You’ve probably already heard all about morning routines, but what about creating the best night routine?
We asked a range of experts to give us their top tips when it comes to creating the ultimate night routine to help prepare yourself for bed. Here’s some of their best advice.
Editor's note: The content on this website is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. The content of our articles and the products featured in them are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. Always speak with your doctor or a certified medical professional before making any changes to your lifestyle, diet or exercise routine, or taking any supplements.
Your Nighttime Routine Starts Earlier Than You Think
Amy Motroni, Pediatric Sleep Consultant and Founder of The Postpartum Party
Maintaining a good nighttime routine can be so beneficial to getting optimal sleep.
Our bodies start to know the routine and learn that sleep is coming. Doing the same three to four activities each night can actually help cue your body for sleep!
Here are my best tips for creating and maintaining a nighttime routine:
Your nighttime routine starts sooner than you’d think. It starts during the day! Go outside during the day and get exposure to natural sunlight.
Be active during the day. Exercising or moving your body during the day will also help promote better sleep at night.
About one to two hours before bedtime, turn off electronics such as phones, tablets, and computers. These can suppress the release of Melatonin, prolonging your body the ability to fall asleep. (This is probably the biggest mistake I see adults making—being on their devices too close to bedtime!).
Wind down. Do an activity that allows your body to wind down from the day. This could be reading a book or taking a bath.
Perform Relaxing Activities
Erin Reeder, Personal Coach and Founder of The Incremental Mama
So many books and experts focus on a quality morning routine (which is really important) but our evenings determine our mornings.
Our evening routine determines how much sleep we get, the quality of that sleep, and how ready we are to face the following day with energy and focus.
The best night routine allows you to shut down both your brain and body, allowing you to fall asleep when you want to and not lay in bed with your mind racing.
Shutting down your brain can include writing out a to-do list or plan for the following day, forgoing electronics for the few hours before bedtime, connecting with your partner, and engaging in any kind of meditative practices.
Shutting down your body can include a hot shower or bath (which helps to quickly lower your body temperature so you can fall asleep faster), stretching, a nighttime yoga routine, deep breathing, or whatever practice puts your body into a mode of relaxation.
Let Your Body ‘Rest And Digest’
Carly Banks, Ayurveda Health Counselor, The Habit Ayurveda
Ayurveda teaches us that overnight, the body is engaging in detox processes. The liver is flushing out old cells and building new ones – you’re moving any toxic build-up from the day through the digestive tract for healthy elimination (AKA healthy poops) come morning.
Staying up late watching Netflix with a bag of chips steals your body’s energy away from these processes and forces it to focus on digesting, leaving you toxic and groggy in the morning – a problem that compounds the more you do it.
A hugely beneficial practice I offer my clients is intermittent fasting.
Close your kitchen by 6pm, leaving your body time in the evening to digest the bulk of your final meal, and also allowing space for restorative practices overnight.
Often we hear the idea of doing brain dumps – writing down all of your plans for tomorrow on a piece of paper so you don’t have to think about it anymore – or things such as guided meditations. Those things are great, but if you’ve been running around in stress-mode all day, they might not be enough to bring your body to rest.
A wonderful tool from Ayurveda is Abhyanga – self massage. Massaging your own body, or even just your feet and legs, can help the nervous system get into its parasympathetic (or ‘rest and digest’) state.
A very common belief, especially for the parents I work with, is that the evening is their only ‘me time’. The kids are finally in bed and the day’s work is done. They finally get some time to… scroll on their phones or watch TV.
You’re not doing yourself any favors with these activities. Multiple studies have proven that screen time (especially spent scrolling on social media) stimulates stress responses. It is not a relaxation technique of any kind.
Additionally, those screens we stare at into the wee hours through squinted eyes are messing with our hormones. When the eye sees light, it sends a signal to your brain to inhibit the release of melatonin – the sleep hormone.
Keeping your screens off, and your lights dim, through the evening makes it easier for your body to fall asleep, and lessens night wakings too.
The Best Night Routine Doesn’t Need To Be Complicated
Jason Piper, CEO of Build Better Sleep
A good night routine is important because our brains love routine. Why does it like a routine so much? Well, the brain likes to anticipate what is going to happen next. It does this to save on energy and computing power.
Have you ever noticed how you can complete routines and then not even remember doing them? That was your brain going on autopilot. It knew what to do because you have done it so many times.
When you have a nighttime routine nailed down, your brain can tell your body to start slowing certain systems down, it can release the right hormones (like melatonin) and lower cortisol levels. This then makes it one smooth transition.
A great analogy for a bedtime routine is think of a warm-up or cool-down period for when you workout. If you go to the squat rack and try a one-rep max without a warm-up, you’re going to hurt yourself because your muscles, tendons and nervous system were not prepared. The same goes for bedtime.
You can’t expect to be going at 100mph all day long, then simply lay your head down on the pillow and fall asleep.
A routine does not have to be complicated, but it should have the right components.
Power down time. I recommend clients set aside an hour before the time they want to fall asleep to turn off all electronics, dim the lights, and do something relaxing to calm the mind. This could be stretching, deep breathing exercises, light yoga, listening to brain.fm, music, or anything else that you feel calm doing that is not TV or your phone.
Stop eating three hours before bed. It takes about three hours for your food to move through your digestive system. If your digestive system is going while the rest of your body is trying to fall asleep, they are at odds with each other. Energy is diverted from the restorative powers of sleep to finish digestion, and your core body temperature will likely be elevated from the metabolizing of the food.
Take a warm bath or shower. After getting out of the shower, your body temperature will drop a slight amount, which can help to start the sleep cascade.
Dim the lights or wear blue blocking glasses. The dim lights and absence of blue light will tell your brain to start releasing melatonin, which will help transition you into slumberland.
Go to bed at around the same time every night and get up at around the same time every day to keep your biological clock on point.
Those are some of my top tips. Some things that people mess up with when it comes to their night routine are as follows.
Being super strict with having to fall asleep at the same time. This raises your stress response if you miss the window and then that complicates falling asleep. It doesn’t have to be precise, but give yourself a window of 15 minutes.
Having a clock in the room. Nothing creates more anxiety than seeing the clock tick away. Get rid of it or cover it up.
Changing it up too quickly or frequently. Just because it didn’t work the first night doesn’t mean progress wasn’t being made. It can take a week or more for the body to adjust to changes. Have compassion for yourself and give yourself that space.
Many times, people go all day without pausing. It is like you are a stretching a rubber band all day long and then when you lay down, that rubber band snaps and you are flooded with anxiety or ruminating thoughts. Take a few five-minute ‘me’ breaks during the day where you just pause and breathe deeply. No looking at the phone or talking to someone.
Keep Tabs On Your Caffeine Intake And Take A Bath
Rhonda Mattox MD, Physician and Psychiatrist
As a physician and psychiatrist, I have people tell me all the time that they don’t want another medicine but they want to sleep. So I have to get creative. Here are a few of my tips that have garnered me rave reviews from my patients.
When it comes to creating and following the ultimate nighttime routine, it begins long before bedtime.
I tell patients to stop drinking caffeine (Red Bull, green tea, coffee, etc) after 2pm. Caffeine is a diuretic as well as a stimulant, so you may find yourself up peeing the night away while being super alert if consumed too late in the day.
Dinner time is important. Think about having dinner about four hours before you want to go to bed.
What you eat is as important as when you eat. Choose a higher-carb meal in the evening (and definitely not at lunch, or you may feel like you need a nap at the peak of your workday). Choose a meal rich in carbs or Omega-3 fatty acids – something that includes turkey or fish – or magnesium-rich foods. Magnesium-rich foods include dark leafy greens (like spinach and kale) or seeds and nuts (think cashews, almonds, sunflower and sesame seeds). They help you relax.
Skip the shower and take an epsom salt bath. Take a nice warm bath with a half a cup of lavender epsom salt and let it take you away. After a stress-filled day, add some epsom salt to a warm bath a few times a week. We’re not sure if it’s simply the relaxing hot bath that calms you or the magnesium but anecdotally, patients say it works.
Aromatherapy. Lavender is probably the most rigorously-studied essential oil that we associate with relaxation and sleep. I use it a lot with my anxiety and pain patients. I have them keep it by their beds and encourage them to take lavender epsom salt baths in certain scenarios. Vanilla, jasmine, and sandalwood also have a reputation for being calming and relaxing.
Evict your pets from your bed. Their movements can wake even the heaviest sleepers – and keep the TV out of your room!
Try the CBT-i Coach for Sleep Hygiene. It’s a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy-i coach app that you can find on your phones. It provides an abundance of helpful insights tailored to you about how to get to sleep.
Make Mindfulness A Nightly Practice
Lucile Hernandez Rodriguez, Yoga Teacher and Mindful Business Advisor
I believe that a good night routine is important because it brings benefits to productivity and overall wellness.
By establishing a bedtime routine:
You’ll be able to have the best rest of your life. If you’re struggling with sleeping, you wake up feeling off and that continues from there. You easily get annoyed, you tend to make bad decisions, and you could even get stressed out easily.
You’ll wake up feeling 100 per cent awesome. Sleep is essential for mental health. So to avoid feeling stressed, or experiencing brain fog, improve on your sleep habits.
You’ll be able to settle into a cozy bedtime. Having an evening routine in place will be an opportunity to relax and connect with yourself and with people you love.
An excellent bedtime routine would include 10 minutes of mindfulness – that’s all it would take. Five minutes will be dedicated to meditation and five minutes will be for journaling using these prompts.
I can even cut this back to three minutes each if I’m feeling sick or I come home late at night.
By practicing mindfulness, you tame your busy mind and focus more on the present. As a result, you become calmer, and this will help ease you into sleep.
Another important part of a good night routine is to unplug and put away all the gadgets. Not doing this is also a common mistake people make with their night routines.
I understand that these days it can be tempting to just mindlessly scroll through your social media feed and when you find something interesting, you tend to be hooked to find more. Before you know it, you’ve just spent 30 minutes to an hour going through social media.
It has been suggested that the use of electronics during bedtime can affect your quality of sleep. The blue light from your gadgets or any artificial light suppresses the release melatonin, the hormone that helps promote sleep.
My suggestion would be to put away your electronics when it’s time for bed, or if not set it to ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode.
Switch Off The Screens Two Hours Before Bed
Mike Allen, Founder of The Healthy Treehouse
A good night routine is essential because it prevents mental fatigue during the day, it also prevents chronic health issues.
Here’s what has worked for my family:
Going to bed early! This is one of the most obvious things to do and a common mistake that many make. Ironically, when you are sleep deprived, your body does not rest well at night. Many people think this is only true for children. That’s not true! Everyone’s sleep is degraded when they do not get enough hours of sleep per day. Children need between nine to 11 hours. Adults need a minimum of seven hours.
A light dinner works wonders to help you sleep provided you avoid late-night snacks. If you really must eat something else, then a fruit bowl with bananas, kiwis, strawberries will satisfy the cravings and as a bonus it’s nutritious! This will naturally shift your largest meal of the day to lunch, which is better for your health, too.
Limiting screen time and avoiding blue light for at least two hours before bed has helped my family tremendously. We turn off the TV, close the laptops, and put down our phones. This has strengthened our relationships, too.
Additionally, we purchased so low-blue light bulbs and placed them in lamps around the house. We use these instead of our overhead lights during this time period.
Science has also proven that consistency plays a role here. Set an alarm. Get up at the same time each day. Training your body to wake and sleep at the same time each day makes a huge difference.
Finally, the most important key to getting a good night’s sleep comes from understanding why we need sleep in the first place. It is the body’s time to repair and restore. This is why we need more sleep when we’re sick.
This same logic explains why we need to remove toxins in our environment. The more you are exposed to stress and harmful chemicals, the more your body has to work at night to repair your body and the less time it has to devote to restoring your body’s natural systems.
So, less stress, more exercise and more natural living during your daylight hours will help you sleep at night.