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You’ve Heard of Sleep Training for Babies. Have You Thought of Sleep Training Yourself?

Jessica Migala

December 21, 20235 minutes

As kids, we often have well-established bedtime routines. Maybe there was dinner, followed by a bath, a little snack, then teeth brushing, books, and bed. As an adult, though, things change. Some days, you close your laptop and then close your eyes. On other days, you may get lost scrolling social media, convinced that this next video will be even funnier than the last.

But it pays to develop regular bedtime routines because doing so can help prepare your body and mind for bed.

Why? “Our bodies thrive off of consistency and knowing what to expect next,” says Shantha Gowda, Psy.D., a board-certified behavioral sleep specialist. “I don’t know why we do so much as kids and stop doing it for ourselves,” she says. 

The struggle for sleep

Sleep doesn’t always just happen -- or happen exactly when we want it to -- and for some people it’s a struggle every night. Nearly 15% of adults report that they have trouble falling asleep most or all days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

The CDC recommends that adults get at least seven hours of sleep per night. You’ll notice that that’s different from the traditional eight hours per night we’ve been long taught. That’s because eight was just an average: Some people need more and some need less, says Gowda.

Although you should strive for the amount of sleep that leaves you feeling refreshed in the morning, alert during the day, and without having to rely on caffeine as a substantial crutch, you can also feel reassured that you may not have to pressure yourself to hit eight hours a night if you need more or less than that.

Instead, your focus should be on creating regular sleep habits, one of which centers around the time your alarm clock goes off. “Having a consistent wake-up time is probably one of the most powerful strategies for maintaining healthy sleep,” says Gowda.

A tip from Hatch: If you have a Hatch Restore device, you can use the sunrise alarm clock for a gentle start to your day. 

This will help regulate your circadian rhythm, or body clock so that when bedtime comes, you’re ready to snooze. But, you’ll also want to create before-bed habits that help you power down. 

The power of routine

Creating cues that signal bedtime is approaching is key. “Sleep is a rhythmic thing. That means any routine that starts ‘priming’ you for sleep can be helpful,” says Alex Dimitriu, MD, double board-certified in psychiatry and sleep medicine and founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine.

Setting up this routine is part of sleep hygiene, which are habits that make it easier for you to fall asleep and stay asleep, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

A tip from Hatch: You can set yourself a custom “cue to rest” on your Restore. Every night, you’ll get a gentle reminder with sounds and lights that it’s time to unwind

So, whether you consider yourself a problem sleeper or not, “having nighttime rituals is good for everybody,” says Winter. You can learn to create cues that tell your brain and body it’s time for bed and can absolutely help you get a better night of sleep, says Chris Winter, MD, sleep specialist and host of the Sleep Unplugged podcast. You may also benefit from additional help, such as cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), if you find that creating these cues isn’t enough.

How to cue yourself up for sleep

The biggest thing you can do to help cue yourself for sleep is adopt habits that slow your mind down, says Dr. Dimitriu. Those are quiet activities, such as reading a book, light stretching, taking a warm shower, applying lotion, or doing a skincare routine. 

Unfortunately, it’s not hopping on TikTok or binge-watching Netflix, all things that can be too activating or stressful. Dimitriu tells his patients whose goal it is to sleep better to turn off tech at ten. “Screens are just too interactive, and the occasional reward of finding something interesting can keep you looking, half asleep, for hours,” he says. 

Also, be honest about the reason why you might be scrolling every night. Dr. Dimitriu points out that for many of us, it’s often done out of fear of being alone with our thoughts, and so we seek out distractions. If you need a bit of resolve, take his words to heart: “You are too precious to waste every minute of your attention on someone else’s pictures, videos, life, and goals.”

A tip from Hatch: The Hatch Restore has a variety of warm, calming light tones for nighttime. Set up a nightly cue with Hatch+ that uses light and sound to remind you to start your Unwind routine.  There is also a new category of Unwind audio, Pillow Talk, designed to make that ready-for-bed time just a bit more entertaining. 

You can also use your environment to cue up your body, adds Dr. Winter. Starting a few hours before bed, he recommends beginning to change your inside temperature and lighting to mimic what’s going on outside, which tells your body that it’s nighttime and sleep should be coming. For example, set your thermostat to drop a couple of degrees every hour starting at 7 PM. A shower can also activate this cool-down response. During the shower, the warm water will heat up your body, and as it cools afterward, the natural drop in temperature can also help make you sleepy, he says. 

As for lighting, sleep-friendly lighting is dim, warm light, says Dr. Winter. That means starting to switch off some overhead lighting in the evening. (For example, read a book with a bedside lamp on, rather than all the lights on in your room. ) This is another reason to limit before-bed tech since the blue light emitted from these devices has been shown to suppress the production of melatonin, a sleep-producing hormone. 

Even if sleep feels out of your control now, know that you can learn to become a good sleeper by cueing up your body before bed. “These habits can give people a sense of empowerment that they’re doing something that improves the quality of their sleep,” says Dr. Winter. Sweet dreams.