Monday, September 14, 2009

Getting Ready For Bed

Do you have a ritual that you go through each night before you go to bed? Or do you fall asleep while reading or watching television at various times of night? Do you notice the difference in how you sleep when you prepare for bed versus falling asleep unplanned? I wouldn't be surprised to hear that you do - having a regular routine of things we do before going to bed can have the effect of preparing our body for sleep, in much the same way that seeing and smelling food starts the process of digestion.

Your "getting ready for bed" ritual can and should be unique to you, but a couple of things that all bedtime rituals should include for optimal health and sleep hygiene are:
  • Removing make up and washing your face
  • Brushing and flossing your teeth
  • No caffeine or sugary food or drink past a certain time or after brushing
  • Turn off the television and stimulating music

Turning off the television and avoiding caffeine before bed are common sense, but we don't always do what our common sense dictates. I occasionally get caught up in a late night crime drama on television before going to bed, which often results in a restless night. Avoiding these and even stimulating music allows our parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest functions) to kick in and for natural sleep to occur.

What about washing your face, brushing and flossing? Also seems like common sense - most parents make their children do this every night before bed. But it's also vitally important for adult health and most important to do before going to bed at night. At night, our mouths are drier. With no salivary enzymes to kills them and no food and drink to pass them through to our digestive tract, bacteria growth overnight is high. Brushing and especially flossing helps remove the last traces of food and sugar that fuel these bacteria before we go to bed. Removing these substances also helps prevent the accumulation of tarter.

Likewise, washing your face before bed clears off environmental exposures, make up and excess oil before going to bed, allowing your skin to breath and regenerate. Many of the body's healing and regenerative functions occur overnight in response to hormonal events precipitated by sleep. But these functions can be hampered when the surface of the skin is covered or coated with dirt, oil, make up and even night creams.

Try practicing a bedtime routine for a week or so and see how it affects your sleep. Turn off the TV/radio or turn on some light classical or instrumental music, turn down the lights, clean up and put on your pj's and get a great night's sleep.

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