Bedtime patterns for better sleep

by Suffolk Mind Team | 14 Mar 2023

Bedtime patterns for better sleep

There’s more to preparing for a good night’s sleep than just pulling on those favourite patterned PJs. Here’s how setting things up for sleep before you settle down can bring really refreshing benefits 

We all need the right amount of sleep in any 24 hour period. Regardless of our age, gender or life-style, a good night’s sleep is vital for that ‘get-up-and-go’- the energy and clear thinking to support our loved ones and meet our own needs. Nevertheless, many of us feel that we’re falling short of our regular feel-good quota of sleep and could be doing better.

The good news is, it’s within our grasp to do something about it. How? Perhaps start with something straightforward: a predictable evening journey with just one destination – sleep.

Bedtime routines may be the norm for growing youngsters, but they can give us the best chance for recuperative and regenerative sleep too. It’s because our brains are pattern-matching organs, motivated by memories and constantly trying to create expectations.

Looking for patterns and making associations is a resource we’re born with that’s there for a reason – to help us spot when something we fundamentally need to keep mentally and physically well is missing, so we can do something about it.

What pattern will you choose?

Most of us already have a routine around sleep – when we wake up. But at bedtime, it’s all about gently parking the day. Establish regular times for bed/getting up and set aside 2-3 hours’ wind-down time. Factor in some private time-out during the day to process thoughts and, so that sleep can become your natural bedfellow, don’t be tempted to use the bed as a couch, desk or picnic area!

Getting started will take effort, but remember: as humans we’re pump-primed to get in the swing of things, and using – rather than misusing – our innate resources is key to our long-term wellbeing.

To help map out your bedtime journey or wind-down path, ask yourself a few questions…

Can you see the light?

Strong light helps us wake up, so our pattern-matching brains associate any light with being awake. Think good thick bedroom curtains, black-out blinds or eye-masks and make it a screen-free zone.

Try to avoid watching TV/internet in the 2 hours before bedtime. It’s not just the flickering light, but all that information we’re processing too! Park your phone and swap the tablet for a physical book. As bed is for sleeping, pull up a chair for that wind-down read. Putting it back after will help make the pattern telling the brain to expect sleep next.

Are you sitting comfortably?

Getting comfy for bedtime is not just the pamper-part of preparing for sleep, it’s practical too. Taking off make-up puts the day behind us. Reaching for the pyjamas doesn’t need any big wardrobe decisions and those clean, soft and loose-fitting clothes invite our muscles to relax. Practice a few relaxation exercises (stretchy gentle movements or 7/11 breathing) to instil a sense of calm. A warm caffeine-free drink might also help, but although a hot bath seems inviting, it’s a cooler body temperature which promotes sleep. Perhaps when you turn down the bed and plump up the pillows, open the window vents too.

Do others know your intention?

Pets, partners, offspring… if you share your home or bedroom with others, you’ll want to minimise noise (there’s always earplugs!) and distractions. Agree some appropriate ground rules, so intentions are recognised and respected. Put it to them that your good night’s sleep will benefit everyone indirectly, not just yourself!

Are you relaxed about sleep?

When we decide to switch off and go to sleep, our good old pattern-predicting brains won’t necessarily take it lying down. One way to handle this might be to remain relaxed about whether the cunning plan for better sleep will work. Recognise that it’s all good, whether you nod off straightaway or relax a while first – you’re still switching off so the instinct to sleep can do its job.

Set the Pattern for a Healthier Future

Start making a long-term difference to your mental and physical health today. Sleeping better now could help prevent depression, flare-ups of auto-immune conditions, plus many mental health conditions including dementia.

Step 1 Take time to understand the significant, long-term health benefits of sleeping well.
Step 2 Work to restore balanced sleep patterns in healthy ways through your life choices.
Step 3 Feel better for it.
Step 4 Lead by example – share the good news and the love – by encouraging those you care for to get better sleep.

Help is at hand to get better sleep

For more information on how to meet your need for sleep, take a look at our resources hub for more blogs and support.

You can also sign up to become a Friend of Suffolk Mind, which gives you the opportunity to join our Sleep Well, Work Well workshop for free.

by Suffolk Mind Team
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