Nighttime rituals, those habits we form just before bedtime, can help us or hurt us when it comes to getting quality sleep. Choosing to form healthy bedtime habits based on good sleep hygiene can make it easier to fall asleep, stay asleep, and keep to a regular sleep schedule. Here’s how.
Nighttime Rituals, All Grown Up
Babies, toddlers, and teens aren’t the only ones who can benefit from regular bedtime habits. All too often, even if we kept regular routines as kids, we fall out of the habit once we run into the busy schedules (and nighttime entertainments) of adulthood. But now—more than ever—your body needs the routine of a regular sleep schedule to help you maintain your health in the face of a busy grown-up life.
Regular nighttime rituals can help you tell your body and mind that it’s time to shut down for the day and get some shut-eye. Here are some tips and ideas to get you started.
- Take a warm bath. Body temperature actually decreases in the evening, dropping steadily to rise again in the early morning before we wake. When we take a warm bath in the evening, our body temperature rises while in the tub, and the drop in body temperature after we get out can trigger the evening slide into sleepiness.
- Don’t neglect hygiene. There’s no parent looking over your shoulder anymore, but taking the time to brush and floss your teeth, wash your face , and brush your hair (yes… even if you have less of it than you used to) can be both calming and good for your overall long-term health.
- Ad relaxing activities you enjoy. Avoid watching TV or surfing the web right before bed; the exposure to artificial light may hurt your chances of falling asleep easily. Instead, read a book (just not a cliff-hanger that’s going to keep you sucked in all night), meditate, do gentle yoga, or steal your significant other away for a little fun in the sack before bed—those endorphins can be a great way to help you release the stress of the day and drift off with a smile on your face.
- Do things at the same time, in the same order, every single night. Cultivate sleep hygiene until it becomes an automatic habit. Your health, your stress level, your happiness, and your productivity will all improve if you put a little effort into building nighttime rituals that work.
Obviously, you’re going to fall out of your routine every once in awhile. A deadline, a date, a party, or a family emergency will eventually mean you’re going to stay up late. Life happens. Enjoy it. Then get back into your routine as quickly as you can. The longer you cultivate the habit of going through your routine every night, the more automatic it will become. You’ll find yourself feeling sleepy at bedtime, drifting off more quickly, and waking up more refreshed than you thought possible.