The Importance of Sleep and How to Create a Healthy Bedtime Ritual

Sleep plays a critical role in our physical health and mental well being. Lack of sleep can lead to irritability, fatigue, headaches, short-term anxiety, lack of performance at work or with activities and decreased immunity that can develop into more serious mental and physical illnesses over time.

According to the American Sleep Association (ASA) an estimated 50-70 million US adult have a sleep disorder. Insomnia is said to be the most prevalent sleep disorder with short term issues reported by about 30% of adults and approximately 10% of adults have reported chronic insomnia.

The recommended daily amount of sleep for an adult is 7-9 hours with teenagers needing more at 8-10 hours nightly and children needing the most (between 9-14 hours including daily naps).

In order to fall asleep quickly it may be helpful and beneficial to have a bedtime calming ritual. This can be a combination of behaviors and products to avoid as well as encouraging others that help us relax and prepare for a productive night of rest.

Products and behaviors that may encourage productive sleep include:

  • Maintaining a regular sleep schedule (go to sleep and wake up at the same time or within 30 minutes each day)
  • Take a hot shower or bath before bedtime
  • Practice yoga or quiet meditation
  • Read something relaxing
  • Listen to calming music
  • Drink a cup of herbal tea containing calming herbs such as chamomile
  • Use calming essential oils like lavender, chamomile and ylang ylang
  • Be sure not to nap so much that it interferes with your sleep schedule
  • Make sure that your bedroom is quiet and comfortable
  • If you must consider adding a natural sleep aid like melatonin or valerian root.

Some recommendations of things to avoid close to bedtime include:

  • Caffeine (coffee, tea or soda)
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Nicotine
  • Exercising close to bedtime (try to make sure you do not exercise within 2-3 hours of bedtime)
  • Watching TV or using other electronic devices like a cell phone within 1-2 hours of bedtime
  • Anything else that may cause stress or excitement

So what do you do if you find yourself having difficulty sleeping? Start with the low hanging fruit. Avoid the products and habits that impede sleep and add in some of the relaxation activities mentioned above. It’s always best to try and avoid medication unless you are under a doctor’s care and they have recommended or prescribed a sleep aid for you.

If you are using medication(s) then your goal may be to ween yourself off of the medication or use only when needed. You can talk with your doctor to determine the best path forward but keep in mind that long term use of any OTC or prescription drugs may cause other potential side effects.