The Ultimate Bedtime Wind-Down Routine

Do you have trouble falling asleep or sleeping through the night? Follow these 5 steps to help control your environment for optimal sleep.

By Nicole Gleichmann

You lie in bed, ready to fade into dreamland and wake up in the morning feeling refreshed. But instead of peacefully entering the realm of sleep, you toss and turn, unable to quiet your mind. Once you finally drift off, something wakes you up in the middle of the night, and you’re left wishing that you could get a good night’s sleep for once.

Now you’re here, learning what you can do to set yourself up for a successful night of sleep. Fortunately, there are many things you can do that might help. One of the first things that you start doing right away is creating a bedtime routine.

Why Create a Bedtime Routine?

Do you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting enough deep sleep to feel refreshed the next morning? No matter which category you fall into, it’s likely that there are some extenuating circumstances that contribute to your sleep troubles.

For example, the following can make it hard to sleep well:

As you can see, there are a lot of factors that influence how well you sleep. Setting up a bedtime routine can address many of these factors, improving your sleep hygiene.

Your 5-Step Bedtime Routine

Step 1: Be Mindful of What, and When, You Eat and Drink

Do you have to wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, or do you experience indigestion or acid reflux at night? Both of these could be caused by eating or drinking too much or too soon before bedtime.

As a general rule, try to limit or avoid any liquids two hours before you go to bed. Additionally, caffeine and alcohol can both disrupt your ability to sleep. Try to not have caffeine late in the day, and if you have trouble sleeping, try to limit (or completely cut out) alcohol, especially late in the day.

Additionally, some people will experience trouble sleeping when they eat too close to bedtime. This can either be from eating a large dinner that doesn’t digest in time or eating too large of a snack shortly before bed.

One note here: everyone is different. Some people will do better not eating anything within a few hours of bedtime, while others will sleep more soundly when they have a light snack that’s healthy and high in protein shortly before bed.

Step 2: Avoid Bright Light Exposure and Limit Technology

Limiting technology has two benefits:

  1. The first is that it will help to create a calm mental state by limiting distractions (like an email from work that would be better left for the morning).
  2. The second is limiting blue light exposure.

Blue light, in particular, can disrupt your circadian rhythm. Think of your circadian rhythm as an internal clock that dictates your sleep/wake cycle. This clock is biologically tied to the natural light/dark cycle, and therefore, light exposure late at night can interrupt it. If you watch TV, check your email, or text your friends, this light can delay the release of melatonin, a hormone that helps you prepare to fall asleep.

It is best to limit blue light exposure within three hours of bedtime. If this is too difficult, try purchasing blue light glasses that block this spectrum of light. Wear them after the sun has set to begin to prepare your mind and body for sleep.

Step 3. Take a Bath

As part of your routine, try taking a warm bath or shower about an hour before bedtime as it can help you fall asleep. This is thanks to the drop in temperature that happens when you get out of the bath. When this happens, the sleep hormone melatonin is released, and your body thinks that it’s time to get to bed.

Step 4: Relax and Clear Your Mind

Do you ever go to sleep but have trouble quieting your mind? Maybe you’re thinking about a fight you had with your spouse earlier that day, compiling a mental to-do list for tomorrow, or feeling nervous about a meeting that you have the next morning.

An important step in preparing yourself for sleep is clearing your mind and getting it into a relaxed, peaceful state. This isn’t easy for most of us, so don’t worry if it feels like you’re fighting an uphill battle to learn how to relax and allow yourself a mental break.

There are a few things that can be extremely helpful when you’re trying to prepare mentally for bedtime. Use one or more of the following, depending on what you find the most helpful:

  1. An hour before bed, get your thoughts onto paper. This might involve journaling to work through emotions or creating a to-do list for the following day. The idea is to get your thoughts our before you’re in bed trying to fall asleep.
  2. Around 5-30 minutes before heading to bed, try mediation or deep breathing. These are both great strategies for relaxing your body and mind.

Step 5. Prepare Your Sleep Environment

There are a few things that you will want to pay attention to in regard to sleep environment to help you fall asleep and stay asleep:

  1. Light: Do you ever have light creep in through your windows, waking you up in the middle of your sleep? If this happens to you, invest in blackout shades or an eye mask to allow you to sleep soundly.
  2. Noise: If you find that noise wakes you up, whether from outside the house or inside, take steps to remedy it. Try a white noise machine or sleep headphones and a sleep sounds app to insulate you from disturbing noises.
  3. Temperature: If possible, set your bedroom to a temperature of around 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit. Typically, we sleep best when the room is a tad on the cold side. Be sure that your pajamas and bedding keep you comfortable and not too hot or too cold.

Putting it All Together: The Ultimate Bedtime Wind-Down Routine

Creating a bedtime routine can help you improve sleep quality and quantity. Every night about three hours before you go to sleep, try to follow this 5-step bedtime routine to help you get a good night’s rest. Feel free to change things up to best fit you and your personal sleep habits and needs.


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