People used to say a glass of warm milk before bedtime ensured a good nights rest. Today, sleep researchers say warm milks biggest benefit may be psychological if its part of a consistent, calming sleep routine.
Bedtime rituals tell your body and mind its time to call it a day, though the right wind-down routine depends on the individual. One persons potion might be another persons poison, says Dr. Russell Rosenberg, director of the Atlanta Sleep Institute.
Still, there are some common-sense ways to create a soothing state of mind and relaxing bedroom environment for slipping into a blissful slumber.
The National Sleep Foundation offers these general guidelines:
- Maintain a regular bedtime, even on weekends.
- Soak in a hot bath, read a book, meditate or listen to soothing music at the end of the day.
- Avoid exposure to bright light near bedtime.
- Keep the bedroom dark, quiet, comfortable and cool.
- Dont eat two to three hours before going to bed.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol in the waning hours of your day. In fact, Rosenberg recommends no caffeine after noon if falling asleep is a problem. When it comes to alcohol, a drink might make you drowsy, but it also may disrupt sleep patterns later in the night.
- Exercise regularly, but not too close to bedtime. A late afternoon workout is ideal.
While most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep, some require only five hours and others prefer nine or more. Its a matter of genetics, Rosenberg explains, just like the person who can eat chocolate cake every day and never gain an ounce while others gain weight just licking the icing.
About half of Americans report sleep difficulty at least occasionally, and Rosenberg says one reason may be a 24/7 culture filled with distractions. We forego the important sleep that we need for other activities. Its a very busy world, and trying to get in more at work and more with family and more entertainment squeezes out the sleep that we need, he says.
Rosenberg says scheduling enough time for sleep is an important part of establishing a soothing sleep routine. At some point during the day, you have to say, Thats it. Thats all I can do today. Its time for me to wind down.