep faster and wake up less frequently during the night.
Bedtime routines also play an important role in reducing late-night stress and anxiety — the kind of worrisome thoughts that keep you up at night. Anxious thoughts activate the mind and sympathetic nervous system. Left unattended, these thoughts can intensify and develop into insomnia. By following a bedtime routine, you can keep your mind focused on other tasks and encourage yourself to relax instead.
Powerful Nighttime Rituals
There are many ways to incorporate rituals into your nightly routine. With a bit of experimentation, you’ll find that many of them are intuitive. If you’d found yourself doing some of these things naturally at any point in the day, I encourage you to lean into them and turn them into a nighttime ritual
Mental: Write tomorrow’s to-do list, journal your thoughts, and put your phone on do not disturb.
Emotional: Listen to uplifting (or calming) music, watch a comedy, love on your partner, etc.
Before choosing what to incorporate into your ritual, give yourself a moment to pause and notice your energy at the end of the day. Are you wired? Exhausted? Anxious? A simple acknowledgment will guide the rest of your routine. It’s also the step we’re most inclined to miss. As you reflect on your day, sink into feelings of calm and clarity. Visualize energy moving out of your tense spots. Write things down as needed. Ultimately, release whatever happened that day, and let your ritual guide you to a restful night’s sleep.
Images courtesy of Unsplash.