Sleep experts recommend a bedtime routine – practices that get you to slow down, clear your mind, and prepare you for sleep. Before I became a caregiver I didn’t think about a bedtime routine very much. It was what it was. But becoming my mother’s caregiver, my twin grandchildren’s caregiver, and my husband’s caregiver, changed my thinking. I need sleep and have a nightly routine to promote it.
You may have a routine as well. However, if you don’t have a routine, it may be wise to establish one now. Having a bedtime routine will help you sleep better and wake up in the morning refreshed, energized, and ready for the day.
Sleep expert Dr. Brandon Peters suggests some routine steps in his article, “What Sleep Rituals Should Be Part of Your Bedtime Routine,” posted on the Sleep Disorders About.com website. Dr. Peters says a good night’s sleep depends on our behaviors, and a routine prepares us for sleep. “Think of things that individually make you feel sleepy,” he advises. Here are more suggestions for your bedtime routine.
- Exercise during the day. Mayo Clinic, in a website article, “Lifestyle and Home Remedies,” recommends at least 20-30 minutes of physical activity per day. “Activity helps promote a good night’s sleep,” according to Mayo. Your activity may be a brisk walk, stretching exercises, or lifting weights.
- Start to slow down. Though your TO DO list is long, and you have been rushing from one thing to the next, put on the brakes after dinner. Accept the fact that you didn’t get everything done. Continue with tasks that don’t require much thought, such as folding laundry.
- Nix the television. Television programs, especially the news, can stick in your mind. Because my husband’s legs are paralyzed, watching television is one of his main activities. He is especially interested in the history of World War II, upsetting images to say the least. I asked him not to watch war programs after dinner and he complied with my request.
- Reduce background noise. Peppy music may keep you going during the day, but it isn’t the best match for a good night’s sleep. If you still want to listen to music, choose something that is soothing. You may listen to classical music, for example, or hymns.
- Turn off the computer. Like television, computer work can stick in your mind and keep you awake. I try to turn off the computer, but sometimes this is hard to do because of incoming emails from my publisher. So I leave the computer on and do other small jobs or read. Just before bed I check my incoming messages once more.
- Take a warm bath. According to sleep experts, a warm bath can relax you and make you drowsy. Since I am not a bath person I don’t follow this tip. However, if a bath relaxes you, it may be just the thing you need.
- Slow your mind. This is one of those things that is easy to say and hard to You can clear your mind with meditation, reading poetry, prayer, or a soothing book. Don’t start a murder mystery.
- Adjust the thermostat. A cooler room promotes sleep, so turn down the heat or set the air conditioner at a cooler, comfortable temperature. Keep your loved one’s medications in mind. If your loved one takes medicine that makes her or him cold, adjust the thermostat accordingly.
- Prepare your room. Close the curtains, shades, or blinds. Subtle background noise, rain sounds, or a running fan, may help drown out other noise, according to Mayo Clinic. The bedroom isn’t the place for a television, the clinic notes, and you should “avoid TV, computers, video games, smart phones or other screens just before bed.”
Your loved one needs a routine and so do you. Establishing a bedtime routine is a trial and error process. Delete the tips that don’t work for you, and focus on the ones that do. Getting a good night’s sleep changes your outlook on life. Busy caregiving days are easier when you are well-rested.