When you were young, you most likely had a “bedtime routine.” A bath, some warm milk, a bedtime story and lights-off at an early hour. Does that bring back memories?
Bedtime, although sometimes protested, included structured and relaxing practices to help you ease into a restful night of sleep.
But for most adults, that bedtime routine has changed quite a bit. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that nearly 30 percent of the adult population is sleep deprived!
For many adults, bedtime routines involve turning off the TV, getting into bed and scrolling through Instagram or Facebook one last time.
This “routine” does not ease us into a relaxed, restful state and the stress of the day still lingers on our minds.
If you find yourself lying awake at night, your mind racing, and wake up the next day feeling exhausted, creating a relaxing bedtime routine may help you to have a more blissful night of sleep.
Before we share some of our favorite evening rituals to improve your sleep, it’s important to complete this task before you ease into a restful nightly routine:
Plan your to-do list for the next day.
It is a good idea to write out your “to-do” list on paper, so your mind can more easily release these tasks and shift into relaxation. So whether it’s a notebook, journal or calendar, organize your plans for the next day.
Once your “to-do” list is out on paper and not racing through your mind, it’s much easier to ease into a relaxing evening routine. Here are some of our favorite practices.
1. Avoid technology.
We have all heard avoiding technology before bed is a good idea, yet so many of us still turn off our TVs, computers or phones just seconds before we close our eyes for bed.
But why is it so important to avoid technology before bedtime?
The blue light emitted from cellphones, computers, tablets, and TVs disrupts the production of melatonin in your body. This is a naturally occurring hormone in your brain that regulates the sleep cycle.
So when you watch TV or scroll through your Facebook News Feed before bed, your brain thinks it’s daytime (even if you’re feeling exhausted and sleepy) and melatonin production is slowed down. Less melatonin means poor quality sleep.
We recommend shutting off electronics two hours before bedtime and instead, engaging in self-care practices. If two hours seems impossible, find an increment of time you can commit to and build from there. Thirty minutes is better than nothing, and even 10 minutes is a good starting point. Remember, big changes are the result of consistently repeating small steps over time.
But what can you do instead of playing on your phone? Here are some of our favorite relaxing evening activities:
- reading a book (a real book you can hold in your hands!)
- journaling or writing a gratitude list
- mindful and meditative coloring books for adults
2. Drink herbal tea.
Herbal teas like chamomile and valerian root are wonderful to have before bedtime. According to researchers, drinking chamomile tea is associated with an increase of glycine, a chemical that relaxes nerves and muscles and acts like a mild sedative. Valerian root tea may also help reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and help you sleep more soundly.
3. Take a warm bath or shower.
Even if you shower in the morning, a quick warm bath or shower in the evening may help you drift off to sleep.
According to Greatist, a warm shower helps to create a drop in body temperature, which slows down metabolic functions like heart rate, breathing and digestion. It also helps to release muscle tension, which makes the body feel relaxed and comfortable.
4. Calming scents and oils.
Scents like lavender, chamomile, ylang ylang or marjoram help to calm your nervous system and ease you into a good night’s sleep. You can use these calming scents in your bath or shower, apply them topically or diffuse them in your bedroom. No matter how you use these calming scents, they will certainly become a welcomed part of your evening routine.
5. Deep breathing and meditation.
Practices like yoga, deep breathing and meditation can help your nervous system move from “fight or flight” (the stress response) to “rest and digest” (the relaxation response).
Throughout the day, we can become over-stimulated and over-tired, triggering a “fight or flight” response in the body. This makes it very difficult to relax, since our bodies are being flooded with stress hormones.
But when you incorporate meditation and breathing exercises into your daily and nightly routine, you help the body turn on the “rest and digest” part of the nervous system. These calming practices also rewire your nervous system, so you can spend more time feeling relaxed and at ease.
If you are looking for a quick and effective meditation to use in your evening wind down routine, you can gain access to my free, guided 10-minute stress relieving meditation below.
We hope these practices will help you ease into a more restful evening routine and have a good night’s sleep!