Don’t you love sleep? I know i do! I wish I could just fall into bed and drift off but that’s rarely true. And this is where my night routine comes into play.
The same way a good morning routine can set you up for a great day, a good night routine can close off that day in style and set you up for a great night of sleep. The kind of sleep you need to reset, recover and gear up for another awesome day.
Below are my top tips to help you create the most amazing night routine and help your brain to turn off and drift into sleep faster and deeper. I’m not suggesting you should do all of the below every night but I do believe you should give everything a try. Also keep in mind that your winter night routine will probably look different to your night routine for summer and your weekend night routine might be slightly different again.
1. Set yourself up for success with a close off routine at work
A good night routine and a good night’s rest start before you even leave your desk. Jotting down notes, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s and planning out tasks for tomorrow before you head off will give you peace of mind and a fresh start tomorrow. Turning this into some sort of close off routine can help your brain switch from work mode to free time. Which brings us to the next point …
2. Learn to compartmentalise
The only way to our best in all the different shoes we wear is to set clear boundaries and learn to compartmentalise our different roles. Then devote ourselves completely to them.
Leave your job worries and endless to-dos at work and don’t bring your work stress home. Set a clear cut off time when you leave the office.
3. Prime your sleep environment
Even the smallest light can disrupt your sleep. Or the noise from the street. And that pillow that’s not too shabby but also not quite the right fit. Not to mention that big blanket that’s not quite warm enough for you but your partner finds too hot.
While buying a new bed and bedding can be a considerable expense, it is also an investment worth considering. You spend roughly a third of your life in bed … shouldn’t you make sure you’re comfortable? If there’s a street light in front of your room you could consider
4. Track your sleep
I’m a huge fan of sleep and seriously believe it’s one of the most important ingredients to a happy and fulfilling life. I preach about it all the time and until I got a sleep tracker I thought I was getting plenty of it. Turns out I wasn’t sleeping as much as I thought I was.
While I’d go to bed fairly early I’d sometimes stay up reading late without realising it, falling asleep took longer than I thought and it turned out that I woke up several times per night either to go to the loo, by being the unfortunate receiver of an elbow into my face or because our cat tried claiming my pillow.
Getting a sleep tracker will give you insights into your sleep habits and will act as a reality check ensuring you can take the appropriate steps to guarantee enough sleep.
5. Find your ideal bedtime and stick to it
With the data from your sleep tracker and a wake time that’s probably set in stone you’ll be able to calculate your ideal bedtime that ensures you get at least 7 hours of sleep. Then stick to it.
As tempting as it might be to stay up late and sleep in on the weekends, try to keep the same sleep schedule throughout the week. This will reinforce your inner clock shortening the time it takes you to fall asleep every night and making it easier to get up each morning.
6. Set up a bedtime alarm
I know, it sounds a bit ridiculous … but how many times have you lost track of time watching TV shows you don’t even enjoy just because you’re too tired and too lazy to get off the couch and into bed? Try setting up an alarm that signals the beginning of your night routine. It might just be the little nudge you need to get going before you’re too exhausted.
7. Cut off caffeine and theanine early
Caffeine has a half-life of 5 hours. An average cup of coffee contains about 100mg of caffeine. Let’s say you had a cup of coffee at 4PM to combat your afternoon slump. At 9pm you’ll still have 50mg of caffeine in your system. This will then drop to 25mg at 2AM. But since you probably had more coffees in the morning the actual amount of caffeine in your system might be higher.
Why does this matter? Because 50mg of caffeine can be enough to disrupt your sleep.
8. Don’t overeat
Eating big portions or heavy food just before bed can have a negative impact on your sleep quality. At the very least it can cause reflex which can keep you up for hours. Try keeping an eye on your dinner portions or allow a few hours between dinner and bedtime.
9. Turn off screens and dim the lights
Blue light has a huge effect on how awake we feel during the day and it can also cause trouble falling asleep at night. Our circadian rhythm is greatly influenced by the light – historically the Sun. Evening exposure to blue light (LED) can have a negative impact on our circadian rhythm and cognitive performance.
It’s a good idea to refrain from watching TV, working at your computer or scrolling on your phone in the evenings. Grab a book instead! Or at the very least consider using some blue-filter glasses.
10. Do a quick tidy
I hate waking up to a mess in the kitchen, it always seems to ruin my morning just a little bit. Or shoes scattered on the floor and half opened cabinets in the hallway. It hardly takes any time to tidy these up but works wonders to create a sense of order, calm and maybe even control. A sense of having my shit together. One reason less to worry at night and a much nicer environment to wake up to the day after.
11. Prepare for tomorrow
I strongly believe that a good morning routine starts the night before, as part of your night routine. Preparing things in advance can greatly streamline your mornings and save you those precious minutes of sleep. Consider choosing your outfit the night before, lie out your workout clothes, make sure your lunch is packed and your keys and wallet are where they should be.
12. Adjust the temperature
The temperature of your environment can set your body into ‘hibernate’ mode. Use this to your advantage and lower the temperature in the evenings. This will ensure the bed and blankets feels even cosier and your body can regulate it’s temperature without overheating at night.
13. Crack a window
Cracking a window will help you cool down the room and let in fresh air making your sleep better. If the noise from the street is a concern you could consider ear plugs, a white noise machine or a different source of cooling and ventilation.
14. Stretch or do a yoga night routine
A gentle nightly yoga routine or stretches will help relax your muscles and relieve any tightness that might otherwise keep you from falling asleep. This is also a great way to ease your body into slower ‘sleepier’ moves.
15. Take a bath or hot shower
Hot showers and baths are not only great for relaxation, research suggest that a hot shower or bath 1-2h before bed can improve the quality of your sleep by shortening the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep, deepening your sleep and generally improving your sleep efficiency.
16. Ritualise your skincare and hygiene
There is something soothing about small rituals. Way too often we go about our skincare and hygiene on auto pilot and forget to take in how pleasant that moisturiser feels and how delicious that lotion smells. The benefits of ritualising your evening skincare and hygiene routines are trifold. For starters, it will make them a lot more enjoyable and something you look forward to, secondly it will also turn it into a moment of mindfulness, and thirdly, your brain will start to associate it with sleep time.
17. Drink herbal tea
I love that feeling of a hot cup in my hands and a delicious smell coming from it. Just holding this mug already makes me feel better, calmer and happier. Similarly to how I love starting my days with a cup of hot coffee, I love ending them with a cup of hot herbal tea.
Some tea blends are designed to promote sleep and it has been proven that chamomile tea can promote deep sleep which is the most important sleep cycle for cel growth and physical recovery.
I’ve always been a book worm and I do most of my reading in at night in bed. Sometimes I catch myself going to bed early just so I can get back to an awesome book. This little ritual has been with me since I was a kid and I can hardly imagine falling asleep without reading at least a few pages.
For you it might be different. Maybe you don’t enjoy reading all that much. Or maybe you just never gave it a real chance by indulging in a book you want to read rather than the one others tell you you should read. Ether way, I think you should give it a try.
Light reading before bed can help you get into a different state of mind leaving the day, worries, projects and goals behind. It is also an excellent way to ditch screens before bedtime thus avoiding the disrupting blue light.
19. Try aromatherapy
Ever noticed how some shower gels get promoted as energising or calming? How some smells spark a memory or transport you to a different time and location? Smells can have a profound effect on us and by leveraging aromatherapy we can improve our sleep. Partially because of the associated effects of a chosen fragrance and partially because of repetition, by training our brain to get sleepy when exposed to a certain smell.
Levander, eucalyptus and spearmint are often used to promote relaxation and sleep. If you don’t enjoy the aromatherapy diffusers you can try lighting a scented candle as you’re getting ready for bed or add a few drops of essential oils to distilled water and lightly spay your pillowcase with it. You can also combine aroma therapy with your hot bath or shower.
20. Try journaling to clear your mind
Ever lie in bed spiralling through all your worries, ticking boxes in your mind or making mental to-do lists? You’re not alone. It can be helpful to sort through all these thoughts before going to bed and journaling can be a very powerful tool to make sense of all your thoughts and clear your mind. Journaling can be done as a free flow writing exercise or you could use journaling prompts to guide you.
21. Count your blessings
When you focus on the good, more good things happen. Well not really, but you’ve conditioned your brain to see more fo them. A simple gratefulness has countless benefits and can be a very powerful way to end the day and set ourselves up for a great tomorrow.
22. Meditate or do breathing exercises
Meditation and breathing exercises are a fabulous way to slow down our monkey mind, relax our bodies and get ready for some sweet sweet dreams. This doesn’t mean you need to sit still for hours on end, just a few minutes a day can already show massive benefits. If you’re unsure where to start just focus on your breath. Count every inhale and try to make each exhale just a little bit longer. Or, you could try one of the many apps that offer short guided meditations for free.
23. Create a core nightly routine
Something I’ve learned while traveling, zapping from one time zone to the other and from the busy days exploring, catching sunsets and sunrises is that an elaborate night routine, although enjoyable, isn’t always viable. Falling asleep in a different bed each night when your still body things is 2PM can be challenging, especially when you can’t fall back onto your trusted night routine to get you into sleepy mode.
The solution? I’ve created a core nightly routine and I think you should too. This is the stripped down version that you can do on the nights you really don’t have time for the whole parade, when you’re travelling or when your social engagements run way past your bedtime alarm. It’s the core few elements that relax you the most and you associate with sleep time the most.
For me, that’s prepping my bag and clothes for the morning after (more out of necessity than enjoyment), having a cup of camomile tea and reading just a few pages before I turn off the lights and snuggle up.