It’s one of the most fundamental parts of being alive: sleep!
Even though we all need it every night, some of us find it hard to get ready for bed and enjoy the benefits of a full night’s rest.
Sometimes, all you need to get better sleep is a better bedtime routine. Rather than going at high speed all day and then immediately heading to your room for hours of tossing and turning, practicing good sleep hygiene and winding down the right way can actually get you properly relaxed and drifting off into dreamland … with way fewer interruptions.
If you aren’t like the blessed few who can fall asleep as soon as their head hits the pillow, these 8 tips on how to get ready for sleep are for you.
8 Ways to Get Ready For Sleep
1. Check off your to-do list with hours to spare before bedtime.
One of the worst things you can do to keep yourself awake at night is to procrastinate and leave too much stuff on your plate to deal with the next day. It’s basically a recipe for stressing out all night instead of falling asleep!
Don’t leave stuff off for the morning rush tomorrow: make an effort to take care of everything you can during the day, so you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to get them done when you’re supposed to be falling asleep. It might be a pain at the moment, but future you will thank you.
2. Finish up your last meal earlier in the day.
Going to bed on a full stomach can interrupt your sleep and make it harder to get quality rest, especially if what you’re eating isn’t high-quality. Eating late at night can spike your blood sugar and affect your digestion, not to mention cause weight gain if your midnight snacks are calorie-dense. [*]
Give yourself a couple of hours after your last meal to fully digest your food before you head to bed. And while we’re at it, try to stop consuming a lot of liquids an hour before bed, so that you aren’t being woken up constantly by a full bladder.
3. Be conscious of your caffeine intake.
In addition to watching your food and drink, you’ll also want to make sure that you’re avoiding the stimulants later on in the day so that it doesn’t interfere with falling asleep.
Caffeine can take hours to circulate out of your system, so make sure to keep your coffee and other energy drinks restricted to before 3 p.m. If you need a boost later on in the day, try getting in some quick cardio exercise or a nutritious snack to get your brain working instead.
While we’re at it, research shows that alcohol isn’t great for your sleep either. It’s a depressant, not a stimulant like caffeine, so it might make you feel more tired initially, but that nightcap might actually be the reason that your sleep quality is poor. [*]
4. Cut down on your PM screen time.
You’ve probably heard it before, but it’s definitely worth hearing again: too much screen time can be really bad for your sleep.
The blue light that is emitted from phones, tablets, and TVs can limit the amount of melatonin you produce – and since this hormone is important for maintaining your circadian rhythms that are so important for a solid sleep cycle, this can lead to nights of tossing and turning. [*]
Try setting all screens aside as you’re winding down for bed so you aren’t exposed to blue light (at least an hour before bed). You’ll also benefit from switching your phone to “Do Not Disturb” mode and turning off all of your notifications – work and social media can wait until the morning.
5. Give meditation or other relaxation exercises a try.
If your brain just won’t stop going once it’s time to hit the lights, you may benefit from adding some mindfulness exercises to your bedtime routine.
Meditation, breathing exercises, and even some gentle movements like yoga are all great ways to wind down because they actively address your racing mind and help you manage your responses to your stress so that you can relax instead.
One breathing exercise to try is Diaphragmatic breathing, or “Belly” breathing for short, as this type of breathing has been shown to reduce levels of stress hormones and soothe the nervous system.
To belly breathe, sit comfortably on the floor, cross-legged. Place one hand on your belly and one on your chest. Inhale normally, then exhale fully, expelling all of the air from your lungs. Now (this is important), inhale, but focus on breathing into the bottom of your lungs, or your belly. As you do this, your belly should expand outward.
Once your lungs are completely full, hold your breath for a count of 6, then exhale and repeat. Try to do this exercise for at least 5 minutes.
6. Optimize your room.
You want to maximize your sleep, and sometimes that means you need to minimize the distractions in your sleeping environment.
Your bedroom should be a place where you can leave the daytime stresses behind and just relax. Eliminate the distractions and clutter in your room, keep it quiet and peaceful, and make it a work-free zone. Once you walk into your bedroom, it should give your body signals that it’s time for lights out.
And speaking of lights out, make sure all light is gone when you go to bed – even the smallest pinprick of light can disrupt your melatonin production and disrupt your sleep. You may want to invest in blackout curtains, and also consider turning off electronics to avoid small red and green lights from chargers.
7. Take a hot bath.
A little bit of self-care can go a long way when it comes to winding down at night, and a hot bath is a great way to treat yourself and get yourself ready for bed.
Studies have shown that having a hot bath prior to bedtime can be a good way to improve your sleep because it helps to regulate your body temperature. Your body starts to cool down as the night goes on and it gets time to hit the hay, and a hot bath can help this process so that you can just relax and drift off. As a bonus, add Epsom salts to your bath, as research has shown magnesium can helps relax your nervous system and improve sleep. [*]
8. Make your bedtime routine consistent.
Just like with any goal you might set for yourself, you need to be consistent in order to make any meaningful changes. This is especially true with sleep since an inconsistent sleep schedule has been found to be associated with insufficient sleep and poorer sleep quality. [*]
Get into the habit of heading to bed and waking up at the same time every night for the best night’s sleep. If you need to, you can set an alarm to remind you when you should start winding down.
Getting a relaxing, high-quality night’s sleep can do wonders for improving your mood, health, and productivity once the sun comes up. Establish a good bedtime routine to make sure that your body gets to recover from the daily grind and comes back stronger the next day!