Establishing a healthy nighttime routine is a great way to improve your sleep. This simple self-care ritual can have a big impact on your health and wellness. According to the CDC, one third of Americans don’t get the seven to nine hours of sleep necessary to operate at their best. Regularly sleeping less than seven hours raises your risk of stroke, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. In fact, poor sleepers live less. Get better at falling and staying asleep, and you will get better at life!
What is a Healthy Nighttime Routine?
A healthy nighttime routine is a series of actions you repeat 30 minutes to two hours before bed. Going through the same steps in the same order nightly helps you to unwind. It also cues your brain to prepare for sleep. This makes it easier to fall into a restful slumber so you can wake up re-energized tomorrow.
Why Is a Healthy Nighttime Routine Important?
A healthy nighttime routine encourages your mind to relax. This prevents nagging worries from ruining your sleep or causing insomnia. It also helps your brain to differentiate night from day so you feel tired when you need to. This makes for better sleep, and a happier, more productive tomorrow.
Top Ten Components of a Healthy Nighttime Routine
- Be Consistent. According to the CDC, having a consistent sleep schedule is the best thing you can do to improve your sleep. Choose a time to wind down, to go to sleep and to wake up every day. Don’t stray from that schedule by more than an hour even on the weekends. Research shows that the best time to go to sleep for heart health is between 10:00 and 11:00 pm. When you go to bed at a consistent and appropriate time, you train your brain to get sleepy when you need it to.
- Prepare for Tomorrow. The best time to start your morning routine is in the evening. By the same token, the best time to start your nighttime routine is in the morning. Once you have healthy morning and evening rituals, you have taken control of your days. You have nourishing and comforting habits that ensure that your time is spent on your priorities. Prepare your food, clothes and activities for the next day in the evening as much as time allows. A bowl of overnight oats prepared the night before lightens your morning load. Besides the physical prep work, you can also prepare mentally. A written to-do list for the next day works wonders. You are freeing up space in your mind. Spend a few minutes picturing tomorrow, prioritizing your tasks and visualizing positive outcomes.
- Calm Your Mind. De-stressing activities include journaling, listening to music, mindfulness meditation, breath work and reading. These put you in a peaceful emotional state. Focusing on taking slow deep breaths for a few minutes cues your mind to prepare for sleep.
- Calm Your Body. Activities such as Progressive Muscle Relaxation, stretching, massage and yoga allow you to release tension.
- Create Your Own Sleep Sanctuary. Make your room as dark, quiet, cool, clutter-free and comfortable as possible. The ideal temperature for sleeping is between 60 and 71 degrees Fahrenheit. Blackout curtains keep your room very dark. Use a fan or white noise if needed to block out noise. Removing physical clutter unburdens your mind. A scent diffuser or essential oil on your pillow can also elicit peaceful slumber.
- Turn off Electronics. The blue light from your computer, tablet and smartphone tricks your brain into thinking that it is daytime. This reduces your melatonin production, which makes you feel awake. Try to avoid these devices in the evening or use a red-light filter if necessary.
- Avoid heavy meals. Don’t consume caffeine or excess fat, sugar, alcohol and beverages in the evening hours.
- Set the Mood. Use dimmer lights at night. If possible, connect with loved ones or pets. A warm bath, candles and a cup of chamomile or lavender tea an hour before bed will make you feel relaxed and sleepy. This is a great time to ponder what you are grateful for.
- Start First Thing in the Morning. Get sunshine as early as possible, ideally during a morning walk. Exercise enough daily and eat nutritious meals at regular times. Hydrate properly throughout the day. Aligning your circadian rhythm with daylight hours will go a long way towards optimizing your sleep and your health.
- Make It Your Own. Test out a few strategies to see what works best for you.
Sleep is a fundamental component of good health, along with exercise and nutrition. Unfortunately, one in three of us does not get enough of it. But there is a lot you can do to change that. Establishing a healthy nighttime routine lowers your health risks and lets you feel your best. Along with a healthy morning routine, it puts you in the driver’s seat of your life. The number one action you should take is to maintain a strict sleep schedule. Creating a standard operating procedure for your evening lets you properly unwind. This allows you to prepare for restful sleep as well as for the next day. Once you have a healthy nighttime routine in place, you will wake up relentlessly ready to tackle tomorrow!
CDC.gov; healthline.com; sleepfoundation.org; casper.com; goodhousekeeping.comand