Last updated: 24 June 2018 by Ethan Green
How often do you take some quiet time out to unwind before going to bed? Or do you tend to work, do chores, watch television or use your phone right up until bedtime?
You might not feel you have much time to yourself to relax at night. But if you have sleep problems, carving out a little time for a consistent bedtime routine can work wonders.
Taking 30 to 60 minutes to decelerate at the end of a hectic day and do things which will help calm your mind is one of the most helpful sleep habits to adopt.
What you decide to do in your quiet time is ultimately up to you. But you might like to try some of the ideas in this article as a starting point.
How will a bedtime routine help me sleep?
There are a few reasons repeating the same quiet routine at night can help:
- It can calm an overactive mind.
- You can think, plan and prepare for tomorrow, so you don’t lie awake worrying about details when you go to bed.
- By repeating a regular pattern, you can train your body and mind to unwind ready for bed.
- Many activities people do in the evening can be overstimulating. So a bedtime routine helps you avoid doing those things and relax instead.
How long should my routine be?
It’s up to you to decide how long your routine will be, based on the amount of time you feel it takes you to relax.
Your life circumstances will also shape the way your routine goes. It may be, for example, that by the time you’ve put the kids to bed and tidied up, 15 minutes is enough time.
But if you do have more free time and suffer from regular sleep problems, maybe 30 to 60 minutes of
What to do in your bedtime routine
The key is that this should be a quiet, relaxing and enjoyable time. So the routine will of course differ from person to person. And maybe you’ll want to try more than one of the suggestions here in that time.
Here are some ideas:
1. Switch off the electronic devices
Most people love their electronic devices, myself included! Whether it’s a TV, computer, tablet, mobile phone or games console, they can take up a lot of our time.
However, it’s a good idea not to use them during the hour before going to sleep for 4 reasons:
- They stimulate your brain.
- The light that some devices emit might affect your internal body clock. If you can’t separate yourself from your phone, at least put the blue light filter on and dim the screen brightness.
- They can be addictive, eating into even more sleep time.
- Checking emails, the news and even social media at night can create worry and stress.
2. Relaxation exercises: meditation, breathing & mindfulness
In a survey of 2000 readers of this website, 58% said they couldn’t fall asleep because of their busy mind. Another 24% similarly said it was worry, stress or anxiety keeping them up.
If you struggle with this too, then doing some relaxation exercises before you go to bed, or when in bed, can help enormously.
Ideally, it’s best to read in another room: it’s better if your brain only associates your bed with sleep and intimacy.
Having said that, realistically it’s fine to relax with a good book in bed. Many people find that this in itself helps them sleep.
The alternative is to read in another room for a while, perhaps with a relaxing drink, and then continue in bed once you start feeling sleepy.
4. Listen to music
Whilst it’s important to avoid screens, listening to music before bed is a great idea. Preferably not music which is too exciting or emotional though.
Everyone loves music, but how often do you take time to do literally nothing but listen to some music? For some ideas of calming music across a range of genres, have a look at my article where I discuss my Spotify relaxing music playlists.
5. Write down worries and reminders for the next day
Do you sometimes lie in bed repeating to yourself something important you need to remember to do the next day?
Sometimes thoughts like these can buzz around in your head, joined by other worries and reminders from your mental to-do list.
A simple and effective trick is to write down your worries and points you need to remember for
That way you know you won’t forget anything important, and you can relax.
6. Have a relaxing drink or light snack
It’s a good idea to avoid caffeine, alcohol and sugary drinks before bed. But drinking one of the many relaxing herbal teas is a good way to spend some quiet time, perhaps whilst reading or listening to music.
If you find yourself hungry at night it’s ok to have a light snack before bed. Have a read of my article about bedtime food for more about this.
7. Spiritual practice: prayer, yoga, meditation
If you find that engaging in spiritual activity brings you peace and clarity of mind, then doing it before getting into bed is an ideal time.
Whether you enjoy reading spiritual literature, praying, doing light yoga or meditating, it can be incorporated into your bedtime routine.
8. Bring your temperature down
Temperature is often overlooked as a factor in sleeping well. Not only is it important to have the right bedroom temperature,
- According to the National Sleep Foundation, the ideal bedroom temperature for sleeping is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5 and 19.4 degrees Celsius). Note that it’s higher for babies and toddlers.
- The naturally lower nighttime temperature is one of the signals the body uses to start melatonin production and head towards sleep.
In the winter months this might happen at night anyway. But if the air temperature is above this range, you can try to lower your bedroom and body temperature by doing the following:
- Set your bedroom thermostat to be inside the above temperature range.
- Open windows to clear out any hot, stuffy air.
- Have a shower 15 to 30 minutes before bed, preferably a cool shower.
- If you have a hot bath, make sure it’s between 1 and 2 hours before bed. It takes a long time for the body to cool down after a bath.
- Go for a short walk outside to get some fresh air.
- If you live somewhere hot, try a cooling mattress pad or bed fan.
9. Spend time with family, friends or your partner
If you live with others, why not spend some time before bed talking or playing a quiet game? If you can, try to resist the temptation to all be using a phone or electronic device in the same room without talking to one another.
And if you sleep with a partner, there may of course be other ways you might want to spend your time together before going to sleep.
10. Don’t lie awake for hours
It takes many people between 20 and 30 minutes to fall asleep. So if you’re still awake after half an hour, it could be that you’re just not ready to sleep yet.
Lying awake, trying to make yourself fall asleep, can be very frustrating and make it even harder to relax. So it’s best to avoid this.
It might help to get up, go into another room, have dim lighting only and repeat some of your
However, if you feel that you’re wide awake, it might be better to stay up longer until you notice yourself feeling sleepy.
Just don’t lie in bed suffering in silence.
Do you have a bedtime routine? Do you repeat the same activities every night, or just once in a while?
Feel free to share your ideas in the comments below.