A regular nightly routine can help improve sleep quality in adults.
It’s probably been a minute since someone sang you a lullaby and tucked you into your “Star Wars” sheets.
Now, thanks to the endless buffet of adult stresses, falling asleep isn’t quite as easy as it was under the two-dimensional gaze of cotton Harrison Ford.
But finding a nightly bedtime routine can help you nod off faster and recapture your blissful toddler glory. Here are 15 nightly routines to help you fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up refreshed AF.
A good night’s sleep offers beaucoup health benefits, from helping your heart to boosting your mood. Creating a nightly bedtime routine will help you cash in on those benefits by improving your sleep hygiene.
Here are 15 tips to ease you into la-la land:
- Organize your morning.
- Make a to-do list for tomorrow.
- Set an alarm.
- Take a warm bath.
- Drink some tea.
- Eat a healthy snack.
- Brush your teeth.
- Read a book.
- Try aromatherapy.
- Listen to calming music.
- Have sex.
- Turn off screens.
- Dim the lights.
Let’s face it: Everyone needs a solid night’s sleep to stay healthy. So as you reach for your teddy bear tonight, try these 15 night routine ideas. They can help tell your mind and body it’s time to go night-night.
Organize your morning
If you’re stressed about tomorrow morning and all the things you have to do, why not do a few of them the night before? Knock out a couple of simple morning tasks as part of your new bedtime ritual.
Set out those cute socks. Put the coffee into the grinder. Put your keys in that bowl on that bookshelf. Make your lunch and put it in that cool new bento box you got for your birthday. Eliminate the things that make you feel rushed or worried in the morning.
Make a to-do list for tomorrow
If you’re stressed about all the things during the rest of the day, take 5 minutes to write them down. Don’t overthink it. Simply list your tasks for tomorrow and be specific.
In a small 2018 sleep study, participants who wrote down things they had to do the next day fell asleep much more quickly than those who journaled about things they’d already done. The more specific they were about their to-do list, the faster they nodded off.
Set an alarm
Creating a consistent internal sleep clock is one of the keys to a good night’s rest. We’re creatures of habit, and research suggests we tend to repeat patterns of behavior as regularly as Punxsutawney Phil. So before you go to sleep, set an alarm for the next morning.
Doing this simple task each night will teach your brain to settle into a regular rhythm, cuing your body naturally when it’s time to go to sleep and when it’s time to wake up.
PSA: Make sure to set your alarm for the same time every day, even on weekends and, yes, on that trip to see Gaga in Vegas.
Take a warm bath
Break out your rubber ducky! Research suggests that taking a warm bath 1 hour before bedtime improves not only your ability to fall asleep but also your quality of sleep. Win-win!
For your own little pre-bedtime spa experience, add some bath salts, essential oils, or bubble bath.
Drink some tea
To wash down your pre-bed snack, try a cup of warm tea. Not too hot, not too cold — just right.
Chamomile tea contains apigenin, a bioactive plant compound that may help improve sleep. If you’re not into chamomile, try other sleep-friendly brews like:
- valerian tea
- lavender tea
- magnolia tea
- passionflower tea
- caffeine-free green tea
Eat a healthy snack
The one sense we haven’t mentioned yet is taste. Eating a healthy, light snack 1 to 2 hours before sleep will help you avoid being woken up by the deafening sound of your grumbling stomach.
Just be sure to stick to foods that won’t trigger heartburn in the middle of the night. It’s also a good idea to avoid anything that has caffeine, sugar, or booze — all of which can mess up your sleep cycle.
Brush your teeth
Brushing your teeth isn’t just good for protecting you from tooth decay, gum disease, and plaque buildup — it’s also a great way to treat yourself to a moment of Zen before bed. Brush for at least 2 minutes, and use that time to clear your mind.
P.S. As Tom Hanks said when asked what advice he would give to his younger self, “Floss more often.”
Releasing tension from your body will help you quite literally melt into your bed. Well, OK, not literally — but it will definitely feel really good. And it will help you sleep better. According to a 2016 research review, meditative movement like yoga or tai chi is associated with better sleep quality.
So instead of any high impact stuff, try something nice and easy. Remember the deep breaths. And if it hurts, ease way up.
Read a book
If you’re cool with putting down the screens, try picking up an actual book. Y’know, the ones with paper pages that smell good in a weird way. Reading can help redirect your attention from screens and help you relax.
Psst … Check out Greatist Reads for 10/10 book recommendations.
After your bath, keep the good smells going with some aromatherapy. In a small pilot study, a few sleep study participants reported better sleep and more energy the next day after taking a whiff of lavender while they slept.
A few drops of lavender oil in a diffuser or a small spritzer bottle should do the trick. You can also dab essential oil on your temples, your wrists, or that little divot below your neck (aka the suprasternal notch).
Bonus: You can impress your friends by saying “suprasternal notch” at your next hang.
According to a recent poll by the National Sleep Foundation, people who say they’re less stressed tend to get better sleep. Shocker!
Some research from 2010 suggests that mindfulness meditation — the practice of really being present without any judgments — may be helpful for people who have insomnia.
You can also opt for other types of meditation like:
- guided meditation
- focused meditation
- Transcendental Meditation
- Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
So get comfy, breathe deeply, and drop in to the moment.
Helpful hint: Download a meditation app for tips on how to get started.
Listen to calming music
As you settle into this new bedtime routine, try adding a relaxing soundtrack. In a small 2019 study, researchers found that listening to relaxing music helped participants fall asleep and improved their overall sleep quality.
Taste in relaxing music is a deeply personal choice, so just go for any genre that helps you chill out. But it’s prob best to avoid tunes that remind you of your ex.
The jury’s still out on this one, but preliminary evidence suggests a link between the Big O and better sleep. In a 2016 study, researchers found that having sex before sleep could decrease stress and help women with insomnia fall asleep and stay asleep.
Sex before sleep could also be a fun way to involve your partner in your nightly ritual. But there are all different kinds of sex. Auto, duo, or otherwise, sex might help you reach the ultimate state of relaxation before the dreamscapes appear.
Turn off screens
We love a good late-night doomscroll, but screens give off blue light — high energy visible light waves that tell your brain to stay awake and can mess with your body’s natural sleep cycle.
So it’s a good idea to turn off your screens at least an hour before bed. This helps your body produce melatonin, the helpful hormone that eases you into slumberland.
If you absolutely can’t put down your device, be sure to dim it to its lowest screen brightness. You can also enable any device settings that block blue light.
Pro tip: You can buy some affordable (and surprisingly stylish) blue-light-blocking glasses for even better light reduction.
Dim the lights
Studies show that too much light exposure can throw your body off its rhythm — circadian rhythm, that is. This internal clock tells your body when it’s time to be awake and when it’s time to be asleep.
Try dimming the lights in your bedroom about an hour before you hit the hay.
Following a nightly bedtime routine will help you create good sleep hygiene. Engage all five senses in the act of slowing down. Find the steps that work for you.
Start the ritual about an hour before nodding off and repeat it every night. Your brain and body will work in tandem to create the signals that ultimately coax you into the beautiful land of snooze.
Think of it as doing a Jedi mind trick on yourself. Now go on and bust out those “Stars Wars” sheets. No judgments.