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What is the ‘3-2-1’ bedtime routine and how can it help you achieve a better night’s sleep?

Posted on October 13th, 2022

Many people struggle to fall asleep each night. They lie awake tossing and turning, unable to relax and quiet their thoughts long enough to drift to sleep. 

If this sounds like you, you may want to try a new “sleep hack” created by Dr. Karan Rajan, a National Health Service (NHS) surgeon and clinical lecturer at the Imperial College London and the University of Sutherland. 

He calls it the ‘3-2-1’ bedtime routine. 

How the ‘3-2-1’ bedtime routine can help you have the perfect night’s sleep

It’s no secret that a good night’s sleep is essential for your health and well-being. But what many people don’t realize is that a bedtime routine can be just as important as the actual act of sleeping.

The “3-2-1” bedtime routine is a simple, yet effective way to wind down before sleep and ensure you get the rest you need.

Here’s how it works:

Three hours before bed

Don’t consume any big meals or alcohol. Eating a big meal too close to bedtime increases your risk of acid reflux and indigestion, which can negatively impact your sleep quality. And drinking alcohol too close to bedtime can prevent you from having rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. 

Two hours before bed

Put down your work and start winding down. Your mind needs to relax to fall asleep. Stop working two hours before you want to go to bed to give your brain a chance to calm itself.  

One hour before bed

Stop looking at all electronic screens, including your phone and television. This means no late-night Netflix binge-watching or scrolling through Instagram. The light from screens can interfere with your body’s natural production of melatonin, the hormone that makes you feel sleepy. So avoid using electronics for at least an hour before bedtime.

Instead, use this time to do something calming, like reading or taking a bath. A relaxation routine helps your mind and body transition into sleep mode.

The benefits of having a bedtime routine

A good bedtime routine can help you fall asleep faster, get more restful sleep, and wake up feeling refreshed and energized. It can also help you manage stress and anxiety, and improve your mood. Having a good bedtime routine is one of the simplest and most effective ways to improve your health and well-being.

You can also do plenty of things to enhance the  ‘3-2-1’ bedtime routine so you get the best night’s rest possible. 

Optimizing the ‘3-2-1’ bedtime routine…

1. Establish a regular bedtime and stick to it as much as possible. Your body thrives on routine, and a regular bedtime will help regulate your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.

2. Create a relaxing environment in your bedroom. Make sure the temperature is comfortable, the lighting is dim, and the noise level is low. Consider using a white noise machine to block out any unwanted noise.

3. Do something relaxing before bed. This could include reading, taking a bath, or writing in a journal. Find something that helps you wind down and relax.

4. Practice deep breathing exercises. Deep breathing can help relax the body and mind and prepare you for sleep.

5. Get up and move around. A little bit of light physical activity during the day can improve sleep later on. Taking a short walk, stretching, or doing some gentle yoga can all be helpful.

6. Besides avoiding alcohol before bed, you should also avoid sugar and caffeine, both of which can make it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. 

7. Don’t use your bed for anything other than sleep.  Using your bed for activities like watching television or working on the computer can make it harder to fall asleep at bedtime. 

Creating a bedtime routine can be a simple and effective way to improve your sleep. By finding what works for you and sticking with it, you can enjoy the many benefits that a good night’s sleep has to offer.

Dr. Meghna Dassani has practiced dentistry for over two decades and is passionate about the role dentists play in whole-body health. You can learn more at her website:

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