For the longest time I couldn’t figure out why I never accomplished anything at night, would take hours to fall asleep, and wake up only after hitting the snooze button five times.
I tried so many things to change my habits.
Forcing myself to get up early; It made me miserable.
Forcing myself to go to bed early; It made me groggy.
Turning off Netflix and reading instead. That sort of worked — except I still stayed up too late.
I stopped working out at 10:30 pm; that helped. (Until I stopped working out all together.)
I went through a lot of trial and error before I came to one conclusion: I needed a nighttime routine that helped me feel sleepy around 11 pm that also calmed me and helped me feel prepared for the next day.
My nightly routine prepares me for a good night’s sleep but also helps me feel less stressed and prepared for the day ahead when I wake up. It’s been an essential part of eliminating stress from my life.
Here’s the nightly routine I currently follow:
1. Eat dinner no later than 7:00 pm.
I can’t fall asleep with a full stomach — it just never happens. Digestion keeps me awake, especially if I have sugar or caffeine close to bedtime. It took me awhile to break my nightly snacking habit, but I simply have tea instead of eating something. Of course, I still eat if I’m actually hungry, but I try my best to stick to my schedule.
This used to be no eating after 8:30 pm, but I’ve found that my body reacts better to an earlier dinner time.
2. No computer or phone after 9 pm.
I plan to be asleep between 11 and 12 every night and try to limit the amount of screen time I have within 2 hours of bedtime. Science says the light messes with our circadian rhythms, and in practice, I personally feel like disconnecting from my computer and phone helps me sleep better.
3. Make a brief to-do list for the next day.
I operate on a weekly to-do list for both my work and personal goals. Before putting away my computer and phone, I make myself a quick to-do list in my planner with my main priorities for the next day. It helps me feel organized and feeling organized helps me really disconnect and relax.
If there is anything that’s bothering me from today that I need to make sure I take care of tomorrow, I write that down as well.
4. I drink tea and watch something on Netflix for about an hour.
Watching Netflix helps me unwind and relax, and it’s a bonding activity for me and my husband. Too much Netflix every night makes me feel unproductive, so I try my best to limit myself to no more than two hours per night.
I love having a cup of hot tea at night (caffeine for me). Since it’s usually the only time I have tea, it signals to my body that it’s time to relax and get prepared for bed.
5, I brush my teeth and read for 30 minutes (or until my eyes are tired) and I fall asleep.
Brushing your teeth seems like an obvious thing to do before, but it also helps my body and brain realize we will be going to sleep soon. Also I wear a retainer at night so I really don’t like to skip this step.
Reading—usually a physical book instead of my Kindle—keeps me from watching TV or checking my phone until I fall asleep and helps my eyes get heavy.
What I don’t do:
I wish I could tell you that I did yoga or meditated for some time but that’s simply not the case for me. I think those things are great and they are part of my daily checklist of things to do for mind and body health, but unfortunately they do not help me fall asleep. I think it’s important to do what helps you fall asleep and stay asleep — no matter what anyone else says.
4 Tips for making your own nightly routine:
There’s no right or wrong thing to do before bed as long as you do what helps you feel rested and calm and stay away from what keys you up.
1. Figure out what time you want to be asleep by.
Knowing this will help you know what time you want to start your nightly routine. I like to be asleep between 11pm and 12 am so I can wake up between 7 am and 8 am and have gotten 7-8 hours of sleep.
Many people put off getting ready for bed until the time they need to be asleep by to get adequate rest. This is a mistake that leaves us feeling stressed, tired, and rushed in the morning.
2. Focus on what helps you unwind.
Whatever it is that helps you feel relaxed and de-stress at the end of the day is what I recommend you incorporate into your routine.
Some examples are journaling, reading, stretching, taking with your spouse/friend/romantic partner, etc, watching TV, having a bubble bath, and/or drinking tea.
3. Discipline yourself and hold yourself accountable.
The only way your routine is going to work for you is if you actually do it. If you know you want be be asleep by 11 pm, set an alarm for 9 pm so you can start getting ready for bed.
4. Don’t put pressure on yourself to figure it out.
You’re only going to stress yourself out even more if you overthink it and worry about it. Just relax and do what aligns with your sleep goals — if you do, you’ll be sleeping better in no time.
Having a nightly routine has not only helped disconnect for better sleep, but has helped me stress less and feel more calm and confident.
Do you have nightly routine? I’d love to hear what it is!