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Your Nightly Routine before Bed

This lesson is a part of an audio course Fixing Your Sleep, Once and For All by Jason Ricci

In this lesson we are going to cover the nightly routine you should establish before going to bed each night. In the previous lesson, you learned that our bodies and brains become conditioned to routine; that going to bed at the same time every night conditions your body to start getting tired at that time of night. Well, today's lesson expands on that idea. While I still want you to maintain your new bedtime, I want you to start doing other things at night time before bed as well.

First, though, I want to tell you about the Opening Monologue Effect. In a study, researchers took a whole bunch of people whose nighttime routine was to watch their local news at 11 p.m. and then watch either the Late Show or the Tonight Show right after at 11:30. These folks would watch just the first part, the opening monologue, where the host would tell jokes and layout the show schedule for the evening. When the show went to the first commercial break, these people went to bed. This was their routine... every night. So what the researchers of this study did, gathered a bunch of these people and split them into a few different groups. At a different time of the day, each of the groups would watch the opening monologue of one of these shows.

And guess what? The participants reported feeling more tired than usual after watching this, even though it was the middle of the day! It is because their brains associated that opening monologue with going to bed. They watched the monologue, and their brains told them it must be getting time for bed. As we've discussed before, the brain associates certain activities with sleeping, just like in the Opening Monologue Effect.

So I want you to develop a whole bedtime ritual or routine. This is similar to the same wind-down bedtime routine we make our kids follow, and for the same reason: conditioning for sleep. Eventually, as you go through this nightly checklist, your body is going to recognize that sleep is at the end of this journey, and will start preparing for it. This further solidifies that you will be able to get better rest and fall asleep more quickly, and isn't that the whole point of this course?

Your nightly bedtime routine should start about 1 to 2 hours before bed. If your chosen bedtime is 9 p.m., then you should start this at 7 or 8 p.m. It is assumed you have already eaten dinner before starting your wind-down routine. Thankfully, there is no hard-and-fast rule with this, just some guidelines. Do things that you enjoy that allow you to relax and wind down. I want you to focus on calm activities, nothing strenuous.

Some suggestions are to take a warm bath or shower, read a book or magazine, write in a journal or diary, play a board or card game with family, work on a puzzle, work on a hubby, color or draw, talk about your day, meditate or pray, do yoga, do relaxation exercises, listen to music, enjoy time with your partner, cuddle, set clothes out for tomorrow. Okay, that last one’s not fun, but it's a rote chore that can easily become routine. You could watch TV or play on the internet, but I have a caveat for that one. You should put down anything that has a screen at least 1 hour before bed. The exposure to its glowing light, the blue light, in particular, messes with your circadian rhythms. We will look at this phenomenon in greater depth in a future lesson. However, since this is a 2-hour routine, the first hour for screens is permissible.

If you stick to this routine every night or almost every night, you'll quickly notice that you are well prepared for bed at bedtime. Use the above suggestions as a guide, pick what you like, leave out what you don't, and even add your own activities.

The next lesson is entitled, “You Need to Make Your Room a Sleep Sanctuary.” In it, you will learn how to transform your bedroom into a haven that promotes sleep. Until then, happy Zzz’s...

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Written by

Jason Ricci

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