If your bedtime routine is feeling a little tired, try a little structure to ease the day’s stress.
It’s no surprise that a good night’s rest can really make a difference. Getting enough sleep can improve your mood, increase productivity and even boost the immune system, but with a busy schedule and so much to do, bedtime routines can easily be determined by how much time or effort you have left in the day.
In fact, almost half of American adults get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep per night, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A bedtime routine can help invite more and deeper sleep by tapping down stress from the day and creating an environment that encourages rest — something we could all use a bit more of these days.
Creating the best bedtime routine for you can be a little daunting. If you’re reading this, it probably means you’ve had your own fair share of battles finding the right formula for unwinding for the day.
It can take some fine-tuning, but remember that less is more when it comes to bedtime routines. So much of the day is spent with our brains working at full throttle. The more you can slow down in the last few hours before you plan to sleep, the better.
1. Get in touch with calming habits
One of the best things you can do for your bedtime routine is to make sure it’s relaxing and that you’re able to execute it as often as possible. That means setting a consistent time to start your routine, whether it’s 30 minutes, an hour, or even longer, before your head hits the pillow.
Not only will it ensure you get enough sleep, but over time it will signal to your brain that you’re getting ready for sleep.
Relaxing activities that help you unwind will be doing double duty, making sure you’re in a calmer state before bed.
“Humans are creatures of habit. Like any other routine, bedtime routines establish habits that help our brains recognize when it’s time to sleep. By performing the same activities in the same order every night, your brain comes to see those activities as a precursor to sleep,” say researchers at the Sleep Foundation. “First, decide on your bed-and-wake-up times, and stick to them every day. Following a consistent sleep routine helps train your brain to naturally feel tired when it’s bedtime.”
2. Do a 10-minute timed tidying session
The day can take us in a thousand different directions, and that can mean it ends with a pile of unchosen outfits on your bedroom chair, mail haphazardly tossed on the kitchen table or dirty dishes in the sink.
Setting a timer for just 10 minutes can make a big difference. Anything less won’t feel worthwhile and anything more feels like too much of an undertaking before bed, but 10 minutes gives you just enough time to tidy all of the things that are most evident or pressing and help you sleep a little bit better knowing they’re done and won’t require any effort in the morning.
Some research even indicates that a clutter-free space aids sleep. Basically, if it’s taking up space in your home, it’s probably taking up space in your brain and the tidier it is, the more organized you’ll feel internally, too.
3. Stretch your body
Stretching is a deeply restorative and relaxing practice, which makes it ideal for just before bed. Adding some light yoga or stretching into your nightly routine is great for sleep, relieving stress and also your physical health, especially if you already have a fitness routine.
"It's a fantastic way to book time for yourself at the end of the day and be really honest with yourself and how you're feeling," Yoga Instructor Kimberly Washington tells Shape Magazine. "When you actually slow down and take time to really notice and connect, you're going to find that it's going to relieve a lot of anxiety and allow you to get rid of a lot of stress, just things that you're manifesting in your body that you may or may not be aware of."
A simple Google or Youtube search of bedtime stretching unveils thousands of routines fit for a great night’s rest. Remember that this time is for you and settle into some cat-cow poses before you drift off to dreamland.
4. Practice gratitude
There are lots of ways a gratitude practice can make your days better, but it’s also a good way to improve your sleep, according to researchers.
"A number of studies have shown that gratitude promotes physiologically restorative behaviors, chief of which is better sleep," Psychology Professor Robert Emmons wrote in Greater Good Magazine. "Grateful thinking and grateful moods help us sleep better and longer. In one study, people keeping a gratitude journal slept on average 30 minutes more per night, woke up feeling more refreshed, and had an easier time staying awake during the day compared to those who didn't practice gratitude."
The end of your day is a natural time to write in a gratitude journal, and you only need a few minutes to reap the benefits. In the morning, you’ll wake refreshed and ready to take on a new day.
5. Turn down the disruptions
How many times have you heard that you should avoid looking at your phone or other electronics before bed? Now, how often do you practice that?
We’re all a little guilty, because so much of our lives are spent on our phones and computers. Whether it’s sending a goodnight text or relaxing with a word game, I bet you probably don’t limit your phone usage all that much before bed.
Instead of aiming for perfect bedtime screen habits, aim for limiting disruptions that impact your sleep, like choosing to not read the news or binge a TV show right before you fall asleep.
These things can put our brains on high alert before bed — which does not bode well for a restful night.
The more you reduce your screen usage before bed, the easier it will get to limit it even more and get even better, more restful sleep.
You may want to avoid other non-electronic disruptions, such as drinking alcohol, caffeine or eating too heavy of a meal. They can also encourage an overactive brain too close to bedtime.
Instead, try activities that don’t interrupt too much with the relaxing vibe before bed, like making a cup of tea, getting through 10 pages in a good book, or committing to some self-care.