6 Bedtime Routines That Will Help You Sleep Through the Night
This is the ritual you need for a better night's rest.
When you were a child, a consistent bedtime routine probably helped you get a good night's rest. As an adult, your habits may have changed, but your needs largely haven't. In fact, the more consistency you bring to bedtime, the more likely you are to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep soundly. The trick is to establish a healthy set of sleep hygiene habits that you can repeat every night.
But what, exactly, should you be doing before bed to have your best-ever night of sleep? Read on to learn expert-approved tips for a bedtime routine that'll set your internal clock to snooze.
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Set an alarm for your bedtime routine to begin
Setting an alarm to wake you up at the same time every day can be a powerful way to set your circadian rhythm. You can also benefit from setting a gentle alarm before bedtime, to let you know when it's time to start your nightly bedtime routine.
Ideally, you should select a sleep time that aligns with when you naturally begin to feel tired. "Struggling to fall asleep just leads to frustration," experts from the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard University. "If you're not asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed, go to another room, and do something relaxing, like reading or listening to music until you are tired enough to sleep," they write.
Experts say to aim for a total of seven to nine hours of sleep per night and allow yourself a long window between your alarm and your true bedtime, for ample time to wind down.
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Take a warm bath before bed
According to a 2019 study published in Sleep Medicine Reviews, taking a warm bath or shower an hour or two before bedtime can help you sleep better. The reason is counterintuitive.
"There's actually good science behind this," Matthew Walker, a neuroscientist and sleep specialist at the University of California, Berkeley, said while speaking with NPR's Life Kit. He explains that your core body temperature needs to fall by two to three degrees Fahrenheit to initiate good sleep. "The way it works is this: For you to get your heat out of the core of your body, you actually need to release that core heat through the outer perimeter surfaces of your body, namely your hands and your feet," says Walker.
"What happens with a bath… is you actually bring all of the blood to the surface. And your hands and your feet are wonderful radiators of that heat. So you are essentially like a snake charmer—you are charming the heat out of the core of your body to the surface of your body," he explains.
Lower your thermostat
Another way to help lower your core temperature while you sleep is to lower the temperature in your home before bed. "The thermal environment is a key determinant of sleep because thermoregulation is strongly linked to the mechanism regulating sleep," explains a 2012 study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology. "Excessively high or low ambient temperature may affect sleep even in healthy humans without insomnia," the researchers write.
But what exactly is the ideal temperature for falling and staying asleep? Michael Breus, PhD, DABSM, FAASM, a clinical psychologist and sleep medicine expert tells The Sleep Doctor that setting your thermostat to an air temperature between about 66 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit is considered ideal.
Prepare your room for sleep
The temperature in your room isn't the only environmental factor that can have a serious effect on your sleep. There are several other ways to make your room more conducive to catching some Zzzs.
First, declutter your room and make your bed—ideally right after you wake up in the morning. "Clutter can stress you out. Move those dirty clothes to the closet, and make the bed every morning: research shows that people who do may sleep better at night," say experts from Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Next, block out any light from windows using blackout curtains, and turn off the lights in other rooms. A dim nightlight in the hallway and bathroom can help ensure that you get back to bed more quickly if you do wake up to use the restroom.
Finally, a white noise machine or earplugs may help you reduce noise disruptions. Be sure to silence your phone's ringer and any other alerts on your devices.
Drink a calming beverage
Some drinks, including those with caffeine or alcohol in them, keep you up at night. However, there are many calming beverages that may help you fall asleep and stay asleep for longer.
Tart cherry juice, warm milk, and non-caffeinated teas such as chamomile, ashwagandha, and valerian root tea, are all believed to promote good sleep. In fact, any non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated beverage that you drink nightly can help signal bedtime simply by becoming a consistent part of your routine. Just be sure to limit the amount of fluid you drink before sleep, so that you're not awakened by needing to use the restroom.
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Put away your screens
As you get ready for bed, you'll want to be mindful of limiting unnatural light. "Exposure to natural light can promote better synchronization of your internal clock, while keeping your lights on long into the evening can prevent your body from properly transitioning toward sleep," explains the Sleep Foundation.
In particular, the screens on your devices can disrupt your internal clock by interrupting the release of the hormone melatonin. "This leads to neurophysiologic arousals that increase feelings of alertness when you should be winding down instead," foundation experts write. Reading a book or listening to calming music offer a sleep-friendly substitute for scrolling.
Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.