Want a better night’s sleep? Look at your evening routine (or perhaps lack of one), which might be making it harder to get a good night’s rest. Creating a healthy evening routine can help reduce stress, lower anxiety, and ultimately help you get a better night’s sleep. This is even shown in research as studies show that the hours leading up to bedtime significantly impact your sleep quality. In today’s busy world, there are many things that can keep us up, from doom scrolling in bed to going over your never-ending to-do list or simply the stress of your day. Thankfully, there are a few healthy nighttime habits that can help you.
Sleep is crucial for our overall health and well-being and supports proper brain function, as well as our immune system and physical health. Establishing an evening routine can help you wind down, lower cortisol (the stress hormone), and get you in the right headspace for a great night of shut-eye. We’ve put together 10 habits you can implement today to help you relax and ultimately feel more rejuvenated. Try out these healthy habits in order to create an evening routine and determine what works best for you. The goal is to sleep better, feel better, and be ready for whatever tomorrow brings!
1. Dim your lights an hour before bed
When it comes to falling asleep naturally, proper levels of the hormone melatonin are necessary. Melatonin, which helps put you in a state that promotes sleep, is released when it’s dark and is important for regulating our circadian rhythm (our 24-hour internal clock). Research shows that having indoor lighting before bed can suppress the release of melatonin- the opposite of what we want at bedtime!
One study suggested that people should reduce evening light exposure in order to avoid circadian rhythm misalignment. So how can you put this research into practice? About an hour or two before bed, think about dimming your household lights or turning on soft lamps instead of harsh overhead lighting. You want to create a relaxed and cozy environment, starting with your lighting.
2. Be mindful of caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant, meaning it keeps us awake. In order to support a healthy sleep environment, it’s important to look your daily caffeine consumption. Opt for non-caffeinated teas after around 12 pm-2 pm if you're sensitive to caffeine. If you have a high tolerance for caffeine, opt for those lower caffeine options after 4 pm.
It may also be helpful to choose matcha instead of coffee. While matcha still contains caffeine, it has less than a traditional cup of coffee and, most importantly, contains the amino acid L-theanine, which promotes a state of calm alertness. The balance of caffeine and L-theanine can reduce jitters and afternoon crashes. Meaning you’ll still get an energy boost, but without the risk of it impacting your sleep later on.
3. Eat dinner a few hours before bed
Most experts agree that in order to get a good night’s sleep, you should aim to eat dinner about two to four hours before lying down. This allows your body time to digest and decreases symptoms of GERD. Eating a few hours before bed also allows your body to focus on repairing damaged cells, bolstering the immune system, and so on, instead of focusing on the task of digestion.
That being said, having a small snack before bed may help stabilize blood sugar levels and satisfy hunger, allowing you to fall asleep faster. Some foods, such as pistachios and yogurt, can contain tryptophan, serotonin, or melatonin, which helps you fall asleep faster! If you do need a snack before bed, aim for one that contains either a bit of protein and/or healthy fat.
4. Set aside your phone
Cell phones are notorious for disturbing our sleep patterns. The blue light emitted from your phone can restrict melatonin production, which makes it difficult for you to fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up the next morning. In addition, whatever you’re looking at on your phone is likely to stimulate you and keep your brain awake. Revving up your brain before bed has been shown to delay REM sleep. Even artificial light from a TV can be disruptive to our circadian rhythm.
Being on your phone close to bedtime can also cause stress, anxiety, or negative feelings. These types of feelings can leave you restless and awake. Some studies show that looking at your phone in bed can keep you up for hours past your normal bedtime. While there are no hard and fast rules around phone use before bed, and research is still limited, if you can, stash your phone away at least an hour before bed. Even putting your phone away just before you climb under the covers is beneficial.
5. Create a relaxing sleep environment
Creating a relaxing environment is key for a good night’s sleep. Studies show that people who have their bedrooms optimized for light, noise levels, and temperature sleep better than those who don’t. Sleeping in a quiet, dark, cool room is ideal for good sleep. Having a clean and clutter-free environment can also be helpful. Think about protecting your bedroom- keep it as a place that is only for sleep and intimacy.
If you find that your mind starts to wander with your to-do list or the stress of the day, try journaling before bed. Journaling can be a way to let out your worries and reduce overall stress. If you find yourself constantly thinking about what you need to do the next day, writing out a to-do list for the next day can be useful. Sleep research suggests that being as specific as possible can help you fall asleep faster.
You can also try a gratitude journal before bed, allowing you to focus on the good in your life. One study showed that writing for just five minutes before bed allowed participants to fall asleep significantly faster.
7. Consume alcohol with moderation
Many people find that having a glass of wine or a cocktail in the evening can be relaxing and may even help you fall asleep. While there’s no problem with consuming alcohol in moderation, having a drink too close to bedtime may wreak havoc on your sleep quality. Alcohol causes blood sugar to plummet, which can lead to waking up and lower quality sleep.
Alcohol is a depressant that induces relaxation but also disrupts our sleep cycle and lowers sleep quality. Long-term use can also lead to, or exacerbate, symptoms of sleep apnea. If you do want to have a drink in the evening, have it earlier at night, and be sure to properly hydrate as well.
8. Stay consistent
Our circadian rhythms regulate our sleep/wake cycle and tell our bodies when we should be awake and when we should be asleep. Establishing a routine and staying consistent with what time you go to bed and what time you wake up can help keep the circadian rhythm working efficiently. If you consistently go to bed around 10 pm, your body will release melatonin and other hormones that help wind you down around that same time each night. A recent study even suggests consistent sleep/wake time is more important than how much sleep you get.
Keep the intense workouts for earlier in the day, as those can wake you up. However, gentle stretches or easy movements activate the parasympathetic nervous system and help you feel relaxed. Some light yoga can be a great way to wind down before bed, making it easier to fall asleep.
10. Take a hot shower or bath
As bedtime approaches, body temperature tends to fall by one or two degrees. This temperature drop paves the way for a good night’s sleep and is an important part of winding down. A hot shower or bath stimulates blood flow and circulation, which allows excess heat to leave your body. When you get out of the hot shower or bath, your body temperature will drop, which can signal to the brain that it’s time to fall asleep. Water can also help you feel more relaxed overall.
Getting a good night’s sleep can be elusive for some, if not most, people. Whether it’s because you can’t stop thinking about your day, you’ve seen something upsetting on your phone, or you just can’t fall asleep. Thankfully, establishing a healthy evening routine is simple and can help tremendously. Trying out some of these nighttime habits may help you fall asleep faster and get better quality sleep. So set yourself up for success this week and try some of these tips in order to feel more rested tomorrow!
Disclaimer: These statements in this blog post have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information provided here is for educational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. It's essential to consult with a qualified healthcare professional before making any dietary or lifestyle changes.
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