Did you have a bedtime routine when you were growing up?
Maybe your parents would tell you it was time to put on your jammies and brush your teeth. Then they’d read you a story, tuck you in, and check under your bed for monsters before they turned off the light.
Whether you realized it back then or not, your childhood bedtime routine helped you get to sleep by preparing your mind and body to relax and unwind. But did you know that bedtime routines aren’t just for kids?
As an adult, you’re more likely to be thinking about your job and paying your bills than monsters under the bed. But your mind is still active at the end of the day, and those active thoughts can stand between you and a good night’s sleep. Fortunately, your bedtime routine can help you slow down and relax so you can get more restful sleep– without sleeping pills.As an adult, do you have a bedtime routine?Click To Tweet
In this post, I’ve put together 15 ideas you can mix and match to create your own, grown-up bedtime routine. You can use these ideas individually or in any combination to establish a personal ritual that works for you.
- Slow down. Are you still thinking about work and rushing through domestic chores until you collpase into bed? Give yourself some downtime in the evening before turning in. Moving your body at a more leisurely pace will signal your mind to slow down.
- Dim the lights. When your eyes are gazing at bright screens on your phone and TV, your brain is being stimulated. Shut down electronic devices at least two hours before bed. Darken your bedroom as well.
- Read a book. Now that you’re offline, try catching up on your reading. A great place to keep you old-fashioned paper books is at the bedside. Visit your local library to browse the fiction or history shelves. If you prefer an electronic reading experience, turn the brightness down and use an app or filter to block blue light.
- Breathe deeply. Breathing techniques can help you manage your emotions. Do exercises that help you focus on inhaling from your abdomen instead of your chest. Diaphragmatic breathing activates the vagus nerve, which triggers a relaxation response throughout your body. Simply exhaling for longer than you inhale also helps reduce stress.
- Eat something light. If you’re distracted by hunger pangs, have a small snack. Pick something that combines a little protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fat.
- Relax your muscles. Progressive muscle relaxation is a proven method for settling down to sleep. Work your way down from head to toe as you tense and relax your muscles in one area at a time. You can also work your way up from toes to head. It helps to imagine each isolated body part as feeling heavy and warm.
- Perform a nightly mental dump. Write down your worries, and concerns. Make a list of nagging thoughts, urgent errands, and personal goals. Once you put it on paper, you can forget about it. You can always use your notes as a reminder the next day.
- Count backwards. Counting sheep works because it’s boring. However, if you find yourself lingering over cute images of sheep, switch to plain numbers. Counting backwards from 100 can help because it requires a modest mental effort that blocks out other intrusive thoughts.
- Play a word game. If you’re not a numbers person, you might try a simple mental word game. Choose a five-letter word and name an item that starts with each letter. Some people find this type of activity more stimulating than relaxing, though, so it may not work for you.
- Listen to music. Music can have a powerfully soothing effect on your mood. Play a classic lullaby, soft jazz, or other instrumental tunes with slow, steady rhythms that soothe and help you relax.
- Hide your clock. Staring at your clock can make you anxious about how long you’ve tossed and turned or how many hours you have left before you need to leave for work. Turn the display towards the wall or put your clock on a shelf above your head.
- Take a break. If you’re tossing and turning for more than half an hour, you might benefit from getting up and going to another room until you’re drowsier. Keep the TV off and do something mind-numbing like organizing your sock drawer.
- Meditate and visualize. If you’re learning to meditate, you may have been taught that entering a meditative state while lying down is not a good idea because you’ll fall asleep. Well, feel free to harness this knowledge for your bedtime routine! Practice the meditation or visualization technique of your choice while lying comfortably in your bed… along with full permission to drift off to sleep.
- Take a warm bath or shower. Your body temperature drops at night as part of your normal circadian rhythm. By raising your body temperature with a warm bath or shower 1-2 hours before bedtime, you can create a steeper-than-usual temperature drop, which leads to deeper, more restful sleep.
- Diffuse a relaxing essential oil. Essential oils like lavender and Roman chamomile are known for their relaxing effects. Diffusing relaxing EOs, or even simply EOs you find pleasant or enjoy the aroma of, in your bedroom, bathroom, or before-bed space, can help you relax and achieve restful sleep.
Choose the ideas that work best for you– in any combination– to build your grown-up bedtime routine. You can even develop different routines to accommodate different circumstances. For example, if you travel frequently, you may want to develop an on-the-road bedtime routine as well as one for use in your own home.Develop different bedtime routines for different circumstances: If you travel frequently, you may benefit from an on-the-road routine.Click To Tweet
Once you identify your preferred bedtime routine, be consistent. When you practice your bedtime routine each evening, you’ll be able to “program” your body and mind to relax and unwind.
Eventually your bedtime routine will become one of your healthy habits. And when that happens, you’ll be able to enjoy restful sleep more regularly.Eventually your bedtime routine will become one of your healthy habits.Click To Tweet
Was this list helpful? What ideas can you add to it? What’s your favorite bedtime routine — either now, or when you were growing up? Please leave your comments below.