We all know that sleep is extremely important for our physical and mental wellbeing.
The health impacts of sleep seem to be even greater for women, for whom sleep loss is linked to a greater risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and depression than men.
Getting enough sleep is far easier said than done in today’s hustle culture, with multiple pressures on women in the workplace and the home resulting in more women experiencing burnout than ever before.
Implementing a night-time routine is a great way to create a ritual that signals to your body that you are winding down for the day and preparing for rest.
Here are 9 things you can include in your night-time routine to manage stress and improve your wellbeing:
1. Enforce a caffeine curfew
Reducing your caffeine intake later in the day can help minimise sleep interference.
The effects of caffeine can last anywhere between two and 10 hours, so if you struggle to fall asleep at night, consider having your last coffee before lunch. By the time night rolls around, switch to a caffeine-free alternative such as herbal tea or dandelion root.
If you find yourself feeling sluggish without an afternoon caffeine fix, try incorporating more foods into your diet that support energy levels naturally, such as oats, leafy greens and beetroot juice.
2. Change your sheets
We spend approximately one-third of our lives in bed, so it’s important to maintain a hygienic sleeping environment.
Dust, skin cells, animal dander and other microscopic particles can accumulate in bed sheets and pillows over time, so it’s recommended to change them about once a week.
Also shower before hopping under the covers to ensure you wake up feeling fresh and energised.
3. Turn off technology
Exposure to the blue light emitted by screens before bedtime can interfere with your circadian rhythm and inhibit the release of the sleep hormone melatonin, making it difficult to fall asleep.
If you must use a screen before bed, minimise blue light exposure by switching your device to night mode or investing in blue light glasses.
4. Stay cool
The internal temperature in your sleeping environment directly impacts how long and how deeply you sleep.
Keeping your bedroom between 17 and 20 degrees Celsius helps the internal body temperature drop in order to induce sleep.
Regulating your temperature with air conditioning or having a cool shower before bed can reduce stress and send a message to the brain that it is time to rest.
5. Read a book
Hopping into bed with a good book is a great way to give your mind a chance to wind down and prepare for sleep.
Reading before bed is common among highly successful people, and can improve stress and anxiety, so why not check out this list of great books by female authors?
Alternatively, listening to an audiobook can feel like being read a bedtime story, and services like Audible provide a list of suggested bedtime books to get you started.
6. Keep a journal
Journalling is a common mindfulness practice that has been shown to increase wellbeing and emotional stability.
Using the end of the day as time to reflect, particularly on things you are grateful for or proud of, can counteract the brain’s habit of creating powerful negative memories while skimming over all the good things we encounter each day.
Adopting this practice regularly can foster healthier thought patterns and help reduce stress.
Meditation has a broad range of benefits, and has been shown to help with anxiety, sleeplessness and insomnia. Most psychological disruptions to sleep, such as excessive worrying, are a result of being preoccupied with things past or yet to come.
Mindfulness meditation practices help reconnect to the present moment and your body, breath and mind, making it easier to achieve mental relaxation and improved sleep.
The best part is you don’t need to meditate for long – as little as 10 minutes of meditation per day can have significant health benefits.
8. Create tomorrow’s to-do list
Emerging research suggests that people who plan the following day by writing a to-do list are more productive and sleep better than those who don’t.
Putting things down on paper can help to mentally unload any worries, leaving your mind clear and ready for sleep.
It can also be useful to create a ‘to-don’t’ list if you notice any unhelpful habits that are impeding your happiness, productivity and wellbeing.
9. Get to bed early
Most adults need 7-9 hours of quality sleep to function well and prevent negative health impacts.
For those with daytime work commitments, this means getting to bed by 10pm or 11pm at the latest.
Having a regular night-time routine, including going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, helps you to feel refreshed and energised the following day and can also help with managing insomnia.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on February 16, 2020 and has since been updated to include new content.