THE BOTTOM LINE:
Use an alarm to kick off your power-down hour
Try the 20/20/20 method to ready your mind and body for sleep
Level-up your routine with a sleep sanctuary and quick wins
Do you ever find yourself lying in bed feeling alert when you try to sleep? Does your mind conjure up an endless list of thoughts and worries whenever your head hits the pillow? You may be missing a bedtime routine.
Although a bedtime routine for adults may look different than those of children, they have the same sleep-inducing benefits. You may not have anyone to tuck you in and read you a bedtime story, but there are numerous ways to develop a comforting and relaxing routine that acts as an external cue telling your brain it’s time for sleep.
Follow these tips designed to help you power down for sleep, quiet your mind, and maintain a healthy sleep pattern.
TIPS TO BUILD A BEDTIME ROUTINE
1. SET AN ALARM
Unlike a morning alarm that alerts you to exit dreamland, a nighttime alarm acts as a cue that it’s time to begin your nightly wind down. Try setting it an hour or so before your desired bedtime to give yourself plenty of room to fit in your bedtime routine. A nightly alarm helps you stay on schedule and better regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Once the alarm for bed goes off, this is your designated wind-down time, which means no more surfing the web, answering emails, or engaging in stimulating content.
2. CREATE A POWER DOWN HOUR
One of the most common sleep disturbances is racing thoughts. These generally occur because we haven’t given ourselves enough time to decompress from a busy day.
Lying in bed with racing thoughts can also lead to your brain-associated bedtime with rumination time, so it’s essential to learn how to mentally decompress before your head hits the pillow. You can implement mental decompression exercises at the beginning of your sleep routine to help kick off your wind down. Try these exercises that are scientifically proven to help alleviate mental stress:
Journal: Try writing out any thoughts about the day or lingering tasks. If you have any “to-do” items that need your attention, write down an action plan next to them. This will give your brain closure on the item as it’s now “checked-off” for the night. For looming duties where you can’t yet devise an action plan, reassure yourself that you can deal with them in the morning.
If lists aren’t your thing, you can try writing free-association style where you let your brain be your guide. Set a time for 5 minutes and write down whatever comes to mind. This will act as a healthy outlet where your brain can numb its thoughts and begin to wind down for the evening. Learn more about the benefits of journaling for better sleep.
Relaxation Routine: You can use light physical activity as an effective way to mentally decompress. Gentle stretching, yoga poses, and progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) exercises are all excellent ways to quiet your mind after a long day. You can develop your own routine or try guided yoga, yoga nidra, or a PMR track.
Meditation or guided imagery: Meditation is one of the most useful tools we have for mental decompression and better sleep. Meditation improves overall sleep, reduces time to fall asleep, and even lowers feelings of anxiety and depression. You can try using guided meditation or visual imagery track or simply set a timer and focus on nothingness (you can try imagining a deep blue sea or white cloud).
Downloading an app like Insight Timer gives you immediate access to free meditation tracks, relaxing music, and even Yoga Nidra routines for sleep.
Talk it out: Taking a little time before bed to talk about your day can be an excellent way to decompress and help your mind wind down. You can reach out to your partner, family member, or friend. The great news is that both of you will benefit from the PM pow wow.
Once you’ve officially kicked off your evening wind down with mental decompression, it’s time to move into your self-care routine. In addition to skincare, brushing, flossing, and changing into your bedtime attire, you can also add in a soothing warm shower or bath on those extra stressful days. Researchers have found that taking a warm shower or bath one or two hours before bedtime can help people fall asleep 36% faster. It helps induce sleep by lowering your body’s core temperature (an important cue for sleep).
3. RELAX INTO LA-LA-LAND
You’re all clean and now it’s finally time to turn off the lights and crawl into bed where you can engage in your final 20 minutes of relaxation before you snooze. You may choose to read or use an app on your phone to relax. It’s ok to use your phone one last time, just don’t get distracted by any other activity.
For your final wind down, you can try:
A relaxing guided meditation track
Chanting a mantra
Progressive muscle relaxation
Once you hit play, set your phone facedown on the nightstand, so it no longer emits light and then ease into relaxation bliss. A routine that lasts at least 20 minutes is ideal because that’s about how long it should take you to fall asleep.
LEVEL-UP YOUR BEDTIME ROUTINE
YOU DESERVE A SLEEP SANCTUARY!
Your room should be a relaxing haven for sleep. You should aim to create a relaxation zone for any night of the week, but you can also follow these quick tips to make your bedroom sleep ready before bed:
Tidy: Do your best to quickly tidy any mess before you retire to bed.
Temperature: Turn the temperature down to 65-68 °F (18-20 °C), the ideal temperature range for sleep. Room temperature is one of the most important factors for falling asleep, and a room that’s too warm can significantly disrupt your shut-eye.
Curtains: Close your curtains or blinds to ensure that no external light is leaking in. Ideally, you should use black-out curtains that block all external light.
Clean linens: Make sure to regularly wash your bedsheets and pillowcases at least once every two weeks to create a welcoming and peaceful environment.
Check out our comprehensive guide to building a sleep sanctuary for step-by-step instructions and how it will benefit your sleep.
- Night Lights: Light sends important wakefulness cues to your brain, while darkness lets your brain know it’s time for sleep. To reduce the negative impact of light on your sleep:
- Use lightbulbs in your room that are no brighter than 45 watts.
- Try installing night lights or using light dimmers
- Use a reading light
- Try string lights on a timer
Ambient Noise: You can use ambient noise to block out external noise in your sleep environment. As an added benefit, peaceful ambient music has been shown to reduce stress by lowering cortisol levels. If ambient music isn’t your jam, you can try a pink or white noise machine. Pink noise optimizes brain wave activity, which improves sleep stability.
Bedroom entertainment: Remove the TV set from your bedroom since it can hinder sleep, or try setting a timer to have it shut off half an hour before your desired sleep time.
Bedtime Snack: Got hunger pangs? If you want to eat before bed, try a balanced whole food snack like peanut butter and a banana, warm milk and almonds, cherries and yogurt, or oatmeal with walnuts. These foods can help promote satiety and sleep.
Eye Mask: Use an eye mask to keep things dark. This sends signals to your brain that it’s time for sleep and promotes the production of the sleep hormone melatonin.
Earplugs: Earplugs are a convenient way to block out sleep-disrupting noise pollution.
Phone lock: Having trouble staying off of your phone? Try an app like Flipd that locks your phone during specified times.
Relocate distractions: Put your devices in a drawer away from your bed when you begin your power down hour.
Cozy town: Invest in cozy bedding that you simply cannot wait to snuggle into. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but comfort is key.
Supplements: Magnesium, chamomile tea, and L-Theanine are all great natural supplements to help you relax before bed. Learn more about your options for supplementing for better sleep.