Routines — what are they? Are they different from habits?
A routine is a set practice of activities or habits performed mechanically or without a lot of thought to perform.
A habit is a recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behaviour that is acquired through frequent repetition.
So no, routine and habit are not the same thing. In my books, habits create a routine. This month I’ll be looking more closely at what is an evening routine.
With repetition, your brain will be less inclined to become overburdened with decision fatigue. Research supports that your brain is capable of making a set number of decisions each day. So, the fewer decisions you have to make about what you’re doing or eating, the more room there is for your brain to make other, oftentimes more important, decisions. You want your habits to become autopilot decisions and a part of your daily rhythm. Just do; no conscious thought required.
Two important routines suggested to improve your overall wellbeing and living a life well-lived are your morning and evening routines. By establishing evening routines, your mornings start off well and set you up for a great day. So I share the evening routine that has improved my sleep, and what my current evening routine involves. Next month, I will invite you into my current morning practice that has invigorated me to be far more productive than I was even a month or two ago.
Quotable: “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.” ~ Mike Murdock
The first thing I did to improve my sleep was to go to bed at the same time every day of the week — that’s right, even on weekends. This was a hard thing for me. Evenings were my quiet “me” time — the kids were in bed, and the house was quiet and no one needed me. So of course, I stayed up way too late.
Subsequently, this action of going to bed at a consistent time meant planning when to hit the hay. At that time, I didn’t know how many hours of sleep worked best for me, because I was very sleep-deprived. I decided to start with eight hours to reverse-plan when to go to bed, which translated into going to bed (that meant lights out and no devices) at 11 pm — I wanted to get up before 8 and have time to have a relaxed start to my day. Okay, my bedtime was set and my alarm on for the morning wake-up call. But I further refined my sleep and wake times based on other sleep information I was discovering.
I was first introduced to sleep cycles by the sleep doctor, Dr Michael Breus, in his book, The Power of When.  Sleep cycles usually last 90 minutes and repeat four to six times per night. Over time, it has become apparent that I need 7 1/2 hours of sleep, which translates into five sleep cycles for me. Shawn Stevenson highly recommends that you set “your alarm goes off in accordance with these sleep cycles instead of the standard ‘8 hours of sleep.'”  Since I’ve been waking at the end of a sleep cycle and before another one begins, I rarely wake up groggy or tired. What an ah-ha moment for me — it revolutionized when I went to bed and when I get up.
My Current Nighttime Routine
My current bedtime routine is a series of habits that I’ve built over the several years. Now I want to remind you that your season of life will influence your nightly routine. So cut yourself some grace, and build your unique routine one habit at a time. Add a new habit as you feel ready. I started simply by going to bed at a consistent time. Then I added the hot bath and book. A game-changer for me was the sleep mask — I am very light-sensitive, so the darkness allows me to sleep more deeply.
- Put blue-blocking glasses on when I watch tv or read from an electronic device in the evening
- Take a few minutes to jot down 3 blessings from the day in my gratitude journal
- Use The Morning Sidekick Journal to plan my morning routine
- Put my phone to recharge in the kitchen
- Turn off the router for the night
- Run a hot Epsom salt bubble bath and read a fiction book
- Go to bed and continue reading, if I am not falling asleep yet — usually doesn’t take long
- Put on my sleep mask
- Lights out
Sleep Habits to Create Your Own Bedtime Routine – Choose One or Two to Start
- Use blue-light blockers in the evening  — that means use them with any screen time
- Journal 3 things you are grateful for from your day — “The act of writing will help to solidify the feeling of gratitude in your brain and can help you feel happier almost instantly.”  Besides the added benefit creating “a state of relaxation, which can help you fall asleep and enjoy restful sleep.” 
- Try to have no electronic devices in your bedroom — use airplane mode if you are using your phone for an alarm clock and if you must read on a Kindle or iPad, use the dark/night mode to eliminate the blue light
- Shut down technology 90 minutes before bedtime 
- Go to bed at a consistent time, weekdays and weekends
- Know your best amount of sleep — use the sleep cycle to calculate your best wake time based on your bedtime
- Hit the hay before 11 PM — why? Your body needs time to recharge and recover, and certain organs do so at certain times. Physical repair occurs around 10 PM-2 AM, and psychological repair around 2-6 AM.
- Take a hot bath with Epsom salts to relax and get some extra magnesium
- Read a book — like a real physical book with a small book light
- Use a sleep mask or make your room completely dark 
- Turn on the lights or open your blinds as soon as you wake up
- Ensure adequate exposure to daylight by getting outside during the day
Check out some other posts on sleep found on Watt Works Nutrition:
- Sleep Matters
- Sleep Tip #1 – No Caffeine After 3PM
- Sleep Tip #2 – Create a Sleep Routine
- Sleep Tip #3 – Turn Off Your Phone
- Sleep Tip #4 – Cool Room, Please
- Sleep Tip #5 – No Light
 Michael J. Breus, PhD, The Power of When, (New York: Little, Brown & Company, 2016)
 Shawn Stevenson, Sleep Smarter, (New York: Rodale Wellness, 2016) 49.
 Michael J. Breus, PhD, “The latest on blue light and sleep,” TheSleepDoctor.com, November 6, 2017
,  “7 Ways to Remain Grateful All Year Long,” AmenClinics.com, November 17, 2017.
 Stevenson, 26.
 “8 Sleep Mask Benefits: Black It All Out For Blissfully Deep Slumber,” thegoodbody.com, April 17, 2019.