If you don’t get enough sleep or struggle to stay asleep, building a sleep routine can help you get a better night’s rest. Creating a bedtime or sleep routine can provide a signal to your brain that it’s time to start settling down for the evening. The routine can be something as simple as setting aside 30 to 60 minutes before going to bed to do calming activities like taking a warm bath, journaling, or listening to white noise.
Why Create a Sleep Routine?
Habits are very powerful. Your morning routine might help you get out the door without thinking too much. Sleep routines help teach our brain when it is time to sleep. By doing the same activities in the same order every night, your brain learns that those activities mean it is time to sleep.
Having a routine also plays a key part in reducing stress and anxiety that might keep you awake as you’re going to bed. By building a sleep routine, you can incorporate strategic actions to help shift your mind from stressful thoughts.
Setting up a Good Sleep Routine
There are many different elements you might consider adding to your sleep routine. While consistency is key long-term, as you develop a sleep routine, you might benefit from testing different activities to see which makes you feel the most relaxed and helps you destress from the day.
Stick to a Bedtime
Winding down for bed begins a few hours before you go to sleep as a part of your natural circadian rhythm. Your routine can take advantage of this natural pattern by creating a transition period. Deciding on a bedtime and wake-up time that are conducive to your schedule and sticking to them every day (yes, including weekends), can help make the most of natural rhythms.
To support this, write down a list of your new pre-sleep activities so you don’t have to try to remember them. You can also create a list of chores or tasks that you remember as you’re going to bed. Writing down tasks or chores you remember during your routine means you don’t have to worry about forgetting them for the next day and means that you won’t interrupt your new routine.
You can also set a reminder directly in Rest to let you know when it’s time to start winding down for bed. It’s a useful trick when creating a healthy sleep routine.
Listen to Sleep Sounds
Sleep sounds can range from music, stories to meditation to white noise, and are a powerful tool for helping you rest. Music is a favorite of many people because it gives them something to focus on as they try to fall asleep. It doesn’t matter what genre the music is as long as it is calming to you. Other audio is also very powerful. Ambient noises like rain or white noise, have been shown to help people fall asleep faster, stay asleep, and improve sleep quality.
There are many resources for finding sleep sounds and white noise. The Rest App, for example, curates over 700 different podcasts, rain sounds, music, white noise, and more for you to select from each night. You can even select how long you’d like for the sound to play if you need a longer time to fall asleep.
Manage the Light
Before electricity, people followed the rising and setting of the sun. Now that we have the option for 24-hour lighting, it can interrupt our ability to sleep well. A part of setting up your bedtime routine starts earlier in the day.
When you wake up, try to expose yourself to light. This signals to our brain that it’s time to wake up and get going. If you get up before the sun or live in an area with less natural light, it can be worth looking into purchasing a sun lamp, which imitates the sun’s light to help you catch some rays. Getting this light early in the day helps your body set itself up for a full day and refreshes your circadian rhythm.
As your day comes to a close, consider how much you’re looking at screens. While watching TV or scrolling social media might seem relaxing, the blue light emitted from screens can interrupt your circadian rhythm. If you have to look at screens late at night, consider setting up your phone to go to “night time mode,” which tints your screen with more yellow light to counter the impact of blue light. Ideally, though, you can set your technology aside for the hour or so before you’re headed to bed.
You can also take a look at the amount of light in your bedroom. Some people find it easier to sleep if the room is very dark, while others like there to be a gentle light. By figuring out how much light you like in your room, you can make sure to set up your room to match those needs.
Pick the Right Drinks
Deciding how much caffeine to drink in a day might already be a part of your daily routine, but this is a good time to evaluate how much caffeine you’re getting everyday. It’s also important to think about what time of day you’re drinking that caffeine, as some people struggle to fall asleep when they have caffeine too late in the day. Limiting your caffeine intake in the afternoon and evening could mean a better night sleep.
You also might want to consider how many alcoholic drinks you have at night. While everyone has a fun night out from time to time, drinking every evening can leave you struggling to fall asleep. Alcohol can cause you to feel sleepier, but ends up causing worse and more disrupted sleep.
However, some people can benefit from having a cup of decaf tea before bed. Herbal teas, especially ones made with chamomile or lavender, can be calming and help you unwind. Deciding whether to have a cup of tea before bed depends on whether you’ll be woken up in the middle of the night needing a bathroom break. If you’re a heavy sleeper who struggles to fall asleep, having a cozy mug of tea might do the trick.
Decide What to Do During the Day
What you do during the day can have a big impact on your sleep. Trying to incorporate 30 minutes of exercise during the day can help you feel more restful at night. The exercise doesn’t have to be hard, either. Simple exercises or an extra walk to get your heart rate above its resting rate can make a difference.
Similarly, if you’re a fan of naps, it’s important to limit your naps to 10 to 20 minutes. This keeps you from falling into the deepest stage of sleep, so you’re able to wake up refreshed without interrupting the amount of sleep you need each night.
Another trick during the day is to make sure you stay out of your bedroom and off your bed if possible. Dedicating that space as an area for preparing for sleep and sleeping, your brain will know that the room is specifically for rest. Try to find other comfy areas of the house to relax in, a cozy chair or on the couch, for example. If you work from home and your bedroom doubles as your office, try to set up a divider. You can also try lighting a candle with a certain scent as you get ready for bed to help distinguish the space as your nighttime space rather than your working space.
Pick up a Book or Journal
Sometimes picking up a book is just the thing you need to get to bed. It’s important to pick a book that’s not too exciting, though, otherwise you might stay up past your bedtime reading. If you’re prone to reading past your ideal sleep time, setting timers or a page limit can help you from going over.
You might also benefit from spending the time in the evening writing your own work. By writing down your experiences from the day and things that are on your mind, you clear them out of your thoughts before trying to fall asleep. This can be important if you struggle with racing or distracting thoughts as you try to sleep. By jotting them down, it not only gives you time to process them but also sets them aside so you can deal with them further the next day if needed.