Are you a person who loves a routine or schedule you can count on each day? Or do you prefer to take each day as it comes? Regardless of what group you belong in, having a bedtime routine will make you feel more in control of how you spend the wee hours of the day when you’re not working, so you can improve your sleep health and create space for you to do things that make your body and mind feel good at the end of the day.
How do you make the most of your evening hours? What specific activities set you up for a good night’s rest? Here are some ideas to consider adding to your bedtime routine.
Importance of having a bedtime routine
Having a bedtime routine will make getting the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night more doable. As a byproduct, you’ll get a refreshing night’s rest and energize your mornings so you can tackle the day head-on.
Once you make it a habit to do the same set of activities every night before sleep, you prime your body to know when it’s time to sleep and wake up. You’ll also be more grounded in the present moment, without worrying about how your day went or how tomorrow’s going to turn out. Instead, you’ll be moving according to the night’s pace, going through activities that set you up to a night of undisturbed, restorative sleep.
What’s more, evidence suggests that self-control is usually at its lowest in the evening time when you may be exhausted from the day’s activities. Having a routine may prevent you from indulging in habits you may want to break away from and help you stay on track with healthier habits until you master them.
Having a bedtime reminder also helps you maintain consistency with your sleep and wake time, which is essential for healthy sleep hygiene.
1. Set a bedtime alarm
Revenge bedtime procrastination is a real thing and can happen to anyone. This phenomenon is described as putting off or postponing bedtime to make space for more entertaining activities like texting, scrolling through social media, or watching movies on Netflix.
The thing is, even when you promise yourself that these fun activities would only take 30 minutes of your time, you may unconsciously let them slip past your bedtime. And you end up reducing your overall sleep time.
Setting a bedtime alarm, and sticking to it, is a great way to make sure you’re prioritizing sleep, while still enjoying your nightly activities post-work and pre-bedtime. It’s all about balance!
2. Create a bedtime playlist
Music may be the last thing that comes to mind when creating a bedtime routine, but some research suggests that listening to relaxing music before bedtime may help you relax and sleep better. Just remember that keeping your sleep environment quiet is a foundational part of maintaining good sleep hygiene. So, try setting a sleep timer on your music so it won’t disrupt your rest later in the night.
Research shows that music has potential benefits on physical, psychological, and emotional states, and its effects may extend to it being a helpful aid for better sleep. Music may reduce stress hormones, activate the body’s rest and recovery state, and release happy hormones, making it easy for your body to feel at rest and truly get into the sleep zone.
62% of participants in a 2018 study reported that they listen to music for sleep. Some of the reasons they listened to music included:
- “Music helps me clear my mind and fall asleep, and not notice the amount of time that it takes to do so.”
- “It helps with my mood before falling asleep, which I think is a major factor in my ability to fall asleep.”
- “It works kind of like a lullaby—if the music is right, it can get me into a lovely sleepy state that makes it easier for my body to relax into sleep.”
- “Stops me from thinking about unpleasant things.”
These responses show the different ways music caters to the specific needs of each individual in their quest to fall and stay asleep.
The study also showed that the type of music these participants listened to was diverse. This finding suggests that you don’t need to listen to a particular kind of music for you to sleep better. Your preference works just fine. You can just make a playlist of your preferred music choice and listen to it as you prepare for your journey to dreamland.
3. Listen to sleep noise
Many people find that one uninterrupted sound is an effective way to mask sudden sounds overnight that can cause sleep to be disturbed. Listening to colored noises such as white noise, pink noise, and brown noise, whichever is more effective at sending you to lalaland, you can have a night of uninterrupted sleep.
Evidence suggests that having a night of uninterrupted sleep is just as important or even more important than the duration or intensity of your sleep when it comes to memory consolidation—a significant function of sleep.
These noises drown out other types of noise that may trigger your attention.
For example, studies show that white noise may help reduce the downside of sleeping in a noisy environment and improve your sleep quality. Similarly, a 2017 study suggests that white noise may help you sleep more quickly and is a useful intervention for managing sleep health.
4. Take a warm, soothing bath
Nothing tells your body that it’s time for sleep quite like a warm relaxing bath and matching pajamas to jump into after.
A 2021 study suggests that enjoying a hot water bath before bedtime reduces the time it takes for a person to fall asleep, making it suitable for those who find it difficult to fall asleep. Additionally, a meta-analysis showed that a bath one to two hours before bedtime can also improve sleep efficiency, subjective sleep quality, and the time it takes one to fall asleep.
5. Read a book
Great books and stories immerse your mind so that you become lost in the pages of the book. At that moment, nothing else matters.
So, if you’re looking for a way to lose yourself in the moment, ease your mind of the day’s stress, and take a break from worrying or ruminations that may keep you alert and awake, picking up a good book, preferably a hard copy, may do the work.
Studies suggest that reading a book may reduce anxiety symptoms and give your mind the quiet it needs so that you can fall asleep.
6. Try aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is a therapeutic intervention that uses fragrances or scents to improve health and wellbeing.
Fragrances that have been shown to create a body and mind state suitable for sleep include lavender, chamomile, rose, jasmine, and ylang-ylang.
You can apply scents by massaging them in their diluted form into the skin or inhalation via a diffuser or air spray — just make sure you’re not allergic or sensitive to any scents or fragrances.
Studies suggest that aromatherapy may help support sleep. Likewise, a study exploring the effects of 12 weeks of lavender aromatherapy on women with insomnia found that lavender improved sleep quality, enhanced their heart rate variability (HRV), and lowered their resting heart rate.
Another way to quiet the mind for sleep is by meditating. Meditation is a practice that helps ground you in the present, stills your mind, reduces worrying and rumination, and relaxes any tension that may be in your body. And studies suggest that it may help manage insomnia symptoms and improve sleep quality.
Similarly, another study suggests that meditation is a mind-body medicine intervention that may help older adults who have trouble sleeping sleep better.
You can check out our quick guide to starter meditation practices and breathing exercises.
8. Practice gratitude journaling
Another great way to end a day is to finish it by recounting all the things that went well about your day, the little wins you had, and other things you’re grateful for.
Better than being grateful in your mind, consider jotting down your gratitude on paper or a digital notepad. This can help you truly the time to practice gratitude with intention.
Studies suggest that practicing gratitude may improve physical, mental, emotional, and sleep health. Keeping a gratitude journal may enhance mood, increase positive emotions, help you sleep longer, and improve your overall sleep quality.
9. Map out tomorrow’s activities
Another activity you can add to your bedtime routine is creating the next day’s to-do list in the evening.
Another reason many people may find it hard to fall asleep is because they may be thinking of all of the things they have to do the next day. And sometimes, these activities may feel too overwhelming, especially when you think about them at a time when you can do nothing about them. Experts call this phenomenon “bedtime worry” and suggest that it “is a significant contributor to difficulty falling asleep.”
Instead of getting lost in thoughts of tomorrow, you can create your to-do list at night. To-do lists make your workload look more manageable, and help your mind feel at ease knowing that it’s all captured, allowing you to rest easy.
Whatever your nighttime routine looks like, be sure to make it your own with activities that suit your needs and preferences. Once you find what you like, doing them in the same order at the same time each night can help tell your body that bedtime is approaching, allowing you to get tired naturally on time, so sleep comes with ease.