Why You Need Downtime and 6 Ways to Get It


A guest post by Maria Rainier

If you’re anything like me, you’re a multitasker and an all-round busybody from the time you wake up to the post-midnight hour you finally call it quits.  You’ve often heard that we need downtime at the end of the day, but since you always feel like you could accomplish more with this supposed downtime, why not do so?

According to sleep experts, this is probably why I wake up several times a night from bizarre dreams.  (Seriously, I still need a nightlight.)


Yes, You Need to Sleep

Carl E. Hunt, M.D. (director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research in Bethesda, MD), says that with sensory overload comes unrest, even when you’re supposed to be resting.  You need to “relax and to slow down from the pace of daily activities.”  He adds, “There’s no substitute for getting a good night’s sleep on a consistent basis.”


No, You Don’t Need That

Well, how about a small glass of wine before bedtime?   Author of The Body Clock Guide to Better Health, Michael Smolensky, Ph.D., says nope.  Even if alcohol initially makes your eyelids heavy, “it depresses some of the neurological functions that help maintain sleep.”

Okay, well how about Mama’s recipe: warm milk?

Strike two.  There’s not enough tryptophan (the sleep-inducing amino acid) in just one cup of it.  Still, a small bedtime snack with carbohydrates helps release serotonin (the happy hormone).  You can’t go to bed angry.

So, busy little bee, give the wings a rest for at least a couple hours at the end of the day—before midnight.


6 Ways to Wind Down

  • Exercise, but not within three hours of sleep.  Try an evening walk with the dog or some yoga.  The reason you get tired hours after exercising and the initial energy rush is because your body temperature—which was up during your workout—is going down.  This is the perfect time to snooze for the night.

  • Listen to some slow, soft, or even instrumental music before bed.  You can even tune in during a bath (sigh) or while you’re browsing the Internet.

  • Read.  It’s a classic rule that we’ve all heard, but that’s because it works.  Even if what you’re reading is interesting, you eventually grow tired of holding up a book and welcome sleep.  If you’re not into novels, go for a magazine or even comic books.  Fiction, fantasy, and comic books are actually a great alternative to serious bedtime topics.  Hey, you work hard in the daytime and deal with real, serious things like money, kids, education, taxes, budgets, and the like.  No need to read the heavy stuff at night.

  • Unless you’re watching low-impact TV, turn it off.  No bright colors, fast cutaways, or screen-wide explosions.  People make these movies and shows to keep you watching so they’ll make money.  Why would you watch them when you’re trying to get ready to go to sleep? 

  • Dim the lights.  The body can’t help it.  It wants to sleep.  (Likewise, open the curtains in the morning to get up and at it with renewed vigor.)

  • Write.  No, you don’t have to have a journal, although this is a good idea, too.  At the minimum, write down your goals for the next day in a notebook before you go to bed.  You’ll mull it over in your head before sleeping and you’ll have a reason to wake up to your alarm clock instead of hitting snooze 30 times.



    About the author: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education where she writes about education, online degrees, and what it takes to succeed as a student taking online programs remotely from home. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.


    image by Minugia