Simple steps for better sleep.

7 min read

An evening wind-down for better (beauty) sleep

"I want to sleep, but my brain keeps talking to itself".

Sound familiar? We all have those nights where we desperately want to fall asleep but our mind keeps racing and we just can't seem to switch off...

Some good news: there are simple steps we can take to help our bodies (and brains) get ready for bed. By winding down with a routine (some might even call it a ritual) before bed, we signal to our brains that it's time to sleep. Here's our perfect wind-down.

Bolt Beauty - sleep and better skin

Step 1 - Do the right stuff in the day

(We know this article is called an "evening wind-down" but if you start right at the beginning of the day, bedtime is going to be much easier.)

1. Get up at the same time every day.

By sticking to the same "wake up" time, we're helping to regulate our body's "circadian rhythm". Our circadian rhythm is our body's internal clock: it tells us when we should be sleepy and when we should be awake. A part of our brain (a portion of the hypothalamus) regulates our circadian rhythm, and factors like light, darkness, and hormones (e.g. melatonin) help signal to it when we should be asleep.

When we have the same "wake up" time, we regulate our body's internal clock. Our brain knows when we should be falling asleep and when to wake up. It's why we have issues when we're travelling through time zones - our circadian rhythm is telling us it's one time but we're actually in another. The joy of jet-lag.

So, try and wake up at the same time (or similar time) every day - even at the weekend. Even though a long lie in sometimes seems like a good idea, it might actually reduce the amount and quality of your sleep, as you'll struggle to fall asleep at bedtime. Having a routine helps our body to know what's going on and ultimately helps us sleep better.

2. Make your bed.

There is nothing appealing about getting into an unmade bed. When it's nighttime, you're not going to want to get into a bed that doesn't look and feel amazing. Do whatever you can to turn your bed (and bedroom) into a sanctuary. Invest in great sheets, treat yourself to beautiful candles, and keep it the mess / laundry / other crap neatly and out of sight.

3. Avoid caffeine after lunchtime.

Caffeine is a stimulant. This means it works to keep you stimulated (AKA awake).

Caffeine has this effect by disrupting the way our bodies handle a compound called Adenosine. Adenosine is a by-product of the digestion process (it builds up over the day as part of the process by which our bodies process glucose from the food we eat). Receptors in our body then detect the amount of Adenosine in our bloodstream and trigger us to feel sleepy when these levels build up. The trouble is, caffeine acts as an Adenosine blocker -caffeine attaches itself to the same receptors that Adenosine would normally interact with and prevents our body from detecting the build up of it.

The "half life" of caffeine is normally 5 to 6 hours. This means it takes 5 to 6 hours for the amount of caffeine in our bodies to break down by 50%. This is why it's really important to avoid caffeine after lunchtime - we want to give our bodies as much time as possible to process any caffeine and let ourselves get drowsy.

Bolt Beauty - sleep and better skin

Step 2 - Pre-bedtime routine

Our bedtime routine starts long before bedtime. It's all about unwinding and providing signals to our body that bedtime is approaching.

1. Eat dinner two hours before bedtime.

For us this is the start of our bedtime routine. Have dinner at least two hours before bedtime. This gives your body time to digest food before sleep. (And avoid the post-dinner espresso.)

Bolt Beauty - sleep and better skin

2. Have a bath or shower and get cosy.

It's almost like washing away the day. A bath can be deeply relaxing - light a candle, use some salts or bath oils and take time to breathe. You might not have time to include a long luxurious bath into every day life, but maybe it's something you can aim for once a week, like part of a self-care Sunday.

Do your skincare - make sure you remove all make-up, sunscreen, and pollution by doing a double cleanse. Even if you don't have time for a bath or shower, cleansing your skin can act as a mini ritual and it's absolutely essential to keep our skin healthy. Apply your serums or products with active ingredients - it gives them time to sink into the skin and gives them a few extra hours to work their magic before you cleanse again in the morning. Finish with moisturiser to help keep your skin hydrated and glowing.

Put on comfy clothes or pyjamas. Make them special ones - not some old, crummy T shirt. You'll enjoy wearing them much more and make it more likely to stick to a good bedtime routine.

3. Turn down the lights and finish all work.

Dim the lights and stop checking work emails an hour before bedtime. If there is an emergency in the office, they'll call you. Most things aren't and can wait until the next day.

4. Swap your TV binge / Insta scroll for a gentle unwind

Thirty minutes before bedtime, turn off the TV and put your phone down. Do some gentle stretches, a breathing exercise, or a simple meditation. If your new to this, there are some amazing apps providing guided meditations and breathing exercises - Calm and Headspace are two of the most popular ones.

If you've never tried it before, try a Yoga Nidra. It's a conscious relaxation of your whole body. Sounds a bit hippy dippy but studies (by Harvard Medical School) show Yoga Nidra (and other mindfulness meditations) can dramatically improve sleep and reduce insomnia. We love Rod Stryker's Yoga Nidra which you can listen to for free here.

Step 3 - Bedtime

1. Go to bed at the same time every day.
Just like getting up at a consistent time is important to regulate our circadian rhythm, so too is going to bed. Stick to a bedtime wherever possible (even at the weekends!).

When planning your bedtime and wake up time, it's worth remembering that you should be aiming for 8 hours of sleep every night. Sounds a lot but studies show this is what most adults need in order to be properly rested.

2. Keep your bedroom cool and dark.
The best temperature for sleep is 17oC - so open the window and make sure it's dark. If you don't have black-out blinds, a sleep mask is a great alternative. We love the Slip silk ones - definitely not the cheapest but we figure if you're using it every night, you might as well invest...

3. Use a pillow spray.
We aren't exactly sure of the science of this... But it seems to work. Some brands claim that combinations of essential oils work to calm and soothe the brain. There's also claims that associating a fragrance to sleep can help signal to our body that it's time to rest. However they work, thousands of people swear by them. And there's really very little downside from having a beautiful and soothing smelling bedroom.

4. Have a herbal tea.
Chamomile, in particular, is a great tea to sip before bed. Make your tea with whole buds (or bags containing whole buds) for the best effect.

Bolt Beauty - sleep and better skin

5. Get comfy and focus on your breathing.
When you get into bed, do a big body squeeze and release. Lie down and then squeeze every single muscle in your body: scrunch up your face, make fists with your hands, hold on to your breath for a moment, and create as much tension as possible. Then release everything and feel yourself drop into your bed. This helps release any areas where we're holding on to unwanted tension and signals to our body it's time to relax. You might need to do this two or three times to help release tension. Now, get comfy and focus on your breathing. Sweet dreams.

PS. We get it. You're probably not going to be able to do all these steps every night - especially in a post-Covid-19 world where you're juggling work and a social life outside your home. The point is, having a routine really helps to get a better sleep. You could even have two bedtime routines - a super luxe one for your Sunday night and then a speedier version for weekdays. As long as they follow the same patterns and principles, your body will realise it needs to unwind and start preparing for bed. And, while we are still in lockdown, you can use this time to perfect your sleep routine so you're ready when life gets more hectic.

Jessica Ferrari-Wells

Jessica is a London-based qualified nutritionist specialising in women's health. Having first studied psychology and neuroscience at the University of Oxford she became fascinated with how our wider health, diet and lifestyle impact our mental and physical wellbeing. Going on to work in a highly pressured corporate law environment, she experienced a deterioration in her own health and the health of her colleagues, in particular hormonal health and resilience. She went on to study and train in nutritional therapy and since qualifying has specialised in women's health, primarily hormone balance, energy, immunity, resilience, and mental wellbeing. Jessica unravels exactly what it takes to be well in the modern day - supporting her clients with clear, practical and educated advice and debunking common myths along the way.

Learn more about Jessica or get in touch with her for some personalised tips here.

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Also in Bolt Blog

Is seaweed farming ethical?
Is seaweed farming ethical?

3 min read

We take a look at the seaweed supply chain and whether it's an ethical crop.
How to practice skin positivity
How to practice skin positivity

7 min read

Bolt Beauty talks skin conditions, with advice on how to manage flare-ups and practice skin positivity in your daily life. Let's celebrate real skin!
Got maskne or afraid of getting it?
Got maskne or afraid of getting it?

8 min read

We look at what causes maskne and how to prevent it during the winter months. Click to read our top tips for tackling skin irritation and breakouts whilst protecting the ones you love.