Some of the most popular articles on the internet revolve around developing a better morning routine. I can understand this, as getting your day off to the right start is important.
If you’re lying in bed until late morning, or not tackling your tasks in the first after you’ve woken up, the day is going to be a struggle.
However, there’s one element of what constitutes an effective day, and that’s what you do before you go to sleep. This is almost, if not more important than what you do when you first wake up.
As a solid set of practices in the morning, the same applies to the night before. If you go to bed tired, grumpy and late, the odds are that your morning won’t be better.
What you do the night before affects the next morning. It’s simple cause and effect. I always feel that my mornings are better when I prepare for them the night before and get a good night’s sleep.
This is an area that we can neglect because our focus is on starting the day on the right foot. So much so, that we neglect to pay attention to how we end our day. We spend 1/3 of our lives in bed. Therefore, it’s important that we set the right conditions for solid rest and recuperation before we go to sleep.
In this article, I’m going to share some tips that have worked for me and those backed by science to help you develop practices that will give you a better night’s sleep and start the next morning!
No screens an hour before bed
This is one of the hardest things to do, but it’s one that’s beneficial for your quality of sleep. Studies have shown that screen time before bed results in poor sleep.
It’s a hard pill to swallow for many as we instinctively reach for our phones while we’re in bed. Yet this is terrible for our wellbeing. Phones emit blue light, which researchers have found suppresses levels of melatonin, the hormone responsible for controlling your sleep-wake cycle.
The implications for the following day are clear. If you don’t get quality sleep, you’re going to wake up tired and groggy. This means you’ll be irritable and unable to function at your best throughout the day.
Our phones have become an extension of ourselves. We reach for them more than we realise, even at night. The problem is, they are affecting our quality of sleep which affects our quality of life.
Next time you’re preparing to go to sleep, leave your phone out of reach and don’t look at screens an hour before you hit the hay. After a few weeks of doing this, you’ll notice the results.
Turn down the lights
This is one of the easiest things to do in the hours before you go to sleep. Turning down the light is an effective way to set the stage for sleep. I sleep much better when my room is pitch black and no light is peeking through.
Modern living means there is an abundance of light once the sun sets which affects our circadian rhythm. It may seem innocuous, but too much light can affect more than your sleep. One study on women found that those who slept with some form of light on in their room were more likely to be obese.
Dimming your lights before bed will increase the levels of melatonin your body produces which will help you to get to sleep easier. One of the things I use to create this effect is a bedside light, which I use instead of the main light in my room. This creates a darker room but allows me to read a book and journal before bed.
Turning off your lights is a signal to yourself that’s it time to wind the day down. Sure, you can leave a few lights on before you go to sleep, but once you call it night, switch them all off.
Darkness is your ally when it comes to a good night’s sleep.
Prepare for the morning
When I lived in Barcelona and taught English, this was something that I did religiously every night. I’d set myself up for the day ahead by preparing the night before.
Normally, I’d teach a class in the morning, then head to the gym, come home to eat lunch and head for my classes in the afternoon. I noticed things went much smoother when I had my stuff laid out ready to go when I woke up.
My clothes would be ready for me to put on, and my gym clothes already in my bag along with my teaching materials. Then, I’d go into the kitchen, where the ingredients for porridge were already waiting.
What this did was remove any stress or rushing around that can happen in the morning when you’re not prepared. Instead, my morning was relaxed, smooth and most importantly of all, simple.
All of this due to taking ten minutes the night before to prepare for the next day!
Read a book
This might not be for everyone, but I find that reading a book helps me relax and wind down before I go to sleep. There is a valid argument that reading stimulates your brain and isn’t the best thing to do before going to bed.
In that case, I’d suggest you read your book for ten to 20 minutes and then meditate for the same time. This allows you to relax and then if your brain is still whirring, you can meditate to let those thoughts pass through.
Whenever I read a book at night, I found the act starts to make me sleepy. I get to about twenty pages and I’m ready to call it a night. Whether it’s due to the book I’m reading, or the fact that I’m feeling tired doesn’t matter. The act of reading is relaxing and allows me to drift towards sleep without blue light shining in my face.
Reading is a low-intensity activity that is a good substitute for your phone if you're used to scrolling through Instagram before you sleep.
This may seem like an odd thing to suggest, but stretching before you go to bed is a good idea. You’re spending seven to nine hours in bed where your body ends up in all sorts of contorted positions.
As a result, your muscles stiffen and become tense. I have felt this myself when I’ve woken up to find my shoulder is sore. This feeling can last for an hour, or sometimes the whole day if I’m unlucky.
I’ve noticed that stretching before bed helps me to feel much better in the morning. My body doesn’t creak when I get up and the aches and the stiffness that I sometimes feel is a lot less noticeable.
Studies have shown that stretching can have benefits for the quality of your sleep. It will limber up your muscles and stretch them out before a period where they will remain in situ for a lengthy period of time.
Make sure you don’t overdo it though. Exercise raises your body temperature and this isn’t conducive to a good night’s sleep. Keep to stretches that stretch out your back, legs and upper body and you’ll be fine.
Finally, journaling before you go to bed is a good way to help your brain decompartmentalise everything that has been on your mind all day. If you tend to overthink like me this is an invaluable activity.
You don’t have to write a masterpiece. Simply jot down your thoughts, what’s troubling you and anything else that comes to mind. Even writing down what happened during the day is helpful if it to clear all the thoughts that are running around your brain.
The reason for this is that once you’ve written it down and go through the process of considering what to write, the thoughts that might keep you awake have been transported from your mind to paper.
I had a habit of lying awake with various thoughts running through my brain. I’d often struggle to get to sleep because my thoughts wouldn’t stop ticking over.
Once I started journaling before I went to bed and put the day and my thoughts on paper, I noticed that I started to find it much easier to fall asleep.