Did you know getting ready for bed actually starts way before your head hits the pillow? It even starts before the sun sets. The habits and routines we practice throughout the day play a major role in our quality of sleep.
Healthy and consistent sleep patterns resulting in at least 7 hours of sleep a night are an important part of maintaining both your physical and mental health, according to the National Institutes of Health. When you have trouble falling and staying asleep, your productivity and quality of life can be greatly impacted.
“We know that sleep is foundational to good health, so if getting adequate sleep is becoming increasingly more difficult, now may be the time to look at your pre-bedtime sleep habits and do some adjusting”, says David Brodner, MD, a leading sleep specialist who is double board-certified in Sleep Medicine and Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, founder and principal physician at the Center for Sinus, Allergy and Sleep Wellness, in Palm Beach County, FL and Chief Medical Advisor for Physician’s Seal, LLC®. Brodner goes on to say, “the Sleep Hygiene Cycle™ was specifically developed using the best current behavioral and sleep science to improve your quality of sleep and increase your alertness throughout the day. When implemented simultaneously with the #1 sleep-doctor recommended melatonin†, REMfresh®, you may get the sleep you have always wanted.”
Here is a breakdown of the Sleep Hygiene Cycle™:
Prior to Bedtime:
Make Your Bedroom a Sleep Sanctuary
First things first. If you want better quality sleep, you need to optimize your sleep environment. Your bedroom plays a major role in your body getting adequate sleep and, with just a few modifications to your sleeping space, you can easily turn your bedroom into an optimal sleep environment.
Start by adjusting the temperature in your bedroom. Heat and an elevated body temperature can really hinder sleep, so experts suggest setting the thermostat to somewhere around 65 degrees. I know it seems cold but snuggle under some thick blankets and you’ll be thanking me in the morning.
Another good idea is giving the lighting in your bedroom a makeover. Artificial light can actually suppress the production of melatonin (the hormone that helps control your sleep and wake cycles), making it more difficult to fall and stay asleep. Remove any sources of artificial light that may be keeping you awake. In today’s society, the blue wavelength light emitted from our smartphones, tablets, and computers has invaded our bedrooms. This is especially important because this particular wavelength powerfully stimulates the brain to stay awake – so turn off those devices!
Investing in blackout curtains or shades to keep the sun out will also help you sleep later; by lengthening your sleep time you will experience more deep and restorative REM sleep. You can also use black electrical tape to cover any tiny, unimportant blinking lights on electronics (but not your smoke alarm)!
Make sure your sleep environment is quiet, calm, and soothing. You can achieve this by decluttering your space, removing electronics, and choosing calming colors for bed sets and walls. Also, make sure you have a clear path to the bathroom in case nature calls in the middle of the night.
Avoid Caffeine After Noon
We’ve all used caffeine for a kick of energy; some of us even rely on it daily. While caffeine is no replacement for quality sleep, it is a stimulant that can help us feel more alert while blocking sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain.
Caffeine consumption is recommended only before noon. The problem with caffeine is that it can take up to 6 hours to clear out of your system, which could interfere with your ideal sleep cycle, so avoid it as much as possible after lunchtime. Remember though, caffeine is found in more than just coffee. The stimulant is also found in soda, protein bars, ice cream, pain relievers, and sadly yes, even chocolate.
Avoid Exercise, Alcohol, and Large Meals Before Bedtime
Your search for better sleep should start with examining your pre-bedtime rituals and routines. Are you exercising before bed? What about consuming alcohol or eating a large meal? All of these things can impact your sleep quality, making it harder to fall asleep, stay asleep and wake up refreshed.
If you work out at night and are having a hard time falling asleep, the two might be related. A workout right before bed can raise your body temperature and stimulate your brain, making it more difficult to fall asleep.
Alcohol and large meals too close to bedtime can also make it more difficult to get sound sleep. While alcohol may make you fall asleep faster, it usually is responsible for poor sleep quality and the suppression of brain waves throughout the night. Alcohol has also been linked to early awakenings.
When you eat a large meal, your metabolism is boosted, decreasing the quality of sleep. Try to avoid working out, eating large meals or drinking alcohol at least two hours before bed. I know it’s hard but if you follow the next step, you won’t be thinking of food or that glass of wine as much.
Getting Ready to Sleep:
Avoid Looking at Blue Screen Devices in Bed
Ok, this is hard we admit, since bringing your phone, laptop or computer to bed is a common practice in most homes. But did you know the blue light from those devices makes it harder to fall asleep? The scientific evidence is overwhelming screen time right before bed can delay the body’s release of melatonin and keep you from falling asleep. The short wavelength from these devices affects our melatonin levels more than any other wavelength, not only making it harder to fall asleep, but also impacting your REM sleep and making you feel even more sleepy when you wake up.
It may be a good idea to enact a digital curfew in your home. Give yourself and the rest of your family an hour or two before bed free of bright screens. Facebook and Instagram will still be there in the morning!
Get Two Hours of Calm Activity Right Before Bedtime
To get your body ready for sleep, it is important that you practice calming techniques. This is especially beneficial right before bed. You should change your mental gears and begin calming down about two hours before bed. Reading that book you can never make time for, yoga and gentle stretching are all great ways for you to relax and get ready for bed. You could also implement breathing exercises and meditation to reduce restlessness.
Take REMfresh® Nightly
An important part of the sleep hygiene cycle, especially if you’re over 30 years old, is REMfresh®. Taking one to two capsules of either Regular or Extra Strength REMfresh nightly, 30-90 minutes before bedtime can help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, obtain higher quality sleep and wake up feeling refreshed. REMfresh was developed to mimic the body’s own release of melatonin during the sleep cycle. Only REMfresh uses UltraMel™, a 99% ultra pure, European-sourced melatonin. REMfresh’s patented continuous release and absorption system releases melatonin for up to 7 hours*. That’s why REMfresh is the #1 sleep-doctor recommended† long-acting melatonin.
To combat occasional sleeplessness, incorporate REMfresh into your nighttime routine along with the rest of the Sleep Hygiene Cycle. Not only will you wake up without a drug hangover since it is not a drug, you will also improve the quality of sleep you get each night.
Go to Bed at the Same Time
Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day can be very beneficial for getting a quality night’s sleep. Most importantly, sticking to a sleep routine will help you fall asleep faster. Individuals who wake and sleep at the same time every day and night usually spend less time tossing and turning before falling asleep.
If you’re having a hard time falling asleep once your head hits the pillow, it may be a good idea to solidify your sleep schedule and reset your body’s internal clock. You can do this by establishing a bedtime and trying your best to stick to it. By creating a consistent schedule, your body will be more ready for sleep when your established bedtime comes around.
Follow the Sleep Hygiene Cycle and you might find what many others have found; you might fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, improve your sleep quality and wake up refreshed!
*REM Absorption Kinetics Trial (REMAKT), a pharmacokinetic trial of 5 mg REMfresh, not a sleep study. Peer-reviewed and presented at SLEEP 2017 medical conference
†Among primary care physicians with a certification in sleep disorders who recommended a brand of modified release melatonin. Quintiles IMS ProVoice July-Sept. 2017 survey.