When you were a child you probably had a nighttime routine that was enforced by your parents to get you to bed at a reasonable hour. Even as an adult you can benefit from keeping a regular sleep-wake schedule and creating evening rituals that allow you to wind down and prepare for a restful night’s sleep. I often have trouble turning my brain off at night, but it’s much easier when I follow my nighttime routine. Here are some ideas that have worked for me.
1. Decide on your bedtime – You probably know exactly how much sleep you need to function optimally, but how often do you actually get that amount? Count backwards from your desired wake time and make that your target hour to be asleep. You’ll need to experiment to figure out how long your nighttime routine takes so that you can be drifting off at that time. As you cultivate this habit, set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself when to start winding down.
2. Make your morning easier – Any preparations you can do at night for the next day will help you have a smoother morning. Decide on what to wear and pack your lunch and gym bag. This is especially helpful if you’re not a morning person and even small decisions seem overwhelming before your coffee has kicked in.
3. Tidy up the place – Bill Gates includes doing the dishes as part of his evening routine, and I try to do this every night as well. Waking up to a clean kitchen instead of a pile of dirty pots and pans does wonders for your morning mindset. Also, take a few minutes to put away items that have been left out around your home and to hang up your clothes from the day.
4. Stop screen time – Your electronic devices emit blue light that inhibits your body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that prepares you for sleep. Most experts recommend avoiding screens for at least 30-60 minutes before bed, so instead of scrolling on your phone, try reading from an old-fashioned book. If you must use electronics at night, install a blue light blocking app on your device. I like f.lux for my laptop and I enable Night Shift on my iPhone.
5. Adjust your surroundings – A dark, cool environment signals to your body it’s time to sleep. Keep the lights low as you’re preparing for bed and turn down the thermostat a few degrees.
6. Reflect and plan – Reviewing your day and setting some to dos for tomorrow is a great way to stay on track toward your goals. Take a moment to celebrate your successes, even small ones, and set just a few intentions for the next day. I like noting three work and three personal tasks, and I find it very satisfying to wake up and already know what I need to accomplish. Another few minutes of journaling allows me to get thoughts out of my head and then literally close the book on them.
7. Practice self care – This may be the most important step of all and yet the one you are most likely to skip. Self care is essential to maintaining a healthy, balanced life, so make it a priority to pamper yourself a little bit every day. Practice a skin care regimen, drink a cup of tea, do a few stretches, or read something that lifts your spirits. Taking a few minutes to do something just for you after a hectic day is a great reminder that life isn’t just about working and taking care of others, it’s meant to be enjoyed.
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