Our bodies crave consistency and daily rhythm. When it gets dark outside, our body naturally releases a hormone called melatonin, causing us to become drowsy and thus signaling the body that it’s time to sleep. Unfortunately, due to living in the age of electricity, computers, and more recently smartphones, we are sending our body mixed messages about when it is time to sleep. We are extending our natural day by 6 to 8 hours. Most of us don’t go to bed at the same time or have a bedtime routine that triggers our brains to release melatonin.
A bedtime routine is paramount to our well-being. In fact, research shows that people who have irregular bedtimes and are sleep deprived, are more likely to crave processed, sugary, and salty foods in the evening and thus consume 600 calories more than individual. They are likely to be overweight and stressed, and have impaired natural thermoregulation and chronic diseases. Therefore, it is essential to our well-being to create a bedtime routine and a daily routine in general.
Imagine you have a toddler that you are trying to put to bed. He is happily playing with his favorite toy, and suddenly you come over and take it away and tell him it’s time for bed. What do you predict would happen? He would throw a tantrum! Now, imagine a different scenario. You come over, put some soothing music on, dim the lights, start running a bath, and gently come over and say, in a few minutes I will come back and we are going to take a bath with your favorite ducky. Now, your toddler is ready, because his brain had been triggered by the sounds of music, water filling the bath, the visual sound of dimmed lights, all of which causes him to relax and prepare for bath and ultimately bed. Well, our brains are wired the same way. Our brains need triggers in order to release melatonin. So, help your brain help you, and create a bedtime routine if you don’t have one already.
Our bodies are secreting the hormones responsible for regulating our metabolisms throughout the day. The more predictable our day is, the easier it is on our various body systems. I used to think that routines were boring, but the older I get the more I understand the important role they play in our lives. It’s not a coincidence that one of the major characteristics of centennials around the globe is the fact that they have their daily rituals and routines. In fact, their routine is so predictable you can wind a clock by it. Imagine how easy that is on their bodies. Routines also help with reducing stress. In Okinawa, Japan, the largest island in a subtropical archipelago, and home to the world’s longest-living women, the men and women take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors. In Loma Linda, California, where some residents live 10 more healthy years than the average American, they like to pray. In Ikaria, Greece, an island in the Aegean Sea with the world’s lowest rates of dementia, men, and women like to nap.
TIPS ON SETTING NIGHT AND MORNING ROUTINE
1. Go to bed at about the same time each night and get at least 6 hours of sleep.
2. 30 min before, set up triggers such as dimming the lights, listening to a soothing spa or classical music, drinking a warm cup of tea (be careful about caffeine before bed), taking a hot bath, reading a book, meditating or writing in a journal.
3. Buy an alarm clock and take your electronic devices away from your bed. Or turn your phone on do not disturb setting and don’t start checking it. I leave my phone charging in my bathroom. So when the alarm goes off I have to get up.
4. Do not eat 2 hours before bed. Ideally, don’t eat after 8 pm.
5. Do not exercise right before bedtime.
6. Write in your journal or breathing deeply or meditating is a great way to finish the day.
7. If you can’t fall asleep, read an uplifting paper book until you do.
1. Get up at the same time each morning.
2. If possible, get up at least an hour before your family. This gives you enough time to enjoy your morning in peace, avoiding the rush.
3. Create a morning routine.
MY MORNING ROUTINE
My routine varied over the years, from 5 min to an hour and a half. However, in recent years, I have grown to love my one-hour body, mind, and soul rejuvenating routine. Once I am up, I like to make a warm lemon ginger hot tea, green Matcha tea or my "Morning Sunshine" drink and sip it, while I write in my gratitude journal. This takes less than 10 minutes and steers me in a positive direction. Then I read my daily devotional and meditate (sometimes using the Headspace App) for about 10-15 min. Sometimes I meditate during my runs, or after stretching. I can’t tell you enough how essential this is to my well-being. It keeps me centered and mindful throughout the day. Lastly, I exercise for 20 to 30 min. I like to alternate cardio (running) and calisthenics (HIIT&RUN workouts), often using body weight as resistance, for 6 consecutive days. I give my body a break on Sunday to recover completely. Exercise used to represent something I dread. Now, it is part of my lifestyle. Just like I brush my teeth every morning, I journal, read, exercise and meditate. That doesn’t mean that I never skip my morning routine, rather I learned that when I do, to go easy on myself and pick it up again the next day.