Most of us have bedtime rituals whether we consciously realize it or not. It starts when we are little with tooth brushing, followed by a book and a tuck-in from our parents. As an adult, your pre-bed game might look more like a hot shower followed by a good tooth scrubbing and some light reading in bed.
Regardless of whether you consciously craft your evening ritual or fell into a series of actions by way of chance, your bedtime rituals could have a big impact on the quality of your sleep.
To encourage a better quality of sleep each night, try incorporating any or all of these bedtime rituals into your pre-sleep repertoire.
1. Go Dark
Dim the lights and create a cozy environment in the hours before you hit the sack. Minimizing bright light helps get your brain on board with the idea that it’s night-time. If the sun is still out during the longer summer months, consider getting black-out shades and creating an artificially darkened environment to help your system wind down and mellow out before bed.
2. Dine Early
Not giving your body enough time to digest before you lie down for the night can cause heartburn and take away from your body’s ability to heal while you sleep. If your body is busy trying to digest your dinner while you sleep, it won’t have all its resources available to repair and restore your brain and internal systems.
3. Put Down Your Phone
Too much screen time before bed can have a negative impact on your sleep quality, leaving you groggy and listless the next day. If you absolutely must be on your phone before you go to bed, at least turn down the brightness on your display and enable the night-time mode to minimize disruptive blue light.
4. Read a Book
Anyone who has tried to read when they’re tired can attest to how hard it is to stay awake. Just a few pages into a book and you’ll find yourself nodding off before you can mark your page. Try positive books and self-help that will sit well with your psyche while you rest, and avoid mysteries and thrillers that could stimulate your system rather than relaxing it. Also, avoid reading on your phone if possible and instead opt for a classic paperback with real pages.
5. Take a Soak
Try soaking in the tub right before bed. Not only does the warm water soothe sore muscles, you’ll feel psychologically better after you “wash away” the stress of the day. Plus, you’ll sleep better between the sheets with a clean, fresh body. No tub? No problem. A warm pre-bedtime shower can also help you sleep better.
6. Journal Your Thoughts
For those of us who struggle with racing thoughts when we turn in for the night, journaling can help ease the transition. If you find you have racing thoughts, or just can’t seem to shut your brain down, try doing a brain dump of all your worries, thoughts, and ideas before you go to bed. Putting thoughts down on paper can help get them out of your head and ensures you can relax knowing they are safe and sound until you’re ready to deal with them tomorrow.
7. Take a Breath
Meditating before bed or even participating in some deep breathing can help calm the central nervous system and ease anxiety. Start by inhaling deeply through the nose and expanding that breath all the way through the chest and into the abdomen before gently exhaling and repeating.
8. Listen to Music
Turning on some relaxing music before bed can be a great way to calm the mind and reduce brain activity. Avoid music that has too much energy or aggressive lyrics, and keep the volume low to encourage your brain to relax, rather than amp up.
9. Stretch Your Muscles
If you’re like the majority of Americans you spend a lot of time sitting each day. This can lead to restlessness at the worst time of day—bedtime. If you find your body is restless before bed, try stretching to give your muscles some gentle movement before you ask them to rest for the night. Focus on the big muscle groups like hamstrings, quads, glutes, and lats, and open up your chest with some pectoralis stretches before you curl up in a ball for the night.
Creating a pre-bedtime routine that promotes peace and relaxation can go a long way in training your body to recognize when sleep is coming. With time, the routine you create will function as queues to alert your brain that sleep is on the way, and you’ll find it increasingly easier to get right to sleep without any hassle at all.