Sleep is an essential component of our well-being. It’s considered one of the three pillars of health, alongside nutrition and exercise. Adults are encouraged to get at least seven hours of sleep per night for optimal health, according to Start Sleeping. However, many people aren’t meeting this threshold.
Sometimes work, family life, and sleep disorders prevent us from sleeping well, and it’s impacting our daily lives.
We’ve compiled a list of easy-to-implement nighttime routines that promote better sleeping habits.
Turn Off Your Phone
Many of us rely on our phones. We use them for work, communication, and entertainment. We might even use them to wind down at the end of a long day. Yet research demonstrates that the blue light from our phones and other devices disrupts our circadian rhythms, making it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Experts suggest turning your phone to airplane mode or “Do Not Disturb” and avoiding using it for at least an hour before you go to sleep.
“Set your alarm for the morning, and then place your phone somewhere you’re not tempted to look at it,” says Jordan Duran, Founder and Designer at 6 Ice. “Even though it’s easy to scroll through social media, watch TV, or even try to get some work done, we’re setting ourselves up for poor sleep and less productivity the next day. Instead of using our devices to wind down, we can opt for other calming activities that don’t disrupt sleep patterns.”
Reading and journaling are excellent alternatives to using screens as part of our nightly routines.
Journal or Read
If you choose to read before bed, you have many options to select. You might choose more educational books such as histories, self-help guides, or language learning textbooks. Or, you might lean toward fiction or creative nonfiction to become immersed in characters’ stories.
Chris Vaughn, CEO of Emjay, states, “Reading can have an escapist effect, much like watching film or television, without the negative impacts on sleep. By the end of the day, we often want to unwind and be entertained, which is why shows and movies are such popular choices. They’re easy to access, and it takes little effort to enjoy them. However, I think that if we find ourselves watching them every night just before going to sleep, we’re doing ourselves a disservice. While it might help us feel more tired and release some of the remaining bits of energy from the day, it will keep us from optimal rest. I’d recommend turning the screen off a couple of hours before bed and picking up a book to guide you into sleep.”
Journaling is another option to include in your nighttime routine.
“I always enjoy ending the day with self-reflection,” says Brandon Lurie, Marketing Director at Y Meadows. “You can journal anything you’d like, in any format that you want. For example, you might be a list person. You can bullet point things that happened throughout the day, things you’re grateful for, or things you plan to do the next day. You can even flush out the lingering thoughts you’ve been holding onto throughout the day. If you prefer a more creative outlet, you can write stories or poems. There’s no right or wrong way to journal, and it’s a great opportunity to close the day and prepare for the next one.”
The Balanced CEO also suggests working on a craft or practicing an instrument. Find the activity that works best for you and make it part of your nightly routine.
Meditate and Stretch
Relaxing yoga routines and regular meditation are popular and effective ways to improve sleep.
According to the Sleep Foundation, “A daily yoga routine has been shown to improve sleep quality, and a few simple stretches or massages before bed can prevent cramping.”
Yoga routines can include a slow flow such as Hatha, stretching, and breathing exercises. You might use yoga to calm the physical body and meditation to calm the mental body before sleep.
Lillie Sun, Growth Manager at Three Ships Beauty, says, “Daily meditation helps us become more mindful during the day, and it also promotes better sleeping habits. Racing minds keep a lot of us from falling asleep. We can’t seem to turn off the steady stream of thoughts. These thoughts may be harmless, or they may be anxiety-driven. Either way, our minds are telling our bodies not to fall asleep. When you implement regular meditation before bed, whether it’s a guided meditation or a personal practice, you train the brain to let thoughts come and go without holding them. You can notice your thoughts without following them down the rabbit hole. Eventually, our minds become quiet faster, and we’re able to fall asleep more readily.”
If you’re looking for some guided meditation options, there are apps such as Headspace in which you can queue specific mindful meditations.
Listen to Music
Some of us might prefer silence when going to bed, but for many, noise is relaxing and helps them fall asleep. The Sleep Foundation claims that 62% of people listen to music when trying to sleep, and others use white noise (a constant frequency) or pink noise (like the sound of rain or waves).
Music, white noise, and pink noise are options for those who want to implement audio into their relaxing night routine.
“If music helps you fall asleep, make a playlist,” says Juan Pablo Cappello, Co-Founder and CEO of Nue Life. “You might find a Spotify or Apple Music playlist made specifically for sleep that works. Or, you can notice what genres and songs you find relaxing and create your own. The playlist can contain whatever you’d like, as long as the songs or noises you include aren’t activating. You want something that is comforting and doesn’t grab your attention enough to make you stay awake to listen to it.”
Aside from the activities we do, there’s another important part of our nightly routines, and it has to do with our diets.
First, don’t fret. You don’t have to give up the beloved late-night snack. However, research shows that it’s best to consume light snacks instead of large meals closer to bedtime.
Too much food or drink before bed can lead to indigestion and frequent bathroom trips, but trying to go to bed on an empty stomach can make it difficult to fall asleep.
Tavis Lochhead, Co-Founder of Reviewr.ai, states, “When choosing a nighttime snack, it’s best to opt for something that promotes gut health and melatonin production. You want to feel comfortable before going to sleep, which is hard to do when you’re full or when your stomach’s growling. It sounds simple, but it has profound effects on your sleep. Eat until you’re satisfied, and go to the bathroom before laying down.”
Our diet includes what we drink, and there’s a potentially unhealthy nighttime habit associated with one of our favorite refreshments.
Avoid the Cup of Joe
For those of us who love the taste of coffee, or find ourselves needing to stay up late to finish a project, it’s tempting to drink coffee or energy drinks in the late afternoon or evening. Unfortunately, high doses of caffeine will prevent the body and mind from relaxing and keep us awake longer than we’d like. Additionally, the acidity in coffee can negatively impact digestion.
“Find your favorite caffeine-free alternative and use it to wind down rather than energize,” says Hector Gutierrez, CEO of JOI. “If you love the taste of coffee, find your favorite decaf option, one that doesn’t upset your stomach. If you prefer tea, opt for something like chamomile or lavender that’s naturally caffeine-free. These are excellent calming options. If you need an energy boost later in the day, explore dark chocolate and cacao alternatives in small amounts.”
Calming routines that help us fall asleep are essential. Other activities go beyond relaxing our bodies and minds.
Prepare for the Next Day
While this one doesn’t sound the most relaxing, prepping for the next day can help you rest easy knowing you have less to do in the morning.
“Waking up to a clean space is infinitely more calming than waking up to clutter,” states Lindsay McCormick, Founder and CEO of Bite. “Simple cleaning tasks can be relaxing in themselves during your night routine, and they set you up to feel more productive in the morning. It takes things off your next day’s to-do list and keeps you from feeling overwhelmed. For example, you might set out your outfit for the next day before you go to sleep. Include any changes of clothes you’ll need throughout the day and have them packed. It’s one less thing to worry about and spend time on when starting your day.”
In addition to preparing your physical space, you can create a plan of action for the next day.
Dr. Payel Gupta, CMO & Co-Founder of Cleared, suggests, “Before going to bed, make a list of what you will do tomorrow. If we’re in the habit of overthinking and stressing about what we need to get done, this doesn’t sound helpful. But if we do it correctly, the act of writing down our to-do’s can relieve our minds of stress. Instead of writing down everything you want to get done, think about the essential things. Prioritize. You’ll find very few items on your long to-do list that need to get done the next day. Choose and write down your top priorities. These will be your goals for the next day. If you do this every night, you will prepare yourself for the day ahead. You don’t have to worry about the entire week, month, or year.”
“To the best of your ability, have set bedtimes and wake-up times,” says Mark Sider, CEO and Co-Founder of Greater Than. “The more regular your sleep, the more your body becomes accustomed to it, and you’ll have an easier time falling asleep.”
Establish a bedtime routine that works for you. Decide when you’ll start your routine. This will help you put away the electronics and finish work with enough time to engage in relaxing activities before you go to sleep.
We hope this list of healthy habits has inspired you to implement some into your nightly routine. Rest well.