Sleep experts agree that anyone who’s looking to get better-quality sleep or fall asleep more easily should adopt a consistent pre-bedtime routine. Following the same pattern each evening helps communicate to your body that it’s time to unwind and get ready for bed.
But it’s not enough to do the same things every night. Instead, it’s important to do the right kinds of things in order to help ease your body’s transition to sleep. If you tend to browse social media or watch TV up until the moment you pass out, if you’re prone to working until bed, or if you simply have trouble falling asleep on a regular basis, then it’s high time you fixed your bedtime routine.
The good news? Better sleep is only a few adjustments away. The best news? Many of the most effective habits can be adopted in five minutes or less. Here are seven quick ways to improve your pre-bedtime routine.
1. Go to bed at the same time every night.
It’s one of the easiest things you can do to set yourself up for successful sleep. By going to bed at the same time each evening, you’ll program your body’s internal clock to anticipate falling asleep at that time. This will make it much easier to slip off into dreamland when the designated time comes.
2. Turn down the lights.
Reducing your exposure to electrical lighting in the hours leading up to bedtime increases your chances of falling asleep. Make it a habit to dim the lights at dusk. It’s also helpful to switch from overheads to lamplight and choose “warm/soft” bulbs.
3. Banish electronics from the bedroom.
Seriously: Never bring your laptop, smartphone, tablet, e-reader, or other blue-light-emitting device into the bedroom. Exposure to blue light results in the production of daytime hormones and the suppression of sleep-inducing melatonin, which then makes it harder for your body to drift off to sleep. In addition to kicking electronics out of the bedroom, aim to stop looking at screens at least 30 minutes before heading to bed.
4. Do a few leg exercises.
In general, it’s not a good idea to exercise right before bed because doing so gives the body a rush of energy (and that’s hardly conducive to sleep). However, research has shown that doing a few simple leg lifts, squats, lunges, or other leg exercises can divert blood flow away from the brain, which can help the mind calm down enough to fall asleep.
5. Make it harder to see the clock.
It’s a rite of passage for insomniacs: staring at the clock, fretting about how few hours are left before the alarm is set to sound. But that fretting is only more likely to keep you awake. Don’t let stress get the best of you—instead, make a habit of moving clocks and phones away from your bed so you have one less thing to worry about as you try to fall asleep.
6. Swap nonfiction for fiction.
Reading is a great nighttime activity—it helps prevent cognitive decline, increases empathy, and reduces stress. Research suggests that nonfiction can stimulate the brain to think about the future, which busies the mind and can make it harder to turn off mentally. In contrast, reading fiction can help you stay present in the moment, making it a great way to unwind before turning out the light.
7. Journal your worries away.
If you’re prone to lying awake because you’re plagued by worries, try jotting down any lingering thoughts or concerns on a pad of paper before turning in for the night. Even just a few minutes of journaling can make a big difference for your peace of mind. It can also be helpful to make a to-do list for the next day before hitting the sheets—that way you won’t fret about forgetting things the next morning.
For best results, try implementing these new habits one at a time and recording their effects over the course of a week or two before trying the next item on the list. Each morning, jot down how long it took you to fall asleep, how long you slept without waking, and how calm you felt before and after sleep. That way, you’ll be able to measure what’s helping and what’s not so that you can find the absolute best pre-bedtime routine for you.
Enhance your nighttime ritual with ALOHA Sleep Tea, a soothing combination of chamomile, valerian root, and lemon balm that will help your body to unwind and relax.
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