The importance of a good bedtime routine

Justin Jones Justin Jones Professional Head of Physiology at Nuffield Health
People often focus on quantity and neglect the quality of sleep.
Good quality of sleep is about having the right balance of deep, slow-wave sleep and shallow, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is where dreaming occurs. 
 

Good quality sleep allows your body to recover and your mind to make sense of the learnings of the day. In order to get good quality sleep you need to make sure you manage these key areas appropriately:

Amount of caffeine you consume

Caffeine’s effects on the body take three to six hours to wear off, depending on the level of caffeine in the drink. So stay away from caffeine in the afternoon and evening to avoid negatively affecting sleep.

Caffeine blocks the brain’s adenosine receptors. Adenosine is involved in making us feel sleepy, so blocking it inhibits the body’s homeostatic desire to sleep after a long period of wakefulness. Bear in mind, the amount of caffeine you should consume is hard to say because caffeine affects everyone differently.

Exercise you complete 

Regular exercise is likely to improve sleep quality. Happily, improving sleep quality also improves your likelihood of sticking to exercise. Ying and yang. However, avoid high-intensity exercise in the hours leading up to bed, as this can activate the sympathetic nervous system.

In addition to managing caffeine and exercise, building a good bedtime routine is absolutely key to optimising your sleep health. What you do in the hour leading up to bed is just as important as actually getting sleep itself. 
 

Things that can influence your bedtime routine include:

Lighting in the bedroom

Low lighting or darker lighting is best as it helps maintain the ‘light-dark’ cycle. Humans go to sleep when it is dark, therefore bright lights are not ideal. Rather than just switching lights off when it is time for bed, lower them in the lead up to bedtime to let your body know it is time to sleep.

The temperature in the room 

Your room should be kept fairly cool, around 19˚C. It is thought that a cool room helps to reduce the body temperature prior to sleep, which helps initiate the sleep process.

Last updated Thursday 10 November 2016