You toss and turn, unable to turn off your brain long enough to get to sleep.
Or you wake up in the middle of the night, unable to get back to sleep.
If any of these sound familiar, maybe the problem isn’t you – maybe the problem is your nighttime routine.
After all, we know a healthy morning routine can make or break your day. Once you think about it, it makes sense that a nightly routine can be just as important.
These suggestions can help make up a nighttime routine that will have you sleeping like a baby in no time. Not all of them may work for you, but feel free to pick and choose the ones that do.
Think About Starting Early
You could be forgiven for thinking that a nightly routine would only take place at night – but you’d be mistaken. A helpful routine can start as early as when you wake up!
If you’re having problems sleeping at night, it could be because your sleep cycle is out of balance. The first step to restoring that balance is to expose yourself to bright light during the day.
As soon as you can after you get up in the mornings, find yourself some sunlight. Sit next to a window, step out for some coffee, even invest in a UV lamp if necessary. Sunlight will help your body register that it’s daytime and time to be awake.
But what that has to do with a nightly routine is getting ahead of myself, because there are still more things you can do during the day to make your nightly routine easier.
Pay close attention to what time you nap – or even if you nap at all. Taking a quick nap can be a great way to reinvigorate your day. Or, it can be a way to sabotage your nighttime routine before you’re evening thinking about it.
If you nap, make sure you do so early in the afternoon. If you get tired midday or later, move around and stay busy until you’re over the energy slump.
And the last daytime step you can take to improve your nightly routine is to stop drinking caffeine about six hours before you go to bed. Some people still feel the effects of caffeine ten and twelve hours after they drink it!
So figure out what time bedtime is and have your last coffee, tea, or soda at least six hours before then.
Making the Nighttime Routine Work at Night
As important as those three things can be, it really is nighttime where your nightly routine matters most. This schedule will work best if you try to go to bed at the same time every night, and do your best to schedule that between six and eight hours before you have to get up in the mornings.
Three hours before bedtime – Make sure you’ve finished dinner and are done eating heavy meals no later than three hours before you want to be falling asleep.
Also, stop drinking alcohol by this time as well. Yes, some people like a nightcap to help them sleep, but it really can backfire if you drink it too late.
Two hours before bedtime – You should begin to wind down physically at this point. Finish your walk, any aerobic exercise, and any heavy housekeeping.
One hour before bedtime – This is when your nightly routine really starts. Even if you can’t do any of the others, try these. After all, you can’t stay busy and racing all day and then expect to fall asleep in five minutes. Give yourself time to relax.
Stop whatever work you’ve been doing during the evening. Turn off the computer, close the files. It’s time to start to let your mind relax, as well as your body.
Tidy up. This isn’t a major housecleaning. The dishes should be in the dishwasher and the laundry out of the dryer by now. Instead, make your lunch for tomorrow if you’ll need it in the morning, prep the coffee maker, and wipe down the kitchen. This way, you aren’t stressed about any big mess you might have left.
Make notes for tomorrow. Take the time to write down anything you might be stressed about and a step or two you can take to resolve the issue. This isn’t to make you anxious, but to get the worry out of your head for a little while. Once you write it down, you can assure yourself you won’t forget anything and you already have a plan in place to address the stress.
Make notes about today. Once you’ve made notes for the next day, take the time to write a few things that went really well today. If it was a hard day, write something that you’re thankful for, no matter how small. This will allow you to end your day on a peaceful, thankful note, rather than a stressed one.
Turn the lights down. Remember your nightly routine started as soon as you woke up with finding sunlight? Here’s where that comes into play! Your body recognizes the difference between the daylight, when you should be awake, and the dimmer lights, when you should start relaxing. Your body produces melatonin, which is a hormone that helps regulate sleep. Dim lights helps your body know it’s time to start producing, so you can get some rest.
Have a relaxing ritual. Maybe it’s a hot bath by candlelight. Maybe it’s a cup of chamomile tea. Maybe it’s meditation or deep breathing. Whatever relaxes you and helps you transition from busy day to peaceful night, find time to do it.
If you read, choose carefully. Once you get in bed, feel free to read or listen to music until you drift off. But if you’re reading on an e-reader instead of a book, avoid the ones with backlights. Same goes for television and computer screens. Now isn’t the time for electronics that trick your brain into thinking you should be awake.
It’s time to stop tossing and turning. Improving your nighttime routine very well may help improve your nights!