Rest & Relaxation

Establishing A Long Term Sleep Routine

Lesson 9 Chapter 3

What Does Yours Look Like?

How often do you take some quiet time out to unwind before going to bed? Or do you tend to work, do chores, watch television or use your phone right up until bedtime?

You might not feel you have much time to yourself to relax at night. But if you have sleep problems, carving out a little time for a consistent bedtime routine can work wonders.

Taking 30 to 60 minutes to decelerate at the end of a hectic day and do things which will help calm your mind is one of the most helpful sleep habits to adopt.

What you decide to do in your quiet time is ultimately up to you. But you might like to try some of the ideas in this course as a starting point.

How Will A Bedtime Routine Help You Sleep?

There are a few reasons repeating the same quiet routine at night can help:

  • It can calm an overactive mind.
  • You can think, plan and prepare for tomorrow, so you don’t lie awake worrying about details when you go to bed.
  • By repeating a regular pattern, you can train your body and mind to unwind ready for bed.
  • Many activities people do in the evening can be overstimulating. So a bedtime routine helps you avoid doing those things and relax instead.

How Long Should Your Routine Be?

It’s up to you to decide how long your routine will be, based on the amount of time you feel it takes you to relax.

Your life circumstances will also shape the way your routine goes. It may be, for example, that by the time you’ve put the kids to bed and tidied up, 15 minutes is enough time.

But if you do have more free time and suffer from regular sleep problems, maybe 30 to 60 minutes of quite time would be better.

What To Do In Your Bedtime Routine

The key is that this should be a quiet, relaxing and enjoyable time. So the routine will of course differ from person to person. And maybe you’ll want to try more than one of the suggestions here in that time.


Switch Off The Electronic Devices

Most people love their electronic devices, myself included! Whether it’s a TV, computer, tablet, mobile phone or games console, they can take up a lot of our time.

However, it’s a good idea not to use them during the hour before going to sleep for 4 reasons:

  • They stimulate your brain.
  • The light that some devices emit might affect your internal body clock. If you can’t separate yourself from your phone, at least put the blue light filter on and dim the screen brightness.
  • They can be addictive, eating into even more sleep time.
  • Checking emails, the news and even social media at night can create worry and stress.

 Relaxation Exercises: Meditation, Breathing & Mindfulness

In a survey of 2000 people, 58% said they couldn’t fall asleep because of their busy mind. Another 24% similarly said it was worry, stress or anxiety keeping them up.

If you struggle with this too, then doing some relaxation exercises before you go to bed, or when in bed, can help enormously.



Ideally, it’s best to read in another room: it’s better if your brain only associates your bed with sleep and intimacy.

Having said that, realistically it’s fine to relax with a good book in bed. Many people find that this in itself helps them sleep.

The alternative is to read in another room for a while, perhaps with a relaxing drink, and then continue in bed once you start feeling sleepy.


Listen To Music

Whilst it’s important to avoid screens, listening to music before bed is a great idea. Preferably not music which is too exciting or emotional though.

Everyone loves music, but how often do you take time to do literally nothing but listen to some music? For some ideas of calming music across a range of genres try Spotify.


Write Down Worries And Reminders For The Next Day

Do you sometimes lie in bed repeating to yourself something important you need to remember to do the next day?

Sometimes thoughts like these can buzz around in your head, joined by other worries and reminders from your mental to-do list.

A simple and effective trick is to write down your worries and points you need to remember for tomorrow before going to bed.

That way you know you won’t forget anything important, and you can relax. Have a pad and paper in your bedside drawer incase anything crops up as you get to bed.  If something pops into your head which you try to process at night, you can spend hours working the problem.  Write it down and you can deal with it the next day.


Have A Relaxing Drink Or Light Snack

It’s a good idea to avoid caffeine, alcohol and sugary drinks before bed. But drinking one of the many relaxing herbal teas is a good way to spend some quiet time, perhaps whilst reading or listening to music.

If you find yourself hungry at night it’s ok to have a light snack before bed. Have a look at the lesson on bedtime food for more about this.


Mindfulness Or Meditation

If you find that engaging in mindful activity brings you peace and clarity of mind, then doing it before getting into bed is an ideal time. Meditation can be done in 10 minutes and it can make a big difference to how quickly you fall asleep and how well you sleep.


Bring Your Temperature Down

Temperature is often overlooked as a factor in sleeping well. Not only is it important to have the right bedroom temperature, there’s another clever trick you can try, based on two concepts:

  • According to the National Sleep Foundation, the ideal bedroom temperature for sleeping is between 15.5 and 19.4 degrees Celsius (60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit ). Note that it’s higher for babies and toddlers. 
  • The naturally lower nighttime temperature is one of the signals the body uses to start melatonin production and head towards sleep.

In the winter months this might happen at night anyway. But if the air temperature is above this range, you can try to lower your bedroom and body temperature by doing the following:

  • Open windows to clear out any hot, stuffy air. 
  • Have a shower 15 to 30 minutes before bed, preferably a cool shower.
  • If you have a hot bath, make sure it’s between 1 and 2 hours before bed. It takes a long time for the body to cool down after a bath.
  • Go for a short walk outside to get some fresh air.
  • If you live somewhere hot, try a cooling mattress pad or bed fan.

Spend Time With Family, Friends Or Your Partner

If you live with others, why not spend some time before bed talking or playing a quiet game? If you can, try to resist the temptation to all be using a phone or electronic device in the same room without talking to one another.

And if you sleep with a partner, there may of course be other ways you might want to spend your time together before going to sleep!


Don’t Lie Awake For Hours

It takes many people between 20 and 30 minutes to fall asleep. So if you’re still awake after half an hour, it could be that you’re just not ready to sleep yet.

Lying awake, trying to make yourself fall asleep, can be very frustrating and make it even harder to relax. So it’s best to avoid this.

It might help to get up, go into another room, have dim lighting only and repeat some of your routine. After 15 minutes, you can go back to bed and try to fall asleep again.

However, if you feel that you’re wide awake, it might be better to stay up longer until you notice yourself feeling sleepy.

Just don’t lie in bed suffering in silence.

Top Sleep Tip:  Waking In The Night For The Toilet

Make sure you don't wake up the mind.  Have a sleep mantra that you say over and over.  Something like "I am sleeping".   Use whilst you are out of bed and as you get back in to keep your brain activity low and don't look at the time.

You don't need to know how long it is before you need to be awake.  That will almost certainly wake you up.