When we don’t sleep well, we feel it. That’s because sleep is the body’s chance to rest and recover from all the things we ask of it, from carrying kids and lifting weights to climbing stairs and opening doors.
Consistently getting a good night of rest can benefit blood pressure, the immune system, and brain and mental health. But if you’re getting 8 hours of sleep and still feel tired, you likely have an issue with quality over quantity. That’s where having a routine of activities to do before bed might help.
Why an evening routine is important
Sleep problems are fairly common among both adults and children, and if you’re not getting the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night, the impact can start to build up over time. This could mean a weakened immune system, slower response time, reduced athletic performance, and impaired memory, says Dr. Andrew Spector, an associate professor of neurology at Duke University School of Medicine. It could also lead to more chronic issues like headaches, snoring, and daytime sleepiness.
If you have trouble falling and staying asleep, a winding-down routine might help you de-stress at bedtime. Having a routine, rather than the routine itself, is probably more important, says Spector, since it’s easier to fall asleep when you’re relaxed.
Bedtime rituals to help you have a restful night’s sleep
The ideal before-bed ritual looks different for everyone, but here are a few ideas to get you started.
Create a wind down routine for sleep
- Unplug from devices (e.g., TV, computer, phone, tablet, e-reader) at least an hour before bed.
- Take a warm bath or shower.
- Do some light yoga or stretching.
- Take a natural sleep aid. Look for ingredients including:
- Melatonin: Helps you fall asleep faster and stay asleep through the night.
- L-theanine: Promotes relaxation to cope with stress and fatigue.
- Ashwagandha: Supports cognitive health and benefits stress, mood, energy, and focus.
Set the mood for a good night’s rest
- Dim the lights. Set the temperature (60 to 67 degrees is best for sleep).
- Put on some calming music.
- Change into comfortable sleepwear.
- Get pillows, sheets, and blankets that feel good to you.
Prepare your mind for a restful night
- Slow your mind and body with a simple breathing exercise (inhale for four counts, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts, repeat).
- Listen to a sleep meditation or story.
Once you’ve got a routine and have been using it for a while, how will you know if it’s making a difference? Waking up naturally without an alarm, feeling ready to start the day, and not needing a cup of coffee (or three) to get going are signs that you slept well.
It might take a few tries to see what works for you, but finding a few relaxing things to create your evening ritual may help you finally get some good, well-deserved rest.