We all know how important a good night’s sleep is, but for many, it’s easier said than done. 70 million Americans struggle with sleep disorders every year, so it’s no wonder that sleep cycles, bedtime routines, supplements, and comforting candles are so commonly searched for online. If you struggle to wind down and relax into a night of blissful, uninterrupted sleep, we’ve got you covered. We’ll be looking at ways to settle into a nightly routine that works for your body, schedule, and specific needs. Before we do, let’s look at why a healthy evening routine and a good night’s sleep are so important.
Does a nightly routine make a difference to my sleep?
We’re adults - we don’t need a set bedtime, right? Well, while no one’s going to tell you when it’s time to hit the hay, it’s a good idea to have a bedtime. People are creatures of habit and find safety and comfort in doing things at the same time each day. A set bedtime establishes habits that encourage the brain to identify when it’s time to start winding down for sleep. By doing the same things at the same time each evening, the brain learns that these activities are a precursor to sleep. A person’s bedtime also plays a vital role in minimizing late-night rumination and anxiety, the kind that is more likely to pop up if we stay up late. If the brain gets used to staying up late to worry about work, relationships, money, or whatever it may be, the issue can spiral into insomnia. That’s why getting into a peaceful and tranquil state of mind at least an hour before bedtime can reduce the risk of falling down the proverbial rabbit hole of worry.
How to Create the Perfect Nightly Routine for Restful Sleep
We know that difficulty sleeping is extremely common, but how many active steps have you taken towards having good sleep health each night? Implement at least 5 of the tips below and you’ll be well on your way to creating a nightly routine that leads you to restful sleep.
1. Prepare for the Day Ahead
If you don’t feel prepared for the next day, there’s going to be a part of your brain holding on to your to-do list so you don’t get anything wrong. It’s a good idea to prepare for the next day the night before (ideally early evening before you relax) so you can put tomorrow out of your mind altogether.
You may want to:
● Plan your day (even just a to-do list will help)
● Decide what you’re going to wear
● Prepare any meals you need to take with you or eat quickly
● Decide how much time you need to leave to get somewhere on time
● Do little chores that will make you feel less overwhelmed (like putting dishes in the dishwasher, putting a load of laundry in on a timer, and so on) If you find yourself feeling too tired to achieve much in the evenings, at least write a to-do list for the next day so you can relax completely, knowing all you need to do tomorrow is follow your list.
2. Set a “Bedtime”
Work towards establishing a habit of when you get into bed to start getting ready to go to sleep. Aim to be in bed 8 hours before you need to get up so you can drift off to sleep and still get 7 quality hours of sleep, even if it takes you a little while to get sleepy. You should also consider having a “get up” time. While we’ve discussed the benefits of a sleep binge on weekends, you should aim for consistency most of the time. Sleep binges should not be used as a way to get out of a sleep routine. Decide what time you get up and get up within an hour of that time every day, when possible. You may not be happy about this idea when your alarm goes off at the weekend, but you’ll have a lot more weekend to experience!
3. Avoid Bright Lights 1 Hour Before Bedtime
Try to avoid screens and bright lights for at least the last hour before you go to sleep. While it may feel relaxing to kick back with your favorite movie before bedtime, it’s not always the best idea. Electronic devices emit a strong, blue light that tricks the brain into thinking it’s daytime. This causes the brain to suppress the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone), keeping you awake for longer. The same goes for bright lights; the brain’s melatonin production is hindered if we’re in extremely bright environments, so be sure to dim the lights a few hours before bedtime.
4. Change Your Pre-Bed Entertainment
Being told to avoid screens and lights for an hour before you go to sleep can feel impossible - what are you going to do? Lie and stare at the ceiling? Don’t worry, you don’t have to be bored to get a good night’s sleep, you just need to try forms of entertainment that allow you to relax more naturally. Here are a few suggestions:
● Read a physical copy of a book
● Read an ebook on a Kindle or another e-reader with a screen that mimics paper
● Journal, draw, or color
● Listen to music
● Listen to an audiobook
● Grab your meditation pillow and meditate
● Use a yoga cushion to do some gentle stretching
● Listen to a podcast
5. Get the Right Pillow
If your head isn’t supported correctly, you’re not only going to find it more difficult to fall asleep, but you’ll also be more likely to grow sore overnight.
A buckwheat pillow offers your head a firm yet soft surface that fully supports your head as you sleep. If you sleep on your back or your stomach, you should consider investing in a stomach sleeper pillow that ensures your head is kept in alignment with your spine. (For more on the right pillow for your sleeping position, see read this guide on pinetales.com.
6. Try Lavender
We often find it difficult to take more “alternative” forms of therapy and medicine seriously, but many aromatherapy oils and scents have scientific proof to back up their claims. Lavender has long been used to help people drift off to sleep more easily, and it works because it is an anxiolytic.
This means that the smell of lavender helps reduce stress and anxiety and even has a slight sedative effect. You can drop lavender oil into a humidifier, use a lavender mist, or use a lavender pillow to help you relax.
7. Warm Up Your Bed
If you relax in the living room and get all warm and sleepy, then strip down and jump into a cold bed, you’re suddenly going to wake up. Try using sheets with warmer fabrics or use a hot water bottle to warm up your bed for you, especially during winter.
8. Don’t Rush Your Hygiene
Incorporate your hygiene ritual into your bedtime routine. Whether you have an extensive skincare routine or simply enjoy a warm shower before bed, make time to enjoy it slowly and mindfully. Gently wash your hands and face, envisioning the stress of the day melting away with each splash of water. Slow your breathing as you brush your teeth, or practice counting if you tend to find yourself rushing this part of the regimen. Whatever your usual practice is, slow it down and do it with purpose.
9. Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Try progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). Many psychotherapists and physiotherapists recommend this technique to clients who struggle to get to sleep and stay asleep.
Here’s how it’s done:
● Lie down in bed or on a yoga mat with your head on a supportive pillow (try our millet pillow)
● Take a deep breath in and tighten one muscle group such as your shoulders. Do this for 5-10 seconds, then breathe out and release.
● Relax for 20 seconds before moving down to another muscle group, such as your legs.
● As you release the tension, note how your body feels after you’ve relaxed each group of muscles. You may choose to imagine the stress and anxiety leaving your body as you begin to relax.
10. Use Sleep Music
If you struggle to go to sleep because your thoughts (even the mundane ones) keep you up, try playing some sleep music quietly on your phone or headphones. There are plenty of playlists on Spotify and YouTube, and their relaxing beats can keep your mind busy so you can fall and stay asleep.
11. Keep Your Sheets Fresh
Keep your sheets fresh and clean, and make sure your bedding is season-appropriate. A clean and fresh bed is more inviting and makes being in bed a much more pleasurable experience. Experts say the ideal frequency with which you should change your bed sheets is every 10 days.
Don’t Settle for Subpar Sleep
Sleep can become an overwhelming topic if you’re already prone to waking up in the middle of the night or taking a long time to fall asleep. Most healthy adults fall asleep within 15 or 20 minutes, but if it’s taking you much longer than this, make sure you try the practices we’ve talked about here.
Since sleep is such an inherently psychological thing, it’s easy to develop anxiety around sleep, overthinking your every move and worrying that you’ll never sleep well again! But with the right routine and a balanced lifestyle, a consistently good night’s sleep is just around the corner.