Want to sleep like a baby and wake up refreshed and rejuvenated, ready to tackle a new day? Here we’ve rounded up 10 of our favorite things to do before bed that will not only help to lull you into blessed slumber, but will often make your mornings so much easier too.
Taking a warm shower or bath before bedtime helps prime the body for sleep. A study published in 2010 found that small changes in the body’s internal temperature sends powerful signals to brain’s master clock, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). This light-sensitive region of the brain is responsible for controlling circadian rhythms and many physiological functions within the 24-hour cycle. The SCN sends a signal to lower your core temperature as day becomes night.
A short (5 to 10 minute) shower will temporarily warm up the body. Stepping out of the steamy bathroom into a cooler bedroom will cause your body temperature to drop slightly, setting off a chain reaction of sleepy-time brain signals. And showering at night is one less thing you’ll have to do in the morning.
2. Work Out
No matter what time of day you do it, regular exercise promotes restful sleep. Just 20 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity had the effect of improving quality of sleep and boosting energy throughout the day, according to a sleep study published in 2011. The notion that exercising close to bedtime disrupts sleep is actually a myth, so here are some late-night workout routines worth trying.
3. Do Your Chores
Whether it’s washing the dishes, taking out the trash, or decluttering your living areas, take a few minutes each night to clean up the day’s mess. It’s so much nicer to wake up to a neat and tidy home, and you may find that a cleaner space will brighten your mood as you begin your day.
4. Prepare for Tomorrow
Be kind to your future self by prepping as much as you can the night before. Check the next day’s weather forecast and lay out your clothing for tomorrow. Pack up your lunch. Get your coffee maker ready with fresh grounds and water so all you have to do in the morning is push a button. Review your day planner for upcoming appointments. The more things you can get done in the evening usually means a lot less chaos in the morning.
5. Make a List
If you find that you are unable to truly relax in the evening because your mind is preoccupied with everything you must accomplish over the next day, or week, or month, try to clear away those worries and distractions by simply writing them down. Making a list can help make you feel more organized and on point while simultaneously exorcising those daytime stresses so you can actually enjoy your nights off.
6. Take a Few Moments to Reflect
Set aside a few minutes each evening and reflect upon the events of the day. The point is not to ruminate on what went wrong (or engage in negative self-talk) but to focus on the positive instead. Even on the most epically awful days, there is usually at least one good thing that happened. Practicing gratitude is a powerful thing, and studies have shown that people who express gratitude internally or outwardly on a regular basis are more optimistic, more satisfied with their lives, have improved relationships with others, and enjoy better physical health.
We all know by now that falling asleep in the glow of our smartphones, televisions, and other electronics is detrimental to sleep quality. If you need something to replace this night-time ritual, try reading a real, physical, printed-on-paper book. Reading just 15 to 30 minutes before bedtime makes you smarter by increasing vocabulary and boosting memory; thinking about (and feeling for) fictional characters fosters empathy for others in real life; being absorbed by an imaginary world reduces stress substantially; and the eye movement and brain power needed to scan the words on the page has a tiring effect for many people, allowing them a quick and easy transition to dreamland.
8. Stretch it Out
Stress can be carried in the body, expressing itself as back pain, a crimp in the neck, or sore muscles throughout. Alleviate the tension by doing a few yoga stretches before bed – which will not only promote sleep and relaxation, but your body will certainly be much better off as well!
9. Open the Door to Pets
Sleep experts have long recommended banning pets from the boudoir. And if you happen to have a cat that feels most comfy sleeping on your head or a dog whose snores rival that of your spouse’s, sleeping without pets in the same room might just be the best solution for better sleep.
But a recent study has cast doubt on the reigning wisdom of pets in the bedroom, finding that the majority of participants reported that sleeping alongside their furry friends didn’t disrupt their sleep at all, and actually helped improve their zzz’s. Cozying up to your pet can be comforting and soothing, so if you hastily kicked ‘em out, it might be time to roll out the welcome mat once again.
10. Just Breathe
If, even after doing everything right and practicing good sleep hygiene, you still find yourself unable to turn off your mind and fall asleep, there are other things you can do besides count sheep. An ancient practice steeped in Eastern medicine, the idea behind mindful breathing techniques is that deep, focused breathing allows more oxygen to circulate your body, which has a calming effect. Adherents of the “4-7-8” technique say that it can lull you to sleep in less than a minute. Here’s how to do it:
- Breathe deeply through your nose for 4 seconds
- Hold your breath for 7 seconds
- Exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds