You’ve heard of morning rituals to set you up for a day of success, but what about bedtime rituals?
You might assume that the most successful people work non-stop, including into the wee hours, but the opposite is true. Instead, they use their late-night hours for other activities like family time and relaxing in a way that helps mentally prepare them for the challenges of the next day.
If you’re like most people, you’re tired at the end of the day, but you might not feel relaxed enough to drift off to sleep easily. We’ll give you some ideas of nighttime rituals you can try to help prepare for a night of restful sleep.
What Are Bedtime Rituals?
A bedtime ritual is a routine that you perform before going to bed. Ideally, it should be one or more relaxing activities that help you prepare for sleep. In addition to allowing you to wind down at the end of a long day, they also work to train your brain that it’s time to get some rest.
For example, if you have series of steps that you do to get ready for bed, and you do them in the same order every night, you’ll probably start to notice that you feel sleepy and relaxed by the time you finish your nighttime ritual.
These rituals don’t need to be complex, either. You could opt for something basic like putting on pajamas, washing your face, and brushing your teeth. Or, if you prefer something more elaborate, you might want to add a bath, a walk around the neighborhood, a cup of herbal tea, or an evening meditation. It’s entirely up to you!
Relaxing Nighttime Rituals You Can Start
You’ve probably seen old movies where caregivers give children warm milk to help them fall asleep. While this habit isn’t done quite as frequently, there is some science to support the helpfulness of this ritual. Milk contains tryptophan, a hormone that induces sleep. It’s the same ingredient in turkey that’s partially responsible for food comas.
If you can’t stomach the idea of drinking a cup of warm milk before sleep, the good news that it can be taken as a supplement. It’s also present in several foods like nuts, eggs, wheat, and potatoes, but we don’t recommend indulging in a big meal right before bed.
Pamper yourself with a warm bath. You deserve it! A soak in the tub helps to relax sore muscles, and it’s a perfect way to end a stressful day. Add some drops of lavender oil to help induce drowsiness.
If you have a physically demanding profession, your shoulders, low back, feet, and legs may be extra sore or tense. Take some time to rub them to get the blood flowing and ease any tension. People in relationships may want to take turns swapping massages. Having someone else to stroke your aching back is definitely more satisfying than trying to do it on your own!
Find Out More: Massage Therapy for a Better Sleep
There are different ways to meditate, so feel free to choose what works best for you. The trick is to find a dark and quiet spot, sit comfortably, and close your eyes. Some people like to meditate while lying in bed, and while that can help you fall asleep quickly, it prevents you from getting many of the benefits of meditation.
A couple popular forms of meditation you might want to try are:
- Guided Visualization: this technique is beginner-friendly and probably one of the best ways to induce sleep. It involves focusing on positive experiences. Several free and paid apps are available that have guided meditations varying length from less than 10 minutes to several hours.
- Mindfulness: by focusing on your breath and clearing your mind, you’ll feel naturally calmer and ready for bed. Granted, this form of meditation takes discipline, so you may want to try a guided meditation that teaches you these exercises first.
- Transcendental Meditation: this is a more advanced form of meditation where the meditator seeks enlightenment. It can be either silent or have a mantra that’s repeated throughout a session.
Need more info? Check out our guide for meditation before sleep here.
Any book will do, as long as it’s not on an e-reader, tablet or smartphone. Some experts suggest reading in bed and falling asleep when you’re tired, while others say to reserve your bed for sleep and sex only. They suggest reading in a chair near the bed or in another room altogether. We’ll leave this one up to your individual preference.
See Our Full Guide: 13 Top Sleep Books
Avoid heated or strenuous yoga, but try some light stretching before bed. You’ll find that it relaxes your mind and body and could help prevent you from waking up sore in the morning.
Get More Info: Gentle Yoga for Better Sleep
Cup of Tea
A hot cup of herbal tea is an ideal way to prepare for bed. Steer clear of caffeinated varieties and choose something like a banana or chamomile tea. The magnesium in bananas is a helpful sleep aid. You can make banana tea at home by following these three easy steps:
- Cut off the two ends of a couple of bananas don’t peel them.
- Place the bananas in boiling water.
- Drain the water through a colander and enjoy.
To add some extra flavor, add an optional dash of cinnamon.
Learn More: How Does Chamomile Tea Makes You Sleepy?
Music helps set the mood. As you get ready for work in the morning, you might choose something that’s upbeat, energetic, and positive. As you prepare for bed, you could tone it down and opt for classical music, acid jazz or something that soothes your mind.
If you’d like, allow it to play as you fall asleep. The constant sound will help to drown out any external environmental noises like traffic, sirens, and snoring partners or pets.
If you’re interested in exploring futher:
Next Day List
Productivity experts recommend having a plan of action for the next day. They suggest listing the items that you plan to complete tomorrow. The effect is kind of like a brain dump. You get all of these swirling ideas out of your head and onto paper. Then, instead of rattling off your to-do list in your mind as you try to fall asleep, you can focus on other things, like dreaming of an upcoming Hawaiian vacation.
Other Tips for Better Sleep
Dim the Lights
Your body runs on an internal clock called a circadian rhythm. It has a 24-hour cycle that takes most of its cues from light and darkness. When it’s dark, this clock cues your body to produce melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep. By dimming the lights around the house and in your bedroom during evening hours, it’ll be easier to fall asleep when bedtime rolls around.
Turn off Technology
Bright screens from your smartphone, tablet or television all conspire to keep you awake. The LED lights stunt melatonin production, which is necessary to help you fall asleep. If you must check emails or catch your favorite show on Hulu or Netflix, then do it at least an hour before your scheduled bedtime.
Learn More: Why is it Bad to Sleep With the TV On?
Sometimes you need some extra noise in the room to distract your mind or drown out other sounds that keep you awake. Baby sound machines can be used for white noise, which is a soothing and repetitive whoosh sound that mimics the womb. Yes, it sounds weird, but they’re proven to work!
There are also settings that allow you to play soundtracks from nature like crashing waves, chirping birds, and forest sounds.
Check Out Our Guide: Best White Noise Machine
Body temperature drops about a degree at night. This is another signal that tells the body it’s time to get some shuteye. To help the process along, set your thermostat to about 65 degrees. The cooler temps will help signal that it’s time for bed.
A cluttered room equals a cluttered mind. By keeping your bedroom neat and tidy, you’ll feel calm and relaxed when you enter it at night. Contrast that to the feeling you get when there are clothes and clutter scattered all over the place. It’s more stressful and makes it harder to relax.
Face Your Alarm Clock to the Wall
This tip will help you achieve better sleep for two reasons:
- If you’ve got insomnia, the last thing you should be doing is watching the minutes of the clock march forward while you’re wide awake.
- The light from the clock could also adversely affect your ability to fall asleep. Those LED lights interfere with melatonin production, which you already know is a vital sleep hormone.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are good bedtime rituals for toddlers?
The same nighttime rituals that work for adults can also be successful with toddlers. They require only slight variations. For example, reading may end up being story time, and the herbal tea may be substituted for warm almond milk.
The theory behind the practice is still the same, however. The idea is that you want to guide your toddler in performing a series of set tasks that signal that it’s time for bed.
What are recommend pre-bed rituals for couples?
We mentioned massage, but that’s probably not the one you’re thinking of. Talking about your day is another recommended bedtime ritual but focus on the positive and avoid gossip and negativity.
Perhaps the most popular pre-bed ritual for couples is sex. Being intimate is a comforting way to end the day. In order for it to induce drowsiness, both partners should climax. An orgasm releases a flood of chemicals that aid in sleep, including oxytocin and serotonin.
Can it help children with OCD?
Yes, definitely! Children with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder tend to thrive on repetition. In fact, they feel compelled to repeat certain behaviors over and over again. The key to making this work in your favor is to collaborate with your child on steps that make them feel comfortable and prepared for bed.
Often, kids with OCD feel like they’re not in control of their environment. By letting them have input on what their nighttime routine is, it can help them relax and feel more secure.
By adopting a healthy nighttime ritual, you’ll be better prepared to enjoy a peaceful night of uninterrupted sleep. Ideally, instead of scrambling to find the alarm clock’s snooze button every morning, you’ll wake up feeling refreshed and eager to see whatever new and exciting opportunities the day holds.
Jill Zwarensteyn is the Editor for Sleep Advisor and a Certified Sleep Science Coach. She is enthusiastic about providing helpful and engaging information on all things sleep and wellness.