Monday, 5 March 2018

The importance of adopting an evening routine and how to get a better night's sleep

Fun fact about me: I have always been a night owl. Often staying awake until the early hours of the morning, binge watching box-sets and films, I would then head to bed and lay there scrolling through social media. It was all too easy to say "just one more episode" or "just 10 more minutes" but it was never the case. I used to be up until the early hours of the morning and always prided myself on my ability to exist on next to nothing sleep. But the facts were I struggled with the mornings. Both with actually getting my ass out of bed and productivity once live and kicking. It started affecting both my writing and mental health. Blog posts didn't flow right and often sat there abandoned and unpublished. The novel I started writing lost momentum. Over time things worsened in that I could no longer physically sleep. I had royally fucked my sleeping pattern and my body could no longer comprehend what sleep was or how to do it.

And the worst thing? I was more than aware of the facts. I was well aware of all the various studies preaching the importance of avoiding screens - be it TV, laptop or phone - right before bed. That it can over-stimulate the mind, exacerbate any pre-existing depression or anxiety that you may have and have links to weight gain. Not necessarily because you're snacking right before bed (although I did this too) but more because the extra hours you spend awake muddles your body clock and affects how your body metabolises food at the end of a day.


A month or so ago I made the conscious decision to shake up my lifestyle and get into an evening routine. It started off as a trial but the changes were so undeniable that I haven't looked back since. I am now sleeping again. My weight is the best it's been for longer than I care to remember. I am a lot more productive during the day and my writing mojo is back. My love for blogging has been reignited and rather than simply picking up where I last left my novel, I got a whole new wave of inspiration for another book which is in the works. Turns out sleep is magical stuff.

Whilst I can't promise that my evening routine is an instant fix for things that may keep your mind buzzing at night  - be it a broken heart or friend dramas - it's a start. I was pretty cynical about having a routine and how long I'd keep it up for, but it's amazing how a little change here and there can transform your life. So here's a little snippet of a typical evening for me these days:


Winding down for bed starts about 8.45 sort of time when I start boiling the kettle for tea. I used to drink green tea late at night which wasn't ideal because caffeine. Also can we talk about how annoying it is getting comfy in bed and finding that bit of the pillow that is perfectly moulded to your face and then realising you have the bladder the size of a grapefruit which is pressing into you all like I won't let you sleeeeep. Don't eat or drink anything too late at night. Now that I drink earlier I find that when I get into bed I stay there and generally my sleep is deeper and of a better quality. Favourites in our house are chamomile tea and peppermint tea. Although occasionally I will have a decaffeinated green tea. Or a glass of cold milk which is refreshing as.


I try and finish watching TV by about 9.30. Since mixing up my evening routine and no longer watching episodes right before bed, I find myself falling asleep a lot quicker with a better quality of sleep. Gone are the days where my mind was buzzing after watching a particularly thinky documentary or watching something that ended on a massive cliffhanger where I have to wait a whole week to find out wtf happened. I can still watch these things but by watching them earlier in the evening, they are not the last thing on my mind at night. It gives me time to talk it out on Twitter or with my partner and get it all out of my system.


To be honest, candles have always heavily featured in my life. Even before I had a proper evening routine. Sitting in a dark room with just the glow of candlelight sets in the sleepy process (well for me anyway!). There's something about a flickering flame which is both mesmerising and relaxing.


Before I head into the bathroom for night time skin care and brushing those fangs, I do mindless things like clearing up, sorting the cat and loading the dishwasher. Dirty dishes in the here and now have no place in tomorrowland and I like to start every day afresh with nothing hanging over me. By doing these things, I am closing another chapter and acknowledging the end of another day.


Something I'm hoping to add to my evening routine eventually is a spot of yoga / meditation, but I'm still on the lookout for the perfect yoga mat. I used to go to yoga classes regularly but a breast cancer scare a couple of years ago and a biopsy meant certain moves were causing me pain whilst I was healing and I sadly had to stop classes. I really want to get back into it again but will be starting out at home (hence the search for a yoga mat). I always found that yoga helped ease out all the stresses and strains of the day that manifest themselves into your muscles, making it a very attractive prospect.


Before I get into bed I spritz the pillows with a pillow spray to help aid relaxation and sleep. I know that lavender isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I use lavender based pillow sprays the most and find these extra relaxing. I do try and keep it seasonal though and am always on the lookout for new pillow sprays and room sprays. I adore ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon tones around the festive period and more floral notes once it hits spring. Around this sort of time I will ensure that the alarm on my phone is set for the next day, put my phone down, and strictly not pick it up again that day.


Reading is one of the fundamental parts of my new evening routine. I hadn't got stuck into good book for ages because I was so overtired with my old evening regime that I would constantly be falling asleep on my morning commute. Often waking up on some poor soul's shoulder. There is nothing quite like escaping into a good book.

Lately I've been reading Driven by Dane Cobain and your usual detective story this is not. Although there is a police presence, this book centres about Leipfold, a private investigator. Whilst the police have to abide by police protocol, Leipfold and his apprentice computer whizz kid Maile do not. Leipfold was quite a mysterious character with an apparently colourful past which I would have liked to know more about, but as this is the first book in the Leipfold series, this is maybe something that will be touched upon later. Maile was my favourite character and I could relate to her a lot.
"A car strikes in the middle of the night and a young actress lies dead in the road. The police force thinks it’s an accident, but Maile and Leipfold aren’t so sure. Putting their differences aside, and bought together by a shared love of crosswords and busting bad guys, Maile and Leipfold investigate. But not all is as it seems, as the soon find out to their peril…"
Currently writing my own thriller novel myself, this is one my favourite genres to read. What I really liked about Driven was that I could visualise the characters and that they were plausible. If I can't visualise or get a feel for a character, I literally can't finish a book. I also liked the fact that Driven got straight into the action with the murder and how the momentum kept up. I lose interest quickly in novels where you are strung along for the whole book trying to find out a key piece of information. Driven constantly drip feeds you with new information so although I thought I'd sussed out the murderer early on, I was wrong!

I'm going to keep this short and sweet as I don't want to give too much away, but if you want to try Driven for yourself, there are Kindle friendly versions and paperback copies available here. I love receiving and passing on book recommendations, and Driven is well worth a read. The book itself is light weight and a good size to pop in your bag for the daily commute or holiday (I'm not a fan of heavy hardbacks!). As odd as it sounds, it was probably one the nicest feeling books I've read in a long time, what with it's matt cover and the super soft pages.

By incorporating reading into my evening routine, it offers a degree of escapism and to focus on something away from work and social media dramas before bed. Because seeing bloggers slag other bloggers off on Twitter right before bed is not the one.


After I reach a good point in my book, the bookmark goes in (usually an old Topshop label because I'm fancy) and lights go out. The old me was guilty of messing about on my phone in bed but now I make more of an effort to spend quality time with M.

Do you have an evening routine or problems sleeping?

Driven was sent to me for review purposes but all opinions and love of detective stories all my own! Driven is available as a digital copy or paperback here. I opted to review the paperback because I love the smell of new books (or is that just me?)  

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