Do you know that on average you spend about 26 years sleeping in your life? This is the equivalent of 9,490 days or 227,760 hours! In the productivity-obsessed world sleeping doesn’t come up high on our priority list, but I would like to encourage you to rethink it.
Why? Because if you are constantly compromising good quality sleep to get more done, you are doing yourself a disservice. You won’t have more energy, you won’t be creative, you won’t be productive if you don’t sleep.
Nowadays, the issue is not even the lack of sleep but the poor quality of sleep we get. So today, I want to give you the ultimate evening routine that not only reduces stress but improves the quality of your sleep.
The Benefits of Sleep
Of course, there are countless benefits of sleep. Major processes for regrowth, rejuvenation, and repair happen when you sleep. During sleep, your brain can go through the day’s events and decide what goes into your short and long-term memory.
I like to think about sleep as a time when my body and mind can repair the damage stress caused during the day.
Different studies will show different data, but it is said you need 7 to 9 hours of sleep. They also point out that it is not the duration that matters but the quality. Your body and mind need to be in enough deep sleep, called the REM stage, to be able to perform all the work.
Have you ever woken up in the morning feeling tired even though you went to bed at your usual time? If you struggled to fall asleep and were tossing and turning, then you have been in bed for eight hours but didn’t spend enough time in the REM stage for your body to reset.
I never paid much attention to sleep because I wanted to do all I had on my to-do list for the day. It probably came from the feeling that I needed to be constantly on and accessible to make it work. I never noticed how we all brag about how little we sleep, thinking that this is what makes us successful.
The reality is that you are tired but wired, so you can’t go to sleep.
The Evening Routine Ritual
I admit that although I have had difficulties falling asleep or having good quality sleep in the past, I never reached out for medication. I am unsure why it wasn’t on my radar. Most likely it was a combination of not having time to book a medical appointment and not remembering to take the medication if I had any.
You may feel exhausted, be on an emotional rollercoaster, obsessing about loved ones, work, finances, or your health. You may also have hormonal imbalances, or your circadian clock may be out of sync.
There may be many reasons why you can’t get quality sleep. To improve your sleep you need to have an evening routine.
It took me some time and many adjustments to create an evening routine. But probably the hardest part was to stick to it. Don’t worry, there isn’t a template for a perfect evening routine. The perfect evening routine is the one you follow.
I admit, I am a pro at following a morning routine. I always stick to it, I don’t come up with excuses for not getting up or going for a walk. But when it comes to my evening routine, I need to be more disciplined, a little bit more focused, and dedicated to making it work.
There isn’t any good explanation for it. Lack of time or discipline, exhaustion, and motivation are all good excuses. If you are trying to catch up on your day, it is natural that you cut into your evening routine time.
I am all about practicality. I have my daily evening routine, but if, for some reason, I am unable to follow it, I have a quick cheat sheet to fall back on. Here are three things you can do to get a better sleep even if you miss your evening routine.
#1 Prepare Your Bedroom
The easiest way to get better quality sleep is by preparing your sleeping environment. It goes without saying but your bed is for sleeping. It is not a place to watch TV, scroll on your phone, read, write, eat, or work.
If you work, use your phone, or watch TV you signal your body to be alert. And this is the opposite of what you want to do at bedtime.
Your body produces melatonin when it is dark. Therefore, dimming lights or having night lights are the best option. Having block-out curtains is also great for reducing the light from the outside.
You may want to play some calming music or use essential oils if that is your thing. But what you are aiming for is for your bedroom to be dark, quiet, and cool. All the other things are extras.
The quality of your sleep will hugely depend on the quality of your bed, mattress, and pillows. It is always good to invest in comfortable and adjustable bedding. And of course, breathable bed linen, made from natural materials and comfortable pyjamas.
How is your bedtime environment? Is your room dark, with fresh air? Is your bed comfy and welcoming? Can your body relax in the clothing and the bed linen?
#2 Synchronize Your Circadian Clock
Now, that you have your external environment sorted, it is time to synchronize your internal environment too. Circadian rhythm, also called circadian clock, is your body’s clock that regulates many processes. One of the processes is your wake-up-sleep cycle.
As the name suggests, it is the time when your body wakes up, and starts producing cortisol, your senses sharpen, and you become alert. When you wind down for the day, your body starts producing melatonin, and it knows it is time to sleep.
Synchronizing your circadian rhythm is very important, not only for healthy hormonal production, but also for your brain health, weight management, and metabolism.
Think about a normal clock. If it is out of sync, it doesn’t keep good time. Your body works the same way.
Your circadian rhythm is regulated by light. So, to synchronize it is best to work with light, either be it natural or artificial. This will depend on the season and your geographic location.
Also, your body likes routines. It likes to wake up and fall asleep at the same time. Therefore, pick the same time every day (yes, weekends included!) to wake up and go to bed.
You need around 21 days for your internal clock to synchronize. I remember when I did it, the first couple of weeks were hard because my body needed to adjust. But now I don’t need an alarm clock because I wake up naturally at the same time every morning.
It is important to keep the same time every day even if you skip your wake-up or sleep time. Even if I go out, work later, or for whatever reason don’t go to bed at my usual time, I still keep my morning wake-up time.
You can pick specific activities such as journaling, writing, yoga, or meditation to trigger your clock.
The voices are divided on this one, but you should stay away from electronics at least thirty minutes before bed. Not that long ago, it was two hours, then it got reduced to one hour, and now we are being advised that we should do it for at least thirty minutes.
The reality is that our biological processes haven’t changed. The number of stimulants increased and our ability to avoid them decreased.
I would love to stop using electronics two hours before bed but often this is not feasible. I always aim for a higher number, but I make a non-negotiable thirty minutes of no phone before bed.
If you feel it is impossible to turn off your phone an hour or at least thirty minutes before bed, I would like to challenge you to try. Do it for 21 days, or at least a week, and see how you feel. I made it a non-negotiable because I see and feel the difference in my energy levels and overall performance.
I feel stronger, I am more focused, and more energetic when I don’t use screens before bed. I love the way I feel in the morning, and this motivates me to keep the phone away from my bed.
Scientific research suggests that blue light is responsible for poor quality sleep. So, the best is to block it by reducing the use of electronics.
However, the primary reason you should stop using technology before bed is because technology keeps you alert. You may be scrolling through social media for entertainment. However, research shows that we feel depressed, and our self-esteem goes down while using social media.
So, on top of being alert, you may be worried, have negative self-talk, or feel anxious. Feeling like that will make it hard to fall asleep and have quality sleep.
How to Get Better Sleep and Reduce Stress
I feel like we don’t prioritize sleep because it is one of the events that it is easy to cut down on. You have heard about having an evening routine or maybe you even created one, but this is a time when you are most likely still trying to catch up on your day.
The truth is that without quality sleep, it is impossible to maintain high levels of energy, creativity, and productivity. So having a bulletproof evening routine is vital to your overall wellbeing.
Part of your evening routine can be meditation, journaling, reading, or general stretching. But if you feel like you are struggling with following your evening routine, ensure your external environment is well prepared for sleep, keep your circadian clock synchronized, and stay away from electronics at least thirty minutes before.
It will give you a good starting point even if you miss your relaxing evening routine.