We talk a lot about morning routines and the importance of starting the day right. Very rarely do people talk about the end of the day as much like many things, by the end of the day the zest to be productive has often waned. It just becomes something that happens and we hope goes well. Sound about right? Now without fully immersing ourselves in the plethora of things you 'could do' at the end of the day we need to keep this simple to begin with as if we can't master or become versed in the basics, more advanced strategies simply become conceptual. First thing. If you don't end your day well, chances are you won't start the next day well. That, in itself, should be enough for you to grasp, quite literally how circular our sleep/wake routines are but how dependant each phase becomes to the next. Circadian Diagram Think about your time post 6pm in two parts, evening and pre-sleep. Give yourself 2-3 hours for the routine (Yes it sounds a lot but bear with us). Next, think about preparation being based around two things. Mental and physical.

Step 1 - The Evening Routine

The human body craves habitual behaviours, and it's up to you if they align with your goals or they don't. Goals, particularly in the evening are often based on what someone wants as opposed to what they need. You might want to watch an extra episode of your favourite show, but your body needs to recover from the physical and mental stress you put it under throughout the day. The goal in the evening part of the routine is to start to relax and switch off; this will be personal to you. You don't have to read, which is the usual thing you'll hear social media tell you to do. Evening routines will have some variability, especially if you have commitments that involve other people. Maybe you'll watch TV, check out social media, go for a drive, catch up with friends, take a walk, spend time with family or pets. If it helps you wind down, switch off and relax it's going to work, the key is not to overly stimulate the brain as it can trigger the brain to release dopamine and adrenaline and this can stop you from sleeping. Don't try to learn new things in the evening so if you do intend on reading a book, if you plan on watching TV be wary of the subject matter. 'Mind-numbing' and trash TV does have a strategic place. Try not to exercise in the evening or pre-sleep phases. If it's the only time you can, the benefits outweigh the consequences but again can impact the ability to fall asleep. Start to reduce your light exposure. If at this stage screens play a part, invest in a good pair of blue light glasses specifically designed for the evening. Look for ones that block blue and green light between 400-550nm. Throw them on 2-3 hours before sleep.

Step 2 - The Sleep Routine

Sleep varies, most people should be looking to get, on average between 7-9 hours sleep a night. The quality of sleep during this time is also a massive factor. Sleep works in cycles of around 90 minutes and runs through five stages. Light Sleep Reduction of eye and brain activity Delta brain wave phase Deep Sleep Rapid Eye Movement (REM) - dream state. A good sleep routine is a set of activities you perform in the same order, every night, in the 30 to 60 minutes before you go to bed. Your brain comes to see those activities as a precursor to sleep. Those of you with children will understand how important this is with routines reinforcing their natural circadian rhythms, establishing a period of calm that promotes good sleep. Science has also shown us that these routines can have a profound impact on memory, mental health, and attention. As adults, we tend to 'wing it' more. For those of us with busy minds, this can be detrimental. A routine keeps your mind focused and prevents overactive thoughts that can stimulate your sympathetic nervous system and in some cause anxiety and rumination. With modern environments, at times it's hard for our body to differentiate day from night. As with your morning routine, decide on a bedtime and wake up time and stick to it. Avoid electronics and screens during the sleep routine. The light that floods your eyes makes your body think it's daylight. Your brain suppresses the all-important melatonin production and works to stay awake. Take a warm bath or shower an hour before bed. As melatonin increases your core body temperature drops. Studies have shown that mimicking that nighttime drop in body temperature can trigger relaxation and tiredness. Use music, white or pink noise to help you sleep. Death metal probably isn't going to cut it but anything ambient or relaxing can improve sleep quality or help you fall asleep faster. Morning and evening routines are a huge part of any performance-focused individuals day. Make some subtle changes to both of them, stick with it and see the difference.
July 20, 2021