Sleep Rituals: The Science

You’ve probably heard talk of ‘sleep rituals’ buzzing about the interwebs over the past few years. 

In a nutshell, these are little things we can do in the lead up to hitting the hay that can apparently improve the quality of our Zzzs.

But are sleep rituals actually a thing? The science says absolutely! Here are five you can try tonight.

  

Avoid caffeine after midday

This one might be a no brainer for some, but it can help to say no to that 3pm latte if you know what it’s doing to your chances of sleeping later.

Caffeine acts as a central nervous system stimulant. On the chemical level, it’s structurally very similar to adenosine, a chemical that makes us sleepy. Caffeine binds to our brain's adenosine receptors, blocking the chemical from binding with the same receptors and making us tired. Great first thing in the morning for some, not so great when it’s time to hit the hay.

The effects of a cup of joe hang around in the average joe for about 6 hours. Try switching to herbal teas in the arvo to set yourself up for sweet slumber from the get go. 

 

Have a hot bath (or shower)

Our body temperature plays a big role in regulating circadian rhythms, those internal processes that tell us when to feel sleepy or awake. During the day, body temperature naturally rises until the late afternoon, when it begins to fall. 

The science shows that having a hot bath or shower an hour or two before bed can help trigger sleep, because it mimics this heat up cool off system. The same study suggested it will even enhance the quality of your subsequent Zzzs. Winner!

 

Bring the day to a close

The science behind the benefits of mindfulness and meditation keeps on coming in, with studies now showing both can help to fight off insomnia and improve sleep quality

Adding a little mindfulness ritual to the end of your day will help you to bring the day to a close and let go of all the niggly things that plague a trying-to-get-to-sleep brain, setting your course for sleepy town. 

It can be as simple as slowing your breathing and bring your attention to the here and now – your physical body, the sounds, smells and sights around you – for a few minutes before hitting the hay. Your brain will thank you for it!

 

Ban the phone in bed

We know what you’re thinking… how will you even live without your phone on the nightstand!? But as it turns out, all that screen time before bedtime isn’t doing us any favours when it comes to nodding off. 

The blue light emitted by our phones, iPads and computers actually reduces our melatonin production (the hormone that controls our circadian rhythms). Less melatonin = less chance of falling and staying asleep.

That’s not to mention the fact all that bedtime ‘Gram scrolling and Netflix binging keeps our brain alert and engaged, tricking it into thinking it needs to stay up.

Try to make the last hour of your day technology-free or bad screens from the bedroom entirely. As the saying goes, your bed should really only be used for two things!