Bedtime routines aren't just for kids!
If you're a Mum or an aunt to young kids, you'll have an appreciation for how important a bedtime routine is for helping children wind down and go off to sleep.
But it's actually not just children who benefit from an evening routine to help switch off, relax and prepare for sleep- infact the lack of a bedtime routine is potentially keeping you awake longer than is benefiting your health and could also be affecting your sleep quality and how you feel in the morning!
Most of us spend our days feeling fairly busy.
Mums in particular are often switching roles getting kids to school and then off to work themselves before collecting kids and switching back in to family mode for dinner and bedtime.
It's often not until the kids are finally in bed that Mums feel that they can stop and catch their breath before either heading off to bed themselves or stopping for some downtime.
What tends to happen is that your nervous system has been in sympathetic mode (action mode) producing the cortisol required to help you do whatever needs to be done during the day.
Our natural cortisol cycle production is designed to be highest during the day to help you wake up alert, energised and ready to face the day and to gradually reduce as the day goes on, reaching it's lowest point of production in the evening.
But for many of us, we're still 'switched on' and running on cortisol far too late into the evening and unless that cortisol has an outlet, it will tend to still be circulating making it hard to relax enough to drift off to a restful, truly restorative sleep.
Our nervous system needs to switch from sympathetic mode in to parasympathetic mode to allow us to relax and go to sleep.
The parasympathetic nervous system is all about rest, digest and restore.
Creating an evening routine which allows you to wind down and relax will gradually help you to switch from sympathetic mode to parasympathetic mode with greater ease.
Each of us will tend to find different things relaxing so consider what you find most helpful for winding down.
Ideally it's not wine as whilst alcohol might help you to feel drowsy, it tends to lead to poor sleep quality (along with it's other downsides of course!).
A cup of relaxing herbal tea can be an enjoyable ritual in place of wine and there are many which contain relaxing herbs which can soothe your nervous system. My Unwind or Calm or Calm Mother blends are good options you can find them here
One of my favorite evening rituals is a bath with epsom salts and essential oils along with a book and a cup of relaxing herbal tea.
I switch off devices, including my phone at least an hour before I plan to go to bed because like many people I find the light from the screen affects my sleep if I use it too close to bedtime and it also keeps my mind active when I'm actually wanting to slow it down.
There are lots of studies which suggest switching off all screens by 8pm to avoid disruption to our melatonin production (necessary for sleep) and also special glasses that you can buy to block out the blue light from screens.
Some meditation or relaxation type exercises or breathwork can be really helpful as part of your evening routine. Thus can be as simple as consciously tensing and then relaxing each part of your body and a few minutes focusing on your breathing.
The very simple 6:2 Calm Breathing is really helpful to help you to release cortisol as you exhale, slow your busy mind and to let your nervous system know that it is time to switch from active, action orientated sympathetic mode in to parasympathetic mode to allow you to rest and relax. Here is a link to that
Remember also that sleep during the hours before midnight is more restorative (based on our 24 hour cycle) so aiming to go to bed earlier can make a big difference to both your sleep quality and daily energy level. Often when we stay up too late, by the time we actually go to sleep we're overtired which affects your ability to wind down and to enjoy a good quality sleep.
Consider how you can create a supportive evening wind down ritual or routine so that by the time you're wanting to go off to sleep you're already relaxed and your body, brain and nervous system are on board too!