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Establishing a great sleep routine

by Andy Puddicombe

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It’s late, but you’re not sure quite how late. It’s finally quiet, and you’re giving full rein to a temptation that you’ve been suppressing all day: to check all those pictures in your Instagram feed, surf through those Facebook albums and click on those links from Twitter. You’re exhausted, but somehow you’re not too tired for this.

By the time you check your clock it’s waay later than you realized. You’ll wake up tired tomorrow, better get to sleep right away. You quickly jump into bed, only when you finally put your head down on the pillow, you find you can’t sleep at all. Physically you’re out of gas, but your mind is still whirring away in high gear.

Does any of this sound familiar? It’s just possible that technology is disturbing your sleep patterns. Earlier this year scientists from Harvard Medical School suggested that the light of screens is interfering with our innate sense of night and day. Blue light, particularly prevalent in the kind of low voltage LEDs which are used in tablet, phone and laptop screens prevents the body from delivering the surge of melatonin which tells us the body its time to pack it all in for the night. And if we don’t feel tiredness, sleep isn’t going to arrive on time either.

Help is at hand. We’ve put together a few tips that will help you avoid that tech-related insomnia.

  1. Create a bedtime ritual. It might be taking a bath, brushing your teeth, and reading for half an hour by a gentle light. But establishing a set routine and sticking to it means you’re less likely to be exposed to unpredictable thoughts right before you hit the hay. Excluding your phone from that ritual isn’t a bad idea either.
  2. Have a cut-off time for work emails. You get a little blip of adrenaline every time you get a request that requires a response. Defending a boundary about how late you’ll work can sometimes feel like a big ask, but it will benefit your work overall. In France, labour unions are even creating agreements that mean they won’t have to check emails after long days. They really know how to live over there.
  3. Sleep with your phone in another room. It sounds obvious, but getting hold of an old-fashioned alarm clock and leaving your mobile in the kitchen when you go to bed might give you a little more space. At the very least you won’t be able to compound the problem by reaching for your phone when you can’t sleep. If you really need to listen out for calls at night, make sure you can hear the ring from bed.
  4. Get some Headspace! The benefits of meditation are manifold (it can also help with relationshipsanxiety and even focus), but one of the most important in this case is the capacity it has to help you develop space between you and your thinking. What this means in practice is that you might just about be able to catch yourself starting to engage in behaviour you know could be harmful for your sleep (like using your smartphone in bed) and just take the time to pause, and make another choice.
  5. Meditate in the evening. It could feel a bit unnatural at first, but putting aside ten minutes to do a simple breathing meditation before bed can often help you to get off to sleep quicker. Think of it as a de-stress meditation, a chance to slow down and create a buffer between your waking life and your bedtime.

Sweet dreams, Headspacers.

Andy Puddicombe

Andy Puddicombe is a meditation and mindfulness expert. An accomplished presenter and writer, Andy is the voice of all things Headspace. In his early twenties, midway through a university degree in Sports Science, Andy made the unexpected decision to travel to the Himalayas to study meditation instead. It was the beginning of a ten-year journey which took him around the world, culminating with ordination as a Tibetan Buddhist monk in Northern India. His transition back to lay life in 2004 was no less extraordinary. Training briefly at Moscow State Circus, he returned to London where he completed a degree in Circus Arts with the Conservatoire of Dance and Drama, whilst drawing up the early plans for what was later to become Headspace.

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