How we end the day is just as important, if not more so, than how we start the day. Often in our quest to reclaim our time we overlook the importance of the those last quiet moments of the day. The time where we start to wind down our brains (hopefully) and get ready to snuggle under the covers for some much needed sleep. That’s why creating a bedtime routine for ourselves is just as important as any other routine we create.
A Bedtime Routine is Not Just for Kids
Lately I’ve been having a hard time sleeping. I’d like to blame the heat, the late sunsets, and all the various projects that I’m currently working on, but the truth is once the school year was done I kind of stopped following my routines.
I was looking forward to the freedom of just working around meal times and walk the dog times. In my yearning for all that freedom, I forgot that routines are what keep me sane. They help calm my scattered brain and help me be better able to focus on the task at hand. Without my normal routines my days don’t have quite the same rhythm. It’s not a coincidence that the first routine I shrugged off was my bedtime routine and now I’m not sleeping well.
Creating a Bedtime Routine
Routines act as signals to our brain. The more we do a routine the more we train our brains to prepare for what comes next. So to prepare our brains to rest for the night, we need to create a signal that it’s time to start getting ready for sleep. Just like our first cup of coffee in the morning signals our brain it’s time to start our day, what we do before we lay down our heads at night signals it’s time to go to sleep.
One of the most effective ways of crafting a new routine that you can stick to, is to take it slow. Set yourself up for success by adding only one or two things to your routine at a time. Give yourself a chance to get used to doing them before adding more. Starting a new routine with too many tasks can be very overwhelming, and may discourage you from sticking with it. A bedtime routine, in particular, should not be too complex. You want to keep it simple. Here’s an example of my old one:
30 Minutes Before Bedtime
- make a quick list of things to do – just whatever is on my mind.
- have a cup of tea or glass of water and a small snack
Just Before Going to Bed
- wash face
- brush teeth
- moisturize (darn you dry skin)
- read in bed
Not a lot to it, but it was very effective for me. Reading in bed actually became such a strong signal to my brain that it was time to sleep that I didn’t even need to turn on my e-reader or open my book. I could just hold it and I’d drift off. On the flip side, it also meant that I couldn’t read in bed if I just wanted some reading time because I’d end up taking a nap.
Pick one or two tasks to start with. Give it a week or so, see how it goes, and then add in a couple more if you want too. The point is to create a bedtime routine that works for you. It doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.
Pay Attention to How You Feel
Paying attention to how you feel and what is going through your mind when you go to bed can be very helpful in discovering what you need to get a good night’s sleep.
If you find that your mind is usually racing with thoughts, worries, things to do, or things to remember, then try setting aside time before bed to do a brain dump. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a notebook where you can write down whatever pops into your head.
Don’t feel relaxed or ready for sleep? Maybe you can try setting aside time for meditation, some gentle yoga stretches, or look into some relaxation techniques. Take a warm shower or bath. Or maybe try heading to bed a little earlier than normal and spend some time reading or journaling to help close out the day in a soothing way.
Are you more energized at night than in the morning? You might want to consider an evening workout or an after dinner walk. Lately I’ve been doing the bulk of my cleaning in the evenings once it’s started to cool down outside. It helps burn off some of my energy and I don’t have to feel guilty that I didn’t do the vacuuming because it was too hot. I know that’s not really part of the bedtime routine, but planning activities that use that energy can help set you up for a restful bedtime routine.
Set a Bedtime
Part of having an effective bedtime routine is choosing a time to end the day. Choose a time when you want to be in bed by, and plan from there. If you’re not sure what time you want to go to bed at, use what time you need to wake up at as a guide. We all function differently with different amounts of rest, but try for at least 6 hours of sleep each night. Your brain and your body need the rest.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a set schedule. Pick a time when you first get up in the morning. The point is to make sure you’re giving yourself enough time for your bedtime routine before you go to sleep.
- Don’t watch tv
- Avoid caffeine in the evenings
- Drink warm milk
- Avoid vigorous exercise at night
- Don’t hydrate
- Stay off your devices
These are all tips that seem to crop up again and again whenever people talk about how to get a good sleep. I’m sure they all work well for different people, but that doesn’t mean that they will work for everyone. If watching tv makes you sleepy and you find it easier to fall asleep with something on in the background – go for it. It’s worked well for my husband for years. Personally, I can’t fall asleep without reading. Since my e-reader finally bit the dust, I’ve been using my tablet to read on, which is a big no-no according to all the sleep experts. I tried not reading, because I was staying up later than normal, and that was a disaster!
My point is, if something is working for you – don’t stop doing it because some expert or convention says it’s not the right way. You need to do what works for you!
Keep it Simple
Don’t be afraid to keep it simple. Routines do not need to be complex to be effective. If ending your day by brushing your teeth and washing your face works for you – keep doing it! Don’t feel like you need to add anything to it. This is one routine, where the less you do the more effective it will be. Bedtime is not the time to be trying to cram in a few more things before the day is done. Bedtime means the day is over, it’s time to rest now.
A bedtime routine that is tailored to your wants and needs will not only help you get a good sleep each night, but will allow you to end your days on a positive note of self caring. Often it is the little moments like this that get overlooked in the day to day grind. Taking the last moments of each day for yourself is a great way to make sure you’re taking care of you!
Now it’s Your Turn
Do you have a bedtime routine? What are some of the things you do to end your day? Drop me a line in the comments below and let me know.