If you’re looking to improve your quality of sleep, by far one of the most important steps to take is to establish a regular nightly routine.
By building up a couple rituals you keep to every single night, it’s easy to improve both the quality and quantity of your sleep.
Here are a couple of our favorite tips and tricks when it comes to building an all-star routine.
Regularity Is Key
No matter which of these tricks you end up implementing into your daily life, the most important thing to keep in mind is regularity.
No matter how much you might love staying up late when the weekend rolls around, what you need more than anything else is a solid routine.
Your body loves being able to anticipate what’s going to happen next, and by giving yourself a regular, nightly routine with little to no variation, you’ll also be giving yourself the chance to really power down for the night the way you need to.
Although there’s no avoiding the occasional sleepless night that might crop up from time to time, establishing a comfortable rhythm to your evening helps minimize the chances of all sorts of sleep-related issues.
If at all possible, hold yourself to getting to bed at the same time every night – no matter how much you might not feel like it.
Obviously, establishing any kind of healthy habit is much more easily said than done – just finding enough time in the day to get the doctor-recommended seven to eight hours of sleep each night is often a tough enough challenge, even without having to hold yourself to any kind of soothing rituals before hitting the hay.
However, by establishing these kinds of nightly routines, you’ll likely see you sleep dramatically improve.
This kind of top-notch rest will make you far more productive during the day – more than making up for however much time you invest in this routine!
Create a “Buffer Zone” Around Bedtime
Another helpful tip when building a nightly routine is to create a kind of “buffer zone” between the rest of your life and your sleep.
Our bodies simply are not built to be all-systems-go every waking minute of our lives – least of all when it comes to our sleep.
In fact, racing thoughts when trying to sleep are a major factor in insomnia.
Both our minds and our bodies typically need time to cool off from the stresses of the day before we’ll be able to get a good night’s sleep.
That’s why many sleep specialists recommend creating a “buffer” between daily life and sleep.
Ideally, you want to stop doing all kinds of work about two hours before bedtime, and take that time to start letting yourself relax.
During this period, avoid answering work emails, doing stressful housework, or having tense conversations with friends, family members or your partner.
Even if it’s not possible for you to block out such an extensive amount of time before bed, setting some kind of clear distinction between work-time and winding-down-time is vital for achieving a successful night’s sleep.
Avoid Electronics & Bright Lights
In addition to overly-stimulating activities and scenarios, you’ll also want to avoid electronics as much as possible in the hours before bed.
In addition to waking you up and tricking your brain into being more alert than necessary, electronics also emit a certain kind of light wavelength that’s been known to disrupt the normal transition into sleep.
You see, your brain’s pineal gland is designed to release the hormone melatonin into your bloodstream when it’s time to power down for sleep.
How does it know exactly when to do that?
Well, although environmental factors like sticking to a regular nightly routine play no small role, the pineal gland also keeps an eye on the levels of light in your environment at any given time.
When it’s dark out, the brain assumes it’s time to go to sleep.
When it’s light out, it’s time to wake up… right?
The problem is, modern artificial lighting throws a monkey wrench into the brain’s whole system for keeping track of time.
If you’re exposed to too much bright light in the hours before bed, you risk tricking your brain into thinking it’s daytime and slowing the release of melatonin.
Similarly, the LED screens of most electronics emit blue light, which has an even stronger effect on melatonin secretion than light on other parts of the spectrum.
Because of this, it’s recommended that you entirely cut out all forms of electronics starting at least half an hour before bed.
Watch What You’re Eating and Drinking
In addition to electronics, you’ll want to cut out unhealth eating and drinking habits in the hours before bed, as well.
Caffeine, for instance, has a half-life of about 5 or 6 hours.
This means that if you drink 10mg of caffeine at 5 o’clock in the afternoon and then head to bed at 10 or 11, fully half of all that caffeine will still be in your system as you’re trying to get to sleep!
Unless you’ve built up an extreme tolerance, consuming any kind of caffeine in the late afternoon is not recommended.
As you start getting closer to bedtime, other substances to avoid include nicotine and alcohol.
Finally, it’s also healthiest to avoid anything more than a very light snack after you’ve eaten dinner.
In addition to causing potential indigestion, this kind of noshing upsets your gut biome, which operates on a 24-hour clock very similar to the one your sleep schedule uses.
Read or Listen to Music
With so much red tape around what you’re “allowed” to be doing in the hours before bedtime, you might be starting to wonder if anything is actually healthy to do during this period.
Thankfully, there are a number of soothing activities out there that can not only improve your sleep, but your overall wellbeing as well.
Reading or listening to music, for instance, is often a great way to quiet your mind for the night.
71% of Americans say they’d like to read more, but finding the time to do it is always the tricky part.
Thanks to your new nightly routine, though, you don’t even need to worry about where that time’s going to come from – you’ve already blocked it out!
For the less bookish of you out there, on the other hand, certain kinds of music have been found to have a relaxing effect on the brain and improve sleep quality in a major way.
Quiet Your Mind With Meditation
Another healthy way to settle your mind for a good night’s sleep is meditation.
Although sleep might not be the first thing you think of when you hear the word, meditation has shown itself to be highly effective in quieting the restless parts of our psyche that tend to keep us up at night.
During the day, most of our minds are a constant buzz of thoughts, many of them negative.
Meditation offers a chance at quieting these noisy thoughts, allowing us to simply accept our minds and ourselves for what we are.
Try meditating for just 20 minutes right before bed, and see the kind of improvements this ancient technique can bring!
Keep a Daily Journal
Finally, another simple technique for improving sleep is to keep a daily journal.
It doesn’t have to take long – maybe just a couple minutes before going to sleep – but by getting certain kinds of thoughts out onto paper, you can get your mind into the state it needs to be in for the best possible sleep.
Especially if you tend to be a bit of a worrier, one useful journaling technique might simply involve writing out all the things you’re concerned about in a daily log.
While it might seem a little counterintuitive to make yourself think about these kinds of things right before you go to bed, worry journals often help release the tension you’ve built up over the trials of the day.
Stop trying to hold everything back, and just let yourself be honest about the things that have been bothering you.
By acknowledging those thoughts and seeing them laid out as finite, transitory problems on a piece of paper, you might find yourself able to breathe a little easier.
Another activity many find helpful to do before bed is to keep a daily gratitude journal.
No matter how big or how small, try writing out everything you’re thankful for today.
You’ll likely be surprised by the sheer number of things that go right on any given day – no matter how rotten you might be feeling in the moment.
From the love that comes from friends and family to the simple joy of being alive, every moment of our lives is home to countless miracles, just waiting to be noticed.
Keeping a daily gratitude journal has been found to improve pretty much all aspects of mental health, and it can help put you in a much more positive mood when it comes time to go to sleep.
If you’re religious, you might also try expressing your worries and thanksgivings in the form of prayer.
So there you have it – our absolute favorite tips and tricks for designing your nightly routine.
Let us know if you have any questions in the comment box below.
Best of luck, and pleasant dreams!