Build your Buffer Zone

Dr. Chris Carruthers
4 min readOct 6, 2016

Want to take your energy up another level? We all do, I know. Silly question. But I ask it because I think many of us do not realize how energy-deprived we are.

The best way to boost long-term, balanced energy is to improve your sleep.

So let’s talk about one of the biggest mistakes busy, fatigued people make. They go 100 mph all day long and then collapse into bed and expect to nod off quickly. It won’t happen.

You need to prepare for sleep, to gently move your body and mind toward a relaxed, calm state.

Are you this person, as the evening progresses?

  • You are still feeling the stresses of the day (that troublesome conversation with a colleague, that conflict with the kids, the guilt about what you didn’t accomplish, the anxiety about tomorrow….)
  • You want to do a last check of your email, texts, Facebook, Twitter or other social media accounts just before you go to bed.
  • You delay going to bed because you have STUFF to do, and you resent that your body and brain are demanding that you sleep.
  • You feel tense or irritated in your bedroom (too much clutter, light, or noise).
  • Once in bed, you start making your “TO DO” list for the next day.

Well, it’s time to think differently about your transition to sleep time.

You need to create a BUFFER ZONE.

A shifting, winding-down routine. A conscious, habitual plan for the late evening that will move you slowly but surely away from your active, engaged, flight-and-flight day, toward your calm rest-and-repair state of sleep. You decrease your alertness, you wind down your day, and you prepare to replenish your body through sleep.

Most people need between 30 and 60 minutes to do this.

Here are some ideas to implement one hour before bedtime:

  • Turn down all ambient lights to signal your brain that bedtime is approaching and that soon you will be in full darkness.
  • Do some yoga or gentle stretching.
  • Play music, or listen to music or a podcast.
  • Prepare your bedroom by drawing the drapes, turning on a dim light, turning down your covers, plumping your pillows, and watering your bedside plant (every bedroom needs a live plant).
  • Power down all electronics, and keep them out of your bedroom (computer, tablet, television, phone). If this idea makes you anxious, know that this addiction is a big factor in your sleep problems, and for now, find another distraction to replace it.
  • Have a long hot shower or bath with Epsom salts.
  • Read in dim light.
  • Have some comforting decaffeinated tea (I add ice to mine.)
  • Write in your journal. Review what make you feel great that day.
  • Meditate.
  • Gaze at the stars!

Start embedding your individual ritual into daily practice. Go through the same motions each night.

And protect your buffer zone. Help your family, friends, and colleagues do the same.

Know that this stage of your day is where you might be actually MORE productive than the rest of the charged-up day. You have made space for reflection, appreciation, and the random collision of ideas!

We are creatures of routine, and rituals can be a very enriching part of our day. Make your transition to sleep something that you look forward to each day, and let me know how it helps you.

Please share this information with sleepy people, and Sleep Well Tonight.

For Chris’ Top 10 Quick Tips to Sleep Well Tonight, click here, and for a 31 page review of the 4 Sleep Fundamentals, click here.

Dr. Chris Carruthers is a sleep health champion providing individuals with the information and skills they need to take smart action to overcome insomnia and conquer fatigue. For her curated list of practical sleep resources, click here.

With a lifetime career in healthcare and recovered after 7.5 years of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia, Chris shares her sleep strategies through speaking, coaching and her signature program, The Sleep Well Tonight Method.