Getting enough sleep every night is important to human health. What’s one of the best ways to get a good night’s sleep? To start incorporating healthy bedtime routines or rituals into your evening well before you ever actually climb into bed and try to drift off to dreamland.
Bedtime rituals that can help you get better sleep
Good bedtime habits can help you drift off to sleep more easily, get more restful sleep overnight, and wake up feeling well-rested. Sounds really lovely, right? So read on to learn about a few things you can try to move that much closer to great sleep.
Babies benefit from regular bedtime routines that help them know what to expect next on the way to bed – and grown-ups can also benefit from a routine that helps the mind and body understand that, hey, it’s time to go to sleep. There are a number of ways you can wind down, and as long as you focus on incorporating things that are relaxing for you, you’ll be on your way to getting into a great routine. You may want to enjoy a warm cup of tea, take a hot bath or shower, play a favorite song while brushing your teeth and washing your face, listen to a favorite album while you get into pajamas, or read a book. These little routines can guide you very clearly toward dreamland.
Keep wake and sleep times regular
Life can sometimes get in the way of the best intentions, but if you can make a habit of waking up and going to bed at the same time every day (and this includes keeping these times regular on the weekend and avoiding late naps that might throw off your bedtime) your body may be able to get back into a healthier sleep rhythm.
Shut off screens early
Now we know that you’re reading this on a screen right now, but hopefully not in bed. If so, we won’t tell, but… screen time before bedtime is really a big no-no. The blue light that your screen emits and the way that our smart devices can keep us engaged both keep the brain going when it should be slowing. The way we use our smart phones can make this a really hard habit to break, but this one small change can have an enormous impact. To break the habit and start a healthier one, try to get in the habit of switching your phone into a nighttime setting that will shut off the short-wavelength blue light before bed, or shutting it off before climbing into bed, or keeping it out of the bedroom entirely. Try to incorporate this into other parts of your bedtime routine to really make the habit stick, like having your phone set up to automatically switch into nighttime mode a few hours before bed or plugging it in to charge for the night outside your bedroom on your way to bed.
Limit caffeine, alcohol, and big meals before bed
A small nighttime snack won’t hurt, but a heavy meal or a lot of booze or caffeine can keep you up when you should be sleeping.
Breathe, stretch, or gently move your body
You shouldn’t do a serious workout in the hours right before bed – after all, exercise can typically can leave you feeling pretty energized – but you may want to take some deep breaths, stretch, or do some gentle yoga to release any tension in your body to help you melt into bed.
Set some boundaries
Bedtime boundaries that is. It can be really meaningful to use your bedroom for only the important stuff – meaning just sleep and sex. If you regularly work on your laptop in bed, binge watch TV, or scroll and scroll and scroll social media, you’ll start to diminish the association that bedroom = sleep. Cut out the extra stuff, and you’ll start to have a better sense that going to your bedroom means that you’ll be doing only one of two things there.
Reflect on the day behind you and consider the day ahead
Sometimes it’s at the very worst times that to-dos and worries and other messy thoughts can flood into your head. For many of us, it’s bedtime when that happens, and that doesn’t help anyone coast into dreamland with ease. Something that can be helpful to get these thoughts out of your head and help ease your mind is to put those thoughts on paper. You might want to work through anything messy that’s on your mind or even make a to-do list for the next day. This can help you feel like the thoughts are somewhere outside of your racing mind, so you don’t need to worry over them again – which means more headspace to just focus on those zzzs.
Stretch and breathe
Even if you sit at a desk for most of the day, you still put your body through a lot, and you can carry a lot of tension in your body. Stretching before you climb into bed can help relax parts of your body that may get very tense – including your shoulders, neck, and back. Add in some deep breathing, and you’ll really wind down.
Relax and center your mind
Your day can take a lot out of not only your body, but also your mind. It can be really helpful to meditate, write in a journal before bed, or even just stare off into space. Take some time to really slow down and center.
Be consistent with your bedtime rituals and routines
The only way to make something a habit is to do that thing day in and day out, and that can sometimes be intimidating if you’re trying to make a major change. But the good news is that you can take baby steps and begin to incorporate some of these ideas into your life in a way that makes sense for you. Every little bit can help, and all of them will help you move toward better sleep.
Keep in mind that as much as these ideas can help you get better sleep, bedtime shouldn’t just feel like a problem to hack. Add in habits that will help you create rituals and routines that actually feel enjoyable for you. You should, over time, look forward to bedtime as an experience that’s, yes, relaxing, but also pleasant, too.
Mayo Clinic Staff. “Insomnia.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, October 15 2016. Retrieved June 11 2018. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355167.
“Blue light has a dark side.” Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard University, December 30 2017. Retrieved June 11 2018. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side.
“How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?” National Sleep Foundation. National Sleep Foundation. Retrieved February 11 2019. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/excessive-sleepiness/support/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need
“Twelve Simple Tips to Improve Your Sleep.” Healthy Sleep. Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, December 18 2007. Retrieved February 11 2019. http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/getting/overcoming/tips.