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A quality night’s rest isn’t something we should merely hope to achieve but rather a habit essential for good health. The Sleep Foundation reported that adults need seven to nine hours of sleep, though over 35% of US adults say they average less than seven per night. Skimping on sleep can lead to a whole list of health conditions, including high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, and anxiety, to name a few.
As many people begin to move away from the “hustle” culture we’ve all been accustomed to and focus more on self-care, it’s a time to be intentional with our sleep. Getting quality sleep allows the body to recharge so we can wake up refreshed and make the most of our waking hours. Wouldn’t it be nice to eagerly face the day versus constantly feeling like we’re dragging ourselves out of bed?
A nighttime routine can help the body slow down and prepare for rest. Whether at home or on the go, following a few simple steps can help you go to bed with purpose, protect your health and wake up more energized. Here’s how.
Choose a consistent bedtime
Not everyone has the same bedtime. However, maintaining a consistent schedule will help to sync up with your body’s natural circadian rhythm. Start with the time you need to get up every morning and work backward. For instance, even if you’re a night owl and go to bed at 11 pm, you can still wake up at 7 am and get a full eight hours.
The trick to being consistent is to prepare for bed well before your head hits the pillow. Change your nighttime habits to relax for at least a few hours before you finally shut out the light. This helps you fall asleep more quickly once your established bedtime rolls around. And it can also help prevent tossing and turning, which can disrupt the good night’s sleep you want to achieve.
Habits take practice. Don’t worry if you get off schedule once in a while; just return to the regular time the next night.
Related: 5 Nighttime Routines of Successful Entrepreneurs
Avoid heavy foods before bed
Eating heavy foods or drinks high in caffeine before you’re ready to sleep can alert your body that you want to stay awake and active. Plus, heavy or spicy foods can cause heartburn or acid reflux, making it more challenging to settle in and get comfortable. Additionally, stay hydrated throughout the day but limit the amount of water you drink several hours before bed, so you’re not interrupted by a need to go to the bathroom.
A gentle way to wind down is with a cup of herbal tea and a banana or other light snack. The warmth and smell of brewing tea instantly settle the body. Meanwhile, bananas are a great source of potassium and magnesium to support the body’s immune system. It’s easy on the stomach and won’t keep you up all night.
Related: 3 Surprising Productivity Benefits of a Consistent Nighttime Routine
Take ten minutes for stretching
Another comforting habit to get into is stretching the body at the end of the day. There are varying preferences for the best time to work out, but stretching is a calming way to unwind. Slowly touch your toes, perform trunk stretches and pull your knees into the chest to stretch the back and the legs.
To further set the mood, light a candle, put on a soothing soundtrack and really sink into slowing down with intention and doing something healthy for your body. Take it a step further with meditation and journaling before bed as well. These low-key activities can help clear your mind from the day and put it in sleep mode.
Ensure your bedroom is dark and cool
You can have the most intentional nighttime routine, but without a comfortable sleep space, it’ll be hard to drift off. Body temperature fluctuations during the night can interrupt sleep which may cause you to toss and turn. A cool, dark room aligns with your circadian rhythm and prepares the body for sleep.
If you run notoriously hot, open a window, turn on a fan or lower the thermostat a few degrees. On the other hand, if you’re always cold in the middle of the night, leave an extra blanket close by. Also, any light, especially from electronics, can be disruptive. Make your room a peaceful sanctuary, not a place abuzz with black screens and bright lights. Choose a time to shut down your digital devices, and invest in soft lighting for your bedroom.
Add something enjoyable to your routine
There’s a lot of advice for what to do to sleep well, but the bottom line is you have to listen to your body to know what’s best. Make your nighttime routine something you enjoy. Some prefer following a skincare routine to wind down and work in a little extra self-care. But if skincare isn’t your thing, read a few chapters from a good book, watch a favorite show or even make a list to prepare for tomorrow.
Whatever makes you feel like you can end on a good note will help you go to bed with purpose and wake up feeling more energized come morning.
Related: 10 Bedtime Rituals That Help You Reflect, Relax, Sleep and Succeed