Science has shown that establishing a solid nighttime routine can improve your sleep, helping you wake up feeling truly rested. But much of the prevailing advice centers around things to add to your pre-bedtime hours — whether that’s making time for a bath, starting a journaling ritual, or brewing some herbal tea to wind down with. While those are all great suggestions (with powerful well-being benefits) the truth is, giving up some of your typical evening activities can also help you sleep better.
We asked our Thrive community to share the one small thing they’ve stopped doing before bed to improve their sleep. Which of these habits will you give up before bed tonight?
Using your phone as your clock
“I have stopped using my phone as a clock. If I wake up during the night, I now use the light on my watch to check the time. Looking at my phone, even just to check the time, seems to be fraught with too much temptation to look at emails or social media, resulting in a broken night’s sleep.”
—Donna West, coastal facilities manager, Perth, Australia
Eating a late dinner
“The one habit I’ve given up to improve my sleep is eating dinner late. I’ve noticed that by eating dinner earlier, I am able to get to sleep easier, and see an improvement in the quality of my sleep.”
—Tara Laval, yoga and meditation instructor, Tampa, FL
Forcing sleep when you’re not tired
“My most recent adjustment is that I now listen to my body. If I am not sleepy yet, I stay in the living room and read until I am, then I go to my bedroom to sleep.”
—Rachelle Stone, executive coach, Clearwater, FL
Ending the day with a T.V. show
“I used to just watch T.V. until I fell asleep, but the best thing I’ve ever done for improving my sleep was to ditch the binge-watching and adopt a relaxing evening routine. Now, my partner and I get into bed earlier than we used to, and read for about an hour. I find that reading is the best way to unwind after a long day. I read mostly fiction, and enjoy being taken away into someone else’s world for an hour at the end of the day.”
—Michelle Jolene, wellness coach, Miami, FL
Getting out of bed after getting in
“After I had my children, I couldn’t make myself rest or relax once I got into bed. There was always one more thing I could tackle on my to-do list that I felt would make or break the next morning, so once I got into bed, I’d likely get out several more times to make sure as much as possible was done. Now, I may get up to go to the bathroom, but I’m not jumping out in a panic to go set out backpacks. Instead, I just set a reminder on my phone to make sure I get to it the next morning, and don’t stress about it.”
—Tara Blair Ball, freelance writer and author, Memphis, TN
Drinking wine after dinner
“The days of having a glass of red wine at night to unwind is over for me. I realized that what I thought was helping me de-stress after a long day was actually the reason why I wasn’t sleeping at night. Replacing my nightly glass of wine with a cup of herbal tea has improved my sleep much more than I ever thought possible.”
—Carrie McEachran, executive director, Sarnia, ON, Canada
Mixing your workspace and your sleep space
“I made a rule that I would never use my laptop in bed. This small change has made a huge difference, because I’m not trying to shift straight from work mode into sleep mode. And from what I know about habits, it’s most effective to have one location associated with one task. So when I get into bed at night, my body knows it’s time to sleep.”
—Lisa Abramson, women’s leadership coach, San Francisco, CA
Waiting for your partner to go to bed
“I stopped waiting for my husband to be ready to go to bed, and instead started prioritizing a bedtime that worked best for me. For so many years, I would wait for him to be ready. I ended up spending countless nights falling asleep on the couch, then waking up and going into my bedroom and attempting to reconnect with quality sleep. Needless to say, that practice was extremely disruptive. A few months ago, I realized that I get to be at my best and began putting myself to bed. I now wake up feeling refreshed, often earlier than I did before. I immediately listen to my morning meditation, set my intention for the day, and get moving.”
—Shamis Pitts, leadership coach, New York, N.Y.
Starting a new show
“One small thing I’ve stopped doing before bed is starting a new Netflix series. I used to look forward to climbing in bed after my bedtime routine and starting a new series, but I would always have the hardest time falling asleep after. Oftentimes, I’d be so into the show that I’d reluctantly hit ‘play next episode,’ and end up watching four hours of TV from my computer screen. Even on nights when I’d just watch one episode, my brain had a hard time shutting off after investing in a show and consuming the blue light of the screen. Now, I only pick up a new series if I am taking a long flight where I am trying to stay awake or pass the time.”
—Tara Caguiat, freelance writer, Sarasota, FL
Keeping devices in the bedroom
“I have taken all work, including my laptop, sheets, tablets, phone, and earbuds out of my bedroom. It encourages me not to use my phone as an alarm clock anymore!”
—Alisha C. Taylor, engineering program manager and life coach, Greenville, S.C.
Creating excuses to stay up
“I treat myself like I treat my 6-year-old daughter with a firm bedtime of 10:00, and lights are out at 10:30. I’m constantly amazed by my brain’s ability to come up with creative ways to break the rules. It makes me appreciate how fantastic our brains are and how firm we have to be with ourselves!”
—Annabel Youens, co-founder of Appreciation Engine, B.C., Canada
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