The Ultimate Bedtime Timeline

Sleep is a precious resource that sadly a lot of us are sacrificing on a nightly basis.  A survey we conducted found that half (51%) of Americans are sacrificing sleep to complete their daily tasks, while 1 in 5 are working more than 40 hours every week.

When people are already stressed out and overworked, it can be hard to switch off at night, leading to difficulty getting to sleep, and difficulty staying asleep.

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At Zoma Sleep, we want to help people get the best night’s sleep they possibly can. We reached out to a team of sleep and wellness experts, including our very own James Nguyen, and asked them to submit their top scientifically-backed hypotheses and recommendations for improving sleep quality.

We then compiled their tips into a handy guide to create the ‘ultimate bedtime routine’, as approved by the experts themselves. Check out all you need to know to get a great night of sleep with our timeline below. 

Ultimate Bedtime Timeline

4 hours before bed – Exercise

High intensity exercise shortly before bed can increase your heart rate and core body temperature. Although morning is generally regarded as the best time to exercise, exercising a few hours before bed can help improve sleep quality, while also giving your body time to readjust before bed.

3 hours before bed Eat dinner

Eating dinner three hours before bed will allow your stomach to properly digest food and focus on preparing for sleep. Eating too early before bed can mean going to bed hungry and if your body lacks the calories it needs to recharge, it will hold on to carbs and fats instead of using them as fuel.

If you do get hungry after dinner, small amounts of complex carbs, fruits, vegetables or a small amount of protein will satiate hunger pains and help you to fall asleep faster. 

Foods with good melatonin content such as walnuts, cherries, bananas, tomatoes and oats can also help regulate sleep-wake cycles. Foods such as milk, cheese, eggs, nuts and beans are rich in tryptophan.

2 hours before bed – Drink caffeine-free herbal tea or warm milk

A herbal tea such as chamomile contains Apigenin, a therapeutic antioxidant which can help reduce anxiety and initiate sleep. Milk, both dairy or soy, contains tryptophan, an amino acid which increases serotonin and melatonin levels that also helps to induce sleep. 

Avoid drinking normal green tea before bed as this still contains a small amount of caffeine and opt for decaffeinated green tea as it contains theanine which reduces stress-related hormones.

Drinking two hours before bed reduces the risk of going to bed with a full bladder, and should promote undisturbed sleep.

1.5 hours before bed – Take a bath or shower

Bathing in a lukewarm bath or shower before bed can aid sleep – as the body cools down after bathing, a signal will be sent to the brain that it is time to sleep, it also means going to bed clean.

1 hour before bed – Put down the devices & set alarm based on sleep cycle

Electronic screens emit blue light, which stimulates and alerts the brain, while preventing the release of melatonin. High smartphone use before bed has also been linked to impaired sleep, depression and anxiety.

When sleeping, people cycle through two types of sleep REM & non-REM. How refreshed you feel waking up depends on what point in the cycle you were at. Therefore, it’s a good idea to calculate your sleep cycle and work backwards to figure out the best time for you to go to sleep and wake up.

0.5 hours before bed – Light static stretching & get into bed

Five minutes of light stretching and slow deep breathing will help your mind and body relax before bed. 

It’s important not to get into bed too early, and only when ready to sleep. This ensures the brain associates the bed with sleeping only. 

Extra tips to consider for a good night’s sleep

The best temperature for sleeping is 65 degrees Fahrenheit

The best temperature for sleeping is between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit. Body temperature increases and decreases through a 24-hour period, when the body temperature drops this can result in tiredness and sleep.

Wear clean, soft, natural fabrics

Breathable, soft, natural fabrics such as cotton, silk and linen are ideal for bed, as they are comfortable and help regulate body temperature.

Avoid tight clothing that can cut off circulation. Also note that tags and buttons can cause skin irritation. Loose, one-piece clothing may be best. Rotate your pajamas/sleepwear regularly to keep them clean.

Get plenty of natural sunlight during the day

Natural sunlight or bright light during the day helps keep the body’s circadian rhythm in check and healthy.

Lay off the caffeine

It’s important to restrict your caffeine intake in the early afternoon or even starting at lunch time. Caffeine lingers in your system long after you stop feeling its effects, and if you’re consuming soda or other caffeinated drinks in the early evening it may keep you awake at night.

Don’t sleep in on days off

It’s tempting to take advantage of days off by sleeping in later. However, making a habit of this can throw off your sleep schedule during the work week, leaving you tired and unproductive.

Consistency is important when it comes to a healthy sleep schedule, so try to wake up at around the same time every day. If you can do so without an alarm, then you’re probably getting a good night’s rest.

Have the right bed setup

Sleeping on the wrong mattress or pillow can make it difficult to fall asleep or may cause soreness in the morning. The best mattresses for sleep ease pressure points while supporting the spine in its neutral alignment.

James Nguyen, of Zoma Sleep, said,

“It’s becoming easier than ever to get consumed by the daily grind, with our survey showing that more than half of working Americans sacrifice sleep to complete all of their daily tasks. When this is combined with increased use of devices before bed, it is clear to see that natural sleep cycles for many may be under strain at the moment.

“We are hoping that Zoma’s recommended bedtime routine can help people re-prioritize sleep, and take the necessary steps needed to get their natural sleep cycle back in check. Which will not only mean they get to enjoy a better night’s sleep, but also that they will be able to wake up refreshed and find themselves engaged with daily life.”

This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.

James Nguyen, Sleep Expert James Nguyen

James Nguyen is Zoma's resident sleep expert and staff writer. James enjoys learning about the newest technologies in the mattress industry and doing deep dives into the science of sleep. He's tried nearly every gadget and gizmo in an effort to determine which sleep-promoting accessories can truly enhance your shut-eye. Outside of work, James takes his dedication to get healthy sleep seriously, and has even declared himself an "expert napper." James' research has been featured on Thrive Global and other media.

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