Ahhh, the weekend!
It has finally arrived, and for many of us this means relaxing more and paying less attention to the daily routines and all the small details. To kick back, and just breathe. Now, especially during these difficult times, trying to keep a functioning sleep routine is important. Clear routines remind your body of what you are expecting from it, and that in turn makes falling - and staying - asleep easier. On the other hand - it is also incredibly important to slow down and not put too much pressure on yourself to plan and organize every piece of your life.
You need to cut yourself some slack! My tip? Grant yourself permission to not follow your own rules on some days. And that goes for bedtime routines too. But didn’t I just say that sleep routines are important? Yes, they are indeed important, and if you can stick to them - great! In normal times, I would always say “keep your sleep schedule intact as much as you possibly can, regardless if it is a weeknight, weekend or holiday”. Your body will be better off for it, and it is the best solution in the long run. But here’s a secret. Even I - a professional sleep planner - need some extra wiggle room when it comes to sleep right now. Between work, homeschooling, quarantine, and everything else - we’re all juggling so many things that a break in routines can be really welcome. Staying up later one night a week to be able to spend some extra cuddle time with your kids, or quality time with your partner? It’s okay! Changing things up? It’s okay! Even good! A dear friend of mine flips Fridays on its head. Dinner for breakfast and breakfast for dinner. In my family, we go later than normal on Fridays, make homemade pizza, eat on the floor, or in the garden as a picnic. And we more often than not stay up late watching a movie or play board games.
And it works, because we still have Saturday and Sunday to gradually get back to our normal sleep routines in order to be prepared for the week to come. Now, there are some simple tricks that you can use to give your body the necessary help it needs to optimize your sleep - even if you are being a little bit more flexible than normal with bedtimes. Here are some pointers that will help you give that late night a smoother transition, so you do not miss the sleep you need in order to stay healthy, be rested and ready for what the world has in store for you. FOOD Try to minimize the intake of sugars and heavy foods late in the evening. Sugar makes the brain work on a high, even long after you consumed it - so I usually stop eating anything sweet at least 1-2 hours before bedtime. Eating heavier food close to bedtime can cause indigestion or heartburn. Since food generally needs 1-3 hours of travel time to get absorbed by our bodies, you won’t be awake to burn the energy you just consumed - and that can both cause health problems and an uneven sleep pattern. So what if you’re super hungry just before bed? Try the old Warm-Cup-of-Milk-Trick (or dairy substitute), because it has actually been shown to work. It’s not the milk itself that makes you sleepy, rather the warmness of the beverage. And milk is filling enough to be able to suppress that hunger until breakfast time. DRINKS Alcohol is well known to negatively affect REM sleep, which is the deep sleep we all need to wake up feeling rejuvenated. Disrupted REM sleep can also cause daytime drowsiness. A simple rule to follow is to remember that on average, we need 1 hour per consumed unit of alcohol to allow for the body to process it. If you do feel like a drink close to bedtime, having a cup of caffeine-free chamomile tea is great. My personal favorite is a caffeine-free cup of chamomile & lavender tea served with a stick or dash of cinnamon. It calms and relaxes my body and I usually drink it 20-30 min before bedtime while snuggling with my son, talking with my husband, or reading a book.
ELECTRONICS Turning off TVs, computers, and devices 20-30 minutes before bedtime is one of the best ways you can trick your body into relaxation. If you go straight from watching tv or playing video games to bed, your brain will have a hard time winding down and realizing that now is actually the time to sleep. ROUTINE Even if you skip sticking to normal bedtime routines, keep some basic “rules of relaxation” in mind. - Set aside about 20 minutes to get ready for bed. Bathroom, brush your teeth, lay out clothes for the next day. - Set aside another 20 minutes after you shut off electronics to talk with your partner, read a book or meditate. - Give your body at least 10 minutes to find the perfect sleep position and calm down after turning off the lights. - Be prepared to wake up at your normal hour the following day, even if you went to bed later. That’s okay because your body is programmed to know when you usually wake up. - If you sleep in the next day, that’s okay too. But it is more efficient to set your alarm clock to wake up as close to normal as possible - and then take a 20-minute nap during the day to catch up on the sleep you missed the night before. I am wishing you all a wacky upside-down wonderful, happy, fun-filled weekend. And remember, I am here to help you sleep better, so you can feel better. Sweet dreams.
Knus knus (Danish hugs),