Evening routines play an important role in helping us drift off to sleep easily. Ahead of World Sleep Day, March 17, sleep specialist Dr Frédérique Aussert explains how everyone can create their own ideal environment to relax and unwind before bedtime.
There's no point saying to someone who doesn't like reading to curl up with a good book to help them fall asleep. "The aim is to make your bed your friend, and to get into habits that help increase our feeling of well-being," explains Dr Frédérique Aussert.
Still, it's important to find what works for you, as everyone is different. Generally, activities that increase body temperature, such as taking a warm bath or working out, aren't recommended less than two hours before bedtime, but if you find that works for you, then there's no need to stop.
It's more important to weigh up the balance between benefit and risk, and to listen to yourself, explains the specialist. "If you can only exercise in the evening, then go ahead. It's always better than doing none at all. Just bear in mind that, on that particular evening, you'll probably go to bed a bit later."
And if watching a series on your tablet is what you do to relax, "then go for it," says the specialist. Just be careful not to watch the screen too closely and consider wearing screen-protection glasses.
At dinner time, it can be difficult to follow the recommendations to finish eating two hours before going to bed. By the time you've got home from work, got the kids to bed and prepared a meal, it can easily be 9 p.m. For evening meals, it's better to pick light and easy to digest dishes that include a small amount of protein, as well as dairy products which favour relaxation.
It can be hard to find downtime in our busy lifestyles. Slowing the pace of physical and mental activities in the evening can be challenging. The key is to make sure you're getting enough sleep by establishing a regular sleep routine.
Less than six hours of sleep per night could lead to health problems and weaken the immune system. You have to think about what time you get up then work backwards to try to fit in seven to eight hours of sleep. "Weekend lie-ins don't make up for a lack of sleep during the week," warns the specialist.
There are a few other things you can try to help you relax and unwind. For example, spraying lavender essential oil on your pillow can have a sedative effect, and herbal teas, such as passion flower and valerian, are known to promote sleep. Limit yourself to one small cup to keep night time toilet trips to a minimum.
Note that Roman chamomile essential oil can help accentuate the effect of breathing exercises. Place a drop on the corners of your nostrils. Verbena, ylang-ylang, orange blossom and jasmine blossom also have relaxing properties.
For people who have trouble switching off from negative thoughts, worries or stress, visualization and relaxation techniques with a qualified relaxation therapist can be a useful means of establishing effective strategies.