Can a bedtime routine guarantee a refreshing night’s sleep? Here’s an adult sleep coach’s take on this commonly-asked question.
Many people believe that if they unwind before bed, they’ll sleep well. When this fails to happen, frustration can set in. I get it! You think you’ve been good, done the right thing with your bedtime routine.
If you’ve had a busy day, slowing down before bed is a good habit to have. Along with several other practices, having a bedtime routine is something I consider part of “foundational sleep hygiene.”
Compared to your day, your bedtime routine is likely quite restful and absolutely necessary. But I dislike the term “unwinding”—after all, it implies that we’re wound up in the first place!
Let’s take a closer look. Say you wake up at 7 a.m., and then you GO GO GO all day (first at work, then at home). Then let’s say by some magic—because honestly, how often does a bedtime routine really happen?!—you DO slow down and rest for a whole hour before bed. Your energy gauge (or level of “winding” that remains) might look like this:
How much did that “rest” before bed rest do? It’s likely your mind, your body, or both are still highly stimulated. Your mind and body must both align in a state of rest for you to be able to surrender to sleep easily.
Both western, evidence-based practitioners1 and thousands-of-years old yogic systems point to over-stimulation or hyper-arousal of the nervous system as the #1 root cause of chronic sleeplessness.
You’ve might have felt this when you can’t initially fall asleep, when you wake at 3 a.m. for “no good reason” with mind-chatter, or when you’re up too early in the morning.
This is your mind and body locked in the high-gear that you’ve helped train it into through a fast-paced lifestyle.
Ideally, here’s what we want our energy to look like:
We must expect and accept that as human beings, our energy levels will rise and fall throughout a day. Rather than pushing through the lows and keeping ourselves stimulated up until the hour before bed with recreational activities, we must reconnect with the daily ebb and flow, and ride the natural, nightly fall of our energy into bedtime and slumber.
This is more than a bedtime routine; it means finding better ways to incorporate rest throughout the daytime. I often refer to as rest rhythm, and I share 4 fast ways to restore rest rhythm in my Sleep Academy course. Learning how to rest is a prerequisite for consistently high quality sleep.
The good news is that you can decide to train yourself differently. It’s fairly simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. And it’s where most people struggling with sleep need some help.