Did you know that bedtime routines aren’t just for kids? Whether you’re struggling to fall asleep, stay asleep, or could simply use a bit of daily comfort, a bedtime routine can help you finish the day on a calmer, softer note. The collected behaviors we engage in that facilitate sleep are known as sleep hygiene. When combined, these seemingly simple acts of self-care can help us sleep better, which in turn supports our physical and mental health.
The key to crafting a calming and effective bedtime routine is to combine strategic moves with comforting rituals. Here are our best tips to help you wind down from a busy day and peacefully drift off to sleep.
Commit to a regular bedtime routine
In order to make a change, it helps to have a plan and stick to it for a while, so you can establish the new routine and gauge what’s working and what’s not. According to the American Heart Association, there are a few strategic things you can do to instill regular sleep hygiene habits.
First, set an alarm, but not only to wake up in the morning. By setting a reminder to go to bed, you’ll be more likely to start engaging in calming and restful activities instead of working or binge-watching TV in ways that cut into the time your brain needs to wind down from your day.
It’s also a good idea to go to bed and wake up at the same times each day. According to Web MD, while individual “night owl” and “early bird” variations exist, most people are wired to sleep when it’s dark and feel alert when it’s light. These biological clocks are known as circadian rhythms. By creating a sleep schedule, implementing a regular routine becomes easier and bolsters your chances of getting enough quality rest.
Next, it’s often a good idea to stop eating and drinking a couple of hours before bedtime. A light snack or chamomile tea are fine; just be sure that anything you eat or drink before going to sleep won’t interfere with your digestion or prompt extra nocturnal trips to the bathroom, which can interrupt deep sleep when you most need it.
Lastly, some experts advise not getting into bed until it’s time to go to bed. The thinking is that by reserving your bed for sleep instead of crafts, or TV watching, or gaming, your brain will be more inclined to oblige when you get into bed. For example, if you enjoy reading or watching TV before bed, try doing so in another room, then retire to the bedroom to sleep. This tip may not work for everyone, but it’s worth experimenting with if you struggle to drift off at bedtime.
Set the Stage for Deep Sleep With Comforting Bedtime Rituals
Once you’ve committed to and set up a regular bedtime routine, it’s time to add some comfort to help you transition from waking to sleeping.
According to Good Housekeeping, taking a warm (not hot) bath or shower can prime your body for deep sleep. The warm water will cause your body temperature to drop a couple of hours later, which is good for sleep. Applying body lotion and putting on comfy PJs can add some relaxing self-care elements to this ritual.
Next, there are many pre-bedtime transitional activities you can choose from, including:
- Planning for the next day
- Doing yoga or gentle stretching
- Watching TV
Whatever feels soothing and relaxing to you should work, so long as you keep it low-key and in dimmer lighting, to help cue your body for darkness, and therefore sleep. A study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology compared the bedtime rituals of journaling to jotting down a short to-do list. The researchers found that subjects who wrote a to-do list before bed helped reduce bedtime worry more than those who simply wrote about their day. The reduced levels of worry helped the to-do list writers to fall asleep faster.
At your chosen regular bedtime, you might choose to do a guided meditation or listen to soothing music or white noise when you get into bed. Many apps and white noise machines have timers you can set to turn off automatically, to allow you to fall asleep without worrying about turning off a device.
Experiment Until You Find the Right Bedtime Routine
If you try some or all of these ideas and still find yourself struggling to fall asleep on occasion, try getting out of bed and doing some of them again, like reading or meditation. Remember to keep these activities low-key, calming, and without bright lights, and then return to bed when you start to feel drowsy. You can also check out our seven tips to fall asleep fast.
If you’ve tried everything and are chronically unable to either fall or stay asleep, see your healthcare provider to rule out any medical reasons that could affect your ability to sleep.