Want to boost your health and happiness? A few tweaks to your usual evening routine can help improve your sleep and set you up for a good day, increasing energy and decreasing stress.
First, lower your stress by preparing for the day ahead:
What can you do the night before to make the next day go more smoothly? This could be straightening up, fixing lunches, or anything else that will make the next day a little easier. If you leave the house each day, it can be helpful to think “what will I need tomorrow?” and set it all out by the door. That way, in the morning, you can grab it and go. You can also lay out your clothes for the next day, and if you have children that you help get dressed, you can do this for them too.
If you are tend to lie awake thinking about your to-do list, it can be really helpful to take a few minutes to look at your calendar and write everything out, and possibly prioritize the top one to three things you need to accomplish the following day.
Second, set your body up for good sleep by paying attention to what you eat and drink after lunch.
Caffeine and alcohol can both cause sleep problems. If you drink caffeine too late in the day, it can keep you up. And while alcohol can make you feel sleepy at first, it actually decreases the quality of your sleep, making you feel tired the next day.
Eating a big meal late in the day can also mess up your sleep, because your digestion is working when it should be relaxing. Try not to eat a heavy dinner, and stop eating two hours before bedtime. If you need a snack before bed, eat something small and easy on your stomach like nuts or a piece of fruit or toast.
Third, practice good sleep hygiene.
- Set your bedtime early enough so that you wake up feeling rested. Most people need between 7 and 9 hours a night.
- Try to go to bed at least a couple of hours before midnight, because the sleep you get before midnight has been proven to be more restorative than the sleep you get afterwards.
- Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each day.
- Make sure your bedroom is cool—experts say the best temperature range for sleeping is between 60-68 degrees—and as dark as possible. If you can, keep all electronics out of it, or at least put them on airplane mode so they don’t disturb you.
- If you’re a light sleeper, use a noise machine or ear plugs.
- An hour before bedtime, turn off all screens and start to wind down. This is important because the blue light from computer and TV screens inhibits the production of melatonin, keeping you from being able to fall asleep.
Some ideas for winding down before bed are:
- Reading. One study found that reading for just six minutes reduced stress by 68 percent.
- Stretching. This releases the tension in your muscles, which helps you relax. In your handout I’ve included a link to some yoga poses that are especially good for this.
- Taking a warm bath—just 20 minutes is plenty of time. You can also add Epsom salts, which help your muscles relax, and lavender essential oil, which is calming.
- Journaling. Writing helps clear out mental clutter and increase clarity.
- A gratitude practice. Studies have shown that gratitude improves physical and psychological health, enhances empathy, improves self-esteem, increases mental strength, and helps you sleep better.
- Meditating. Practicing regular meditation has been proven to result in a lower heart rate, lower cortisol levels in the blood, increased feelings of wellbeing, and decreased stress and anxiety.
Once in bed, massage your feet. It’s especially nice to use lavender scented lotion for this. Massaging your feet not only feels good, it helps release tension and pulls you out your head.
If you still have trouble falling asleep, try doing a full body scan to check in and see where you might be holding on to any stress. Mentally move through the body from the toes to the head and tune in to see where you feel tense. Once you’ve identified the area, spend a moment focusing on relaxing it.
You can also try slow, deep breathing through your nose, making your exhale longer than your inhale. This activates the parasympathetic nervous system, helping you relax.
Then enjoy the bliss of a good night’s sleep, and see how much better it makes the next day!